Center Grove Mom of the Year Brooke Magdzinski
Story by Kate Rhoten | Photos courtesy of Jill Levenhagen Photography
Moms are busy people by nature. However, sometimes life throws moms a curve ball. How a mom handles that can really be a testament to the strengths women can bring to motherhood. Center Grove Mom of the Year had many wonderful candidates. The title can only be given to one mom, and it was the public that decided the winner. Without further ado, the inaugural winner of the Center Grove Mom of the Year is Brooke Magdzinski.
Chris, her husband, nominated her as well as her friend, Nicole Zapp. Chris sent an email to friends to let them know what he had nominated his wife, and Nicole responded by stating that she had already nominated Brooke as well. It was quite a surprise for Brooke, and she was happy to share more of her and her family’s story with us.
In 2011, Chris and Brooke were like any other Center Grove family. They were busy working and raising their young family. Chris is a teacher and coach at Center Grove High; Brooke owns Dottie Couture Boutique in Greenwood. They have two children, Taylor and Max (now 3-1/2 and 20 months, respectively).
In early 2012, Brooke discovered a bump in her daughter’s stomach. They met with doctors and had it removed. It was a two-pound tumor. Just two days later, they found out it was stage 3 Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor of the muscles that are attached to the bones. It is the most common soft tissue tumor in children.
The journey through their daughter’s cancer treatment started with that diagnosis in February, 2012. Last year was tough. Brooke said, “Taylor has finished a year of treatment. Forty-six rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation, multiple infusions, transfusions, and a few surgeries.”
Isolation is how Brooke described the last year. The family couldn’t participate in the normal activities that other families were doing. Germs were to be avoided; the neighborhood pool not swam in. The family had to be isolated from each other at times as well. Brooke would stay with Taylor in the oncology unit, and Max would have extended stays with Brooke’s mother. Chris would be there for all of them at different times. “It was constantly about Taylor’s care,” Brooke mentioned.
Being a business owner gave her the flexibility to be with her kids when they were healthy and even more so when little Taylor became ill. Brooke said her two great managers allowed her to be home with the kids before and especially during this last year of fighting for Taylor’s life.
Rather than let negative creep in, Brooke focused on the positive. She reminded herself that God would not give her more than she could handle. Faith kept her going. Some days were tougher than others. At times, taking it in day by day seemed too daunting, so she would say to herself, “Just make through this hour.” Then she would focus on the next hour.
One time, Taylor asked her mom why she was sad and Brooke explained, “When you hurt, I also hurt.” Brooke believes that by being honest with Taylor, it gave Taylor the strength to be brave through all the chemo, radiation, and operations. Brooke learned that she had four little eyes watching her and they would follow her lead. If she was upset, they were upset; if she was happy, they were happy.
Another way for Brooke to focus on the positive during the last year was to help others. She found a way through what is called “Shop for a Cause.” This allows people to buy items and designate the proceeds to help those in need. Help can be for local families or for disasters like the Haiti earthquake. “I believe in helping others through their difficult times,” and she did just that during her daughter’s cancer treatment. Even one of her business vendors got involved. They donated headbands for the girls in the oncology unit at the hospital. “Activities like that kept me from playing the ‘poor me’ card and falling into that rut of self pity.”
Now out of isolation, “Life is about freedom, healing. Really, there has not been a day that has gone by after chemo ended that I just don’t feel so thankful for every single day, especially every single day with her [Taylor].” It means everything to spend time with family and friends. Having a sick child and a healthy child is hard. Brooke said that Max would ask why Taylor was laying there not playing. It was hard for him to understand. Now she knows having two healthy toddlers is also hard because they are both active.
Taylor isn’t completely out of the woods yet. She will have scans done every three months for the next three years. That will be followed by scans every six months for two years. At the five-year mark, if nothing has changed from where Taylor is today, she will be in remission.
All the little things that they couldn’t do as a family last year are the most cherished moments they are currently experiencing. Brooke especially enjoys this time while they are still little and sweet. Reading stories to Taylor and Max, tucking them into bed, and talking about their day are what fuels Brooke. She loves seeing them together and how they were sitting in the back seat of the car holding hands.
This summer, they will get to go to the pool together like other families and enjoy walks around the neighborhood. “It will be about just having fun, anything, walking around, I’ll be happy. Doesn’t take much anymore for me to have a good day,” Brooke stated.
Taylor was granted a Make-a-Wish trip to Disney this summer where new family memories will be made.
Brooke created a blog to chronicle Taylor’s journey through her diagnosis and treatment. She states that she has a tendency to forget things she would rather not remember but the blog will tell the story later to Taylor. Taylor will get to read about how amazing she is and that she fought hard against cancer. If you would like to read more about their journey, the blog address is OneMamasJourneyThroughCancer.blogspot.com.
The two best bits of advice Brooke has been given may sound cliché, but they were helpful. First, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” Second, “Take it day by day.” Brooke applied these to her situation. “There is so much pressure from other moms and/or just yourself to have the perfect family: so busy focusing on the kids looking perfect, coordinating outfits, good behavior, everyone sitting still. You’re missing the good stuff. Let them get dirty, be loud, be themselves, be happy. Don’t try to fit into a perfect family mold. Cancer or not, nothing is promised to anyone. Make the most of life.” cg
Ambrosia is a wonderful mom to her four boys Raef (8 years), and triplets Atticus, Daxon, and Finn (6 years). She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009. However, she doesn’t let that stop her from being there for her boys for everything from baseball practice to homework to just playing around the house. She also runs her husband’s business, and volunteers in her boys’ classrooms whenever possible. Ambrosia is truly an inspiration to mothers everywhere.
Amanda exemplifies Proverbs 31:25-31. She assured our son had an enjoyable childhood and learned to be a kind-hearted, respectful individual who strives to live a Christ-like life. She gives of herself so much; I sometimes wonder why she doesn’t fall over! She volunteers in our church youth group and takes time away from work to volunteer. She left a corporate six-figure income to start her own business so she could spend more time with our son. She always considers everyone’s needs before herself. She has a heart for others. Amanda is an amazing mother.
Kesha is an incredible young lady with a powerhouse personality. She is a mother of four children, Zane (5 years), Jadon (2 years), and twin girls, Drelyn and Brelyn (1 year). Kesha is a full-time college student earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Non-profit Business Management, and she works full time at DSI, Inc. She loves her family and is devoted wholeheartedly to providing a loving environment for them. She loves her community and volunteers when and where she can. She recently moved to the Center Grove area, and this will be a great start to her new life in your community.
Mary Lou Habicht
She is a mother of two, and a grandmother of two. She is always thinking of everyone else rather than herself. She cares for her grandson, Chace, three days a week and works two days at the White River Township Trustee’s office. She lost her 20-year-old son, Nicolas, in 2004 in a house fire in Bloomington. Since then, she has reached out to many moms in the area who have lost children and created a group for these mothers. Mary Lou also cares for her dad, William Smith, who is 88 years old and lives by himself since his wife, Mary Lou’s mom, passed on Valentine’s Day, 2013, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Mary Lou works very hard at caring for others.
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Kate Rhoten is a wife, mother of two boys, financial coach/owner of 4 Walls Financial, columnist & freelance writer for Center Grove Community Newsletter, living her dream debt free.
All photos courtesy Jill Levenhagen Photography.