This is part two of an eight part series that profiles all students who are recipients of the 2020 McGowan Courage Award, presented by the Mansfield Rotary Club. One story will be released each day for the next eight days.
Brooklyn McPeek’s medical history has been abnormal for a long time. At only the age of five, before even starting kindergarten, she got thyro meningitis from a mosquito bite and went into a coma. From there, a series of issues in McPeek would later surface, such as developing a low attention span, and then nine years later being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
The battle she had to endure during her high school years earned her the 2020 McGowan Courage Award for Lexington High School.
“It’s nice when she’s acknowledged for having to go through such a difficult time at a difficult journey at such a young age… when she’s recognized for pulling through something like that with such strength,” said Heather McPeek, mother of Brooklyn McPeek.
McPeek was diagnosed in March of 2018. When her doctor’s found a lump, it ended up being so large that they could feel it. McPeek was sent right away for an ultrasound, and two days later for biopsy. In less than a month, she received a total thyroidectomy.
“I feel like everything went so fast that I didn’t really have time to really process it, so it was more after the surgery that I started to really get to think about it,” Brooklyn McPeek said.
Prior to learning her daughter’s diagnosis, Heather McPeek noticed the subtle changes in her daughter: her fatigue, lack of energy and frequent memory lapses.
“She’s a really good girl, and she’s been a pretty easy child as far as being a good child, but it’s definitely been an emotional struggle as far as her medical history goes,” Heather McPeek said.
McPeek recently began treatments again, starting with radiation where she has to be taken off all thyroid medication during her scans.
“A normal person's TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is normally less than five and a normal person usually feels good at around one or two. And her TSH right now is probably greater than 50, it’s probably closer to reaching 60,” Heather McPeek said.
Though uncertainty of each treatment could be an emotional roller coaster, it does not bring down Brooklyn McPeek’s positive attitude.
Despite her diagnosis and extensive treatment, McPeek didn’t let it deter her from her school work. Throughout her cancer journey during the latter half of her sophomore year, she finished the semester through online classes and summer classes, which she and her mother are greatly appreciative toward Lexington High School's accommodations.
During her junior and senior years, however, she realized her fatigue and memory issues would be her biggest challenge getting through her final high school years, as well as the rest of her life.
“I’ve learned that I need to study a little harder, or have someone like my intervention specialist give me a little push,” she said.
McPeek plans to attend Ashland University in the fall and major in early childhood education as it pertains to her joy and fulfillment in working with kids.
“I decided that teaching and helping the next generation and the next generation after that would be so cool to experience and to be a part of how others grow up, because I’ve had a lot of teachers, especially in elementary school that have really impacted me,” she said.
The 2020 McGowan Courage Awards are sponsored by: OhioHealth (premier sponsor), Mechanics Bank (gold sponsor), OSU Mansfield (silver sponsor), Richland Bank, North Central State College, The Mansfield Art Center and The Renaissance Theatre.