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'Santa came early'
Family relieved after tumour discovered on young gymnast's brain turns out to be benign

Beth Brown
Northern News Services
Friday, December 23, 2016

Yellowknife gymnast Maggie Carson is coming home for Christmas after she hospitalized with a brain tumour following a recent competition in Vancouver.

NNSL photo/graphic

Maggie Carson is returning home for Christmas after receiving surgery for a brain tumour discovered while she was travelling for a competition. Test results showed her tumour to be benign. - NNSL file photo

The 12-year-old athlete was preparing to catch a flight with her team on the morning of Dec. 12 when she fell ill.

"My daughter started to display symptoms of not being able to speak properly, not making sense talking and not knowing where she was," said Maggie's father Rod Carson.

"She's a type 1 diabetic so at first they thought it was low blood sugar but the coach checked and it wasn't the sugar."

When her mother LeeAnna Carson spoke to Maggie on the phone she immediately knew there was something wrong, and was on the next plane to Vancouver. The youth was rushed to the hospital where a CT scan revealed a mass and a later MRI confirmed it was a tumour. She received surgery at the BC Children's Hospital on Dec. 14.

"They removed 95 per cent on the tumor," said Carson.

"The neurosurgeon didn't want to remove it (all) because of the potential for significant bleeding or brain damage."

Test results for the tumour came in on Tuesday evening, and showed the mass to be benign, meaning it's not cancerous.

"It was a low-grade tumour and the piece that was left behind will probably die or not grow again," he said.

"With that news we collectively celebrated and started making arrangements to come home ... Santa came early."

A GoFundMe campaign was started by family friend Angela Rogers, whose daughter Megan is also part of the gymnastics club and in the same class as Maggie at St. Joseph School.

"I wanted them to not worry about that extra strain, not knowing how long they were going to be there for," she said.

The campaign proved incredibly successful. The goal was to raise $15,000. The GoFundMe had surpassed this amount, to as much as $22,475 as of Wednesday. The funds were raised by 175 people in five days. Messages sent with the donations spoke of love, prayers and well wishes from family, friends and community members.

"I'm still getting donations," said Rogers. "Everybody wanted to do something but no one could really help them since they were in Vancouver ... Yellowknife is like that, when something happens everybody pitches in and helps."

The family was overwhelmed by the support shown through the campaign.

"We had no idea the people of Yellowknife would respond the way they have. It's absolutely amazing. We can't thank people enough," said Carson.

Maggie's own reaction to her test results were "tears of joy," said Carson.

Looking back over the past week, he said the thing that stands out in his mind most about the whole ordeal was the phone call he received after dropping his wife off at the airport, to tell him about the detected mass.

"That's a phone call that is absolutely devastating and a phone call no parent ever wants to receive," he said. "It will be a day I will never forget. I left the office and went straight to the airport."

Carson was told by doctors that this kind of a reaction to a brain tumour is quite common, where the growing fluid or tissue will create pressure on the brain and inhibit regular functions like speech.

Maggie herself was recovering quite quickly following surgery.

"Her resiliency is nothing short of amazing," said Carson. "You'd never anticipate she would be able to pick up where she left off, short of doing gymnastics."

Maggie is a level nine gymnast, the highest at her club currently. She has been training 16 hours a week, going to the gym as early as 6 a.m. and sometimes after school as well.

She performed well at her recent competition, but unfortunately injured both of her ankles during her last floor routine.

"Aside from the brain tumour she has been dealing with two pretty sprained ankles," said Carson.

The Yellowknife Gymnastics Club refrained from commenting. The club is still suffering the recent loss of one of its members, 11-year-old Ava Lizotte who died of a sudden illness on Dec. 9.

The Carson family also thanked the coach for supporting Maggie while they travelled to B.C.

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