McKenzie Robin Lowe Gets her Angel Wings
October 8, 2001-October 24, 2014October 31, 2014
by Laurie Jasper
“It is with very heavy hearts that we the family of McKenzie have to tell you that she has gained her Angel Wings as she has lost her battle with DIPG at 10:27 last night. We would like to thank all of you for your support.” Those were the words no one ever wanted to read, but were posted on the Friends of McKenzie Lowe Facebook page on Saturday.
McKenzie Lowe, beloved daughter of Ron and Dianne Lowe and a seventh grade student at Hudson Memorial School, died on Friday, October 24, after a courageous 23-month battle with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. DIPG is a type of inoperable brain tumor found in the pons, part of the brainstem on the lower back of the brain, near the top of the spinal cord.
McKenzie was diagnosed with DIPG in November 2012, when she was a fifth grader at Hills Garrison School. She had just turned 11 years old.
The devastating news began a call to action by McKenzie’s family, friends and the community. The close-knit Hills Garrison School quickly helped organize the first of many fundraisers for the family in December 2012, and Friends of McKenzie Lowe was formed for the Girl Scout who loved basketball, soccer, swimming, golf and animals.
McKenzie’s grandparents, Frank (Bampy) and Joann LaFountain had come to Hudson from their Florida home for Thanksgiving, and remained to help care for their granddaughter. McKenzie received radiation and experimental chemotherapy treatments five days a week in Boston. When the family found out about an experimental treatment called Antineoplastons therapy that was not yet approved by the FDA, they started a petition on Change.org to request a compassionate use exemption, allowing McKenzie to access this treatment. Frank LaFountain even flew to Washington, D.C., literally knocking on doors seeking assistance. NH Senator Kelly Ayotte and Senator Jeanne Shaheen helped the family. After much red tape, McKenzie began the treatment in June 2014. The tumor continued to grow, and, unfortunately, the side effects from the treatment were too much, and she stopped treatment in August.
Despite her illness, nothing could diminish her love of school, her kindness and compassion, and her determination to fight this disease, but she was only able to attend the first two weeks of seventh grade this September. On October 2, McKenzie’s sister Casey and her husband, Joe Meehan, welcomed their first child to the world, and Aunt McKenzie was thrilled to meet her nephew. Never ever giving up, McKenzie, her parents and grandparents traveled to Chicago with the hope that a brain biopsy might help find new treatment options, but it was not to be.
McKenzie turned 13 years old on October 8, and enjoyed a celebration dinner at one of her favorite places, Valentino’s in Hudson, followed by a birthday party on October 11 with family and friends.
McKenzie’s fifth grade teacher, Mandy LaLiberte shared, “I distinctly remember McKenzie all dressed up for her first day of fifth grade. She was the first one to arrive, and that smile of hers lit my classroom up like a Christmas tree. McKenzie loved coming to school, and it was evident each day she walked through the door. The time that she spent with friends was priceless, and one of McKenzie’s favorite pastimes was laughing and being goofy. When she would start laughing, her eyes would close really tightly, and she would let out these giggles that would make everyone else laugh more! Her contagious laughter would fill my classroom, and it was like music! She brought joy and happiness to Hills Garrison! Our lives have been blessed to know her, and I am proud to say that I had her as a student. I know that my life has been touched forever, and we can all be thankful to have had such an angel in our lives.”
Mary Spurrell, whose son Nick was a classmate of McKenzie’s since first grade, said, “McKenzie never met a stranger; from the moment she met you, you were friends with her. She had the ability to light up an entire room with her smile and positive attitude. A bunch of us have shirts that read ‘I WEAR (gray ribbon) for McKenzie Lowe’ and some also say ‘Be McKenzie’s Hero.’ I told her grandfather that I wanted one that read, ‘McKenzie is MY hero.’”
McKenzie’s family shared special experiences together, including animal-lover McKenzie’s visit to Sea World. Yet, day-to-day events also created happy memories and many people who, upon learning of McKenzie’s illness, wanted to help.
One such person is Kim Frenette, an angel in a black cowboy hat. “When I learned that this little girl loved animals, wanted to grow up and become a vet and always wanted a horse, I just had to help.” Kim, owner of Whispering Brook Farm in Hudson, surprised McKenzie with a horse. McKenzie named her horse Star and learned how to ride. And their bond was formed.
“McKenzie became one of my family. My eight children, they became McKenzie’s family and she was such a part of our family. I am trying to be strong, but I am devastated,” said Kim with emotion.
“McKenzie added so much to our lives. She made me laugh; she loved to have fun. I remember once we were all catching frogs, and she was holding a big bullfrog. I told McKenzie he might just be her Prince Charming, and right away she kissed the frog right on the lips, and laughed! You know that song, ‘Live Like You Were Dying?’ You have to do that; that’s when you really are living.”
McKenzie passed away surrounded by family and friends. Hudson Memorial School Principal Keith Bowen sent an e-mail to the students’ families on Saturday, and school counselors were available on Sunday from 12 to 2 p.m. On Monday, October 27, counselors from the Hudson School District were at the school all day to support the students and staff. “We had great district support for the students. It was a somber day. Many kids were really struggling today,” said Bowen. “You can’t ever plan for this; there really is no road map, and it is devastating. McKenzie loved school, she always wanted to be here,” continued Bowen.
Upon learning of McKenzie’s passing, Senator Kelly Ayotte wrote, “I’m deeply saddened by the loss of McKenzie Lowe, a sweet and special girl who bravely fought her illness with a resilient spirit and inspiring determination to live life to the fullest. My heart goes out to her family.”
“McKenzie had many things she wanted to do, and we will continue to help reach some of those goals. She cared for others; she had such a big heart,” said Grandfather Frank.
McKenzie is survived by her parents Ron and Dianne Lowe, a sister, Casey Meehan and husband, Joseph of Dracut, MA; grandparents, Frank (Bampy) and Joann LaFountain of West Palm Beach, FL and James and Suzanne Clarke of Hudson, MA; Auntie Laurie (Godmother) and Uncle Jeff Allain of Londonderry; Godfather Jimmy Clarke of Lowell, MA; a nephew, Mason Meehan, and many aunts, uncles, cousins and dear loving friends, plus her horse Star, dog Marshmallow, cat Cocoa and bird Miss Sparkle.
A memorial service will be held at St. Kathryn Church, 4 Dracut Rd., Hudson on Saturday November 1, beginning at 10:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to The Friends of McKenzie Fund, c/o DCU Credit Union, Lowell Rd., Hudson, NH 03051. These funds will be used for DIPG research and children’s cancer awareness. The Dumont-Sullivan Funeral Home in Hudson is in charge of arrangements. www.dumontsullivan.com.
Personal note: I met McKenzie when she was in first grade. It was a blessing and a gift to know this lovely, sweet, compassionate young lady. She made everyone’s lives richer for knowing her, and Hudson mourns her loss. LAJ