Cancer journey brightened for Fairwater teen
FAIRWATER — Suspense was high Saturday afternoon as Markesan Middle School student Macy Zacharias climbed the staircase to her bedroom. With family and friends following close behind, she reached for the doorknob and flung open the door.
Macy squealed, hugged her puppy tight and then plopped on the bed, looking around with wonder.
What awaited Macy inside was a room remodeled from top to bottom this past week by the nonprofit organization Designing Dreams.
Designing Dreams was founded by Beaver Dam native Lauren Curwick in 2012 while she was attending the University of Minnesota. The organization’s mission is to instill hope and happiness in the lives of children with cancer by making their dream bedroom a reality.
“Our dream team works to provide a positive, healing space for kids on their journey to recovery,” Curwick said.
The team’s design director is Mardel Curwick, Lauren’s mother.
“Seeing the expression on the child’s face when the room is revealed is simply rewarding — it’s my favorite part of the week,” she said.
The team met with Macy and her family in their Fairwater home last fall to go over her interests and take measurements of the room.
“This bedroom is such a bright spot for Macy and she’s really excited about it,” said Macy’s mom, Shel Zacharias. “Her diagnosis came as a shock and it’s great she can focus on something fun.”
On April 21, Macy attended a volleyball camp followed by some shopping. It was then that the family noticed a lump on her neck.
“Mason (Macy’s older brother) had just had mono so we thought we should have her checked out for that,” Shel said. “We went to the hospital and they did all these tests and we didn’t know what was going on.”
By that night, Macy was transported to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. She was diagnosed with b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia a few days later. Since that time, she has had multiple rounds of chemo, tests and has had an NG tube placed for feeding due to weight loss.
“She has a ways to go, but she will be done with what I call ‘crappy chemo’ on Feb. 8 and then she starts maintenance,” Shel said. “She will be completely done with treatment in October of 2020.”
Lauren Curwick is familiar with the needs and struggles of what Macy is going through. She is currently in medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin, with hopes of becoming a pediatric oncologist.
“It helps to know what they are dealing with and that’s one of the reasons I want them to have a happy place of their own,” she said. “I can’t wait to see her reaction. I think she’ll love all the details in her room.”
As Macy gazed around the room, she was surrounded by her favorite colors, teal and pink. Her friends carefully checked out all the nooks and crannies filled with art supplies, framed photos and favorite snacks.
Macy’s parents surprised her with a puppy last summer named Daisy. They said Daisy cuddles right next to their daughter when she comes home from a chemo treatment.
The Curwicks took note of that and added a cozy dog bed into the room’s design. Daisy’s area was also filled with a squeaky toy, dog treats and a new collar. Macy opened the treats for Daisy right away.
“This is our 17th project and we try to think of everything that will make the child happy,” Lauren said.
Mardel and Lauren said they are grateful for the team members that have worked with them for many of the dream bedrooms. About eight to 10 people work on each project, including Lauren’s dad, Chuck. KC Meier of Markesan was the contractor for Macy’s room and Kent Jahns of Markesan did all the electrical work.
“Shaun Bradley from Bradley Finishing in Beaver Dam always donates his time and supplies to paint the room,” Mardel Curwick said. “And Joe Brandsma from Cambria custom makes all the furniture; he goes above and beyond for us.”
Mark and Shel Zacharias said there has been an outpouring of community support since Macy’s been sick.
“People shaved their heads for her and so many are praying for her. I swear all the kids around bought #MacyStrong shirts,” Shel said. “There was a big benefit for us and now she was given this great room. It’s crazy.
“It’s just beautiful. That smile on her face says it all.”
For more information on Designing Dreams, go to designingdreamsusa.com. Follow Macy’s progress on the Facebook page “Macy Strong her Journey 2018.”