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'Little trooper' is home after marrow transplant in time for birthday

Posted by Sean Teehan  May 11, 2011 10:23 AM

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After receiving a bone marrow transplant in December, McKinley "Mickey" Rose Nicholas returned home in time to celebrate her second birthday

By Sean Teehan, Town Correspondent

With her second birthday coming up on Friday, McKinley "Mickey" Rose Nicholas' family has a great deal to celebrate.

The young girl's parents brought her home from the Ronald McDonald House about two weeks ago after she went through several rounds of intense chemotherapy, radiation, and a bone marrow transplant to combat a rapidly spreading leukemia doctors diagnosed last summer.

"She's a little trooper," said her father, Mark Nicholas, in an interview. "She's definitely going to be a tough girl."

In August doctors prescribed antibiotics for the then 14-month-old child for what initially appeared to be a small lump on her face.

As the antibiotics failed to stop it's growth, Mickey's parents, Mark and Erica Nicholas, took her back to the doctor's, where it came to light that the child had a rapidly spreading tumor on her face.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia, the type with which Mickey was diagnosed, is a rare form of leukemia that affects about 300 children per year in the United States, a September statement from the family said.

When several rounds of chemotherapy at Massachusetts General Hospital yielded no success in putting the child's cancer into remission, doctors recommended a bone marrow transplant.

"It was pretty scary," Mark Nicholas said, adding that none of the couple's other three children were a proper match to donate marrow to their youngest sister. "There's always the question of what if there isn't a match... that's pretty much the end of the road."

Through a database, an unrelated donor who fit as a strong match was found. After heavy doses of chemotherapy and radiation to put her into remission, Mickey received a bone marrow transplant at Childrens' Hospital on Dec. 10, Mark Nicholas said.

Juggling the tasks of keeping constant watch over Mickey and caring for their other three children, the Nicholas' were given the OK to take her home Easter weekend, Mark Nicholas said. According to him, the child took some time becoming reacquainted with their home after spending so much of her young life in hospitals, but she is now becoming more at ease.

"She really has grown into it," Mark Nicholas said. "The other day she was playing with her 4-year-old older sister for an hour."

The father, who is originally from Danvers but moved to Georgetown with his family six years ago, credited an outpouring of community support in both communities with helping the family make it through a difficult time.

An October fundraiser at the Vittori Rocci Post in Beverly raised money to offset the price of copays and medication not covered by the family's insurance, assistance that proved useful to Mark Nicholas, who has been out of work since August, he said.

"I've always been a "pull up your own britches" type of guy and it was humbling to me," Mark Nicholas said. The family even received cards with checks in them during the holiday season from people they had never met, he said.

The fact his daughter surpassed 100 days following the bone marrow transplant without any recurring cancer and remains in remission, Mark Nicholas remains hopeful Mickey will stay cancer-free.

"If the cancer hasn't come back in five years, it's considered cured."

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