The intensity and physical battles that Megan MacKenzie witnessed during her career as an ice hockey official were nothing compared to what she faced in her personal fight with breast cancer in 2007.
Her diagnosis of stage IV breast cancer came on the day of her mother’s funeral. Five days later, her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and died that Christmas at the age of 86.
Still, Megan refused to feel sorry for herself and drew on the strength of family and friends, and her doctors and nurses at the Wilmot Cancer Institute. She endured two surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 42 radiation treatments, all of which came with ups and downs.
“I graduated from the Wilmot Cancer Institute on Jan. 23, 2008, and since then, I have been cancer-free,” the retired USA Hockey official beams. “Until that point, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.”
With her treatment complete, MacKenzie took up the fight for others as a way of giving back. A fitness boxing class she took to regain her strength introduced her to nine other women who wanted to do a boxing fundraiser for breast cancer, and the annual “Knock-Out Breast Cancer” was born.
“They wanted me to be their poster child,” she laughs.
Her fellow officials in the close-knit sport of hockey had also come to her aid during her struggles. They had donated funds to Megan and another official who had also been diagnosed with cancer within weeks of her. The donation came with a book of inspirational messages from her colleagues.
“I was floored. So many people had done so much for me, I felt that I had to return the favor because I’m a firm believer in giving back. I felt the best way was to help the next person in line.”
With the support of her close friends in hockey-officiating circles, MacKenzie took on her biggest fundraising challenge in July 2011 — Hiking for a Cure. She and three colleagues hiked Section 12 of the Colorado trail, spending four days backpacking through the rugged Rocky Mountain wilderness. The trek included 24 miles along the trail, and an additional 3 to 5 miles each day just getting to and from the trail.
Hiking for a Cure raised approximately $10,000. Her desire to raise funds for Wilmot stems from her great respect for the physicians and researchers based there.
“When you realize the talent at the Wilmot Cancer Institute, which is in our own backyard, you realize the need to support the research,” she says. “During this time fundraising, I’ve met more and more people behind the scenes. When you see what needs to be done, you can’t help but to be inspired and roll your sleeves up. It’s not going to take one person to beat this (cancer)…it’s going to take a whole community to beat it.”