Barber County, Kansas, community supports former 4-Her with cancer in fundraiser

Residents of Barber County, Kansas, are a tight-knit, close community and when one of their own was diagnosed with cancer for the second time, it was a no-brainer for the community to step up and support her with several fundraisers at the 100th Barber County Fair held July 22 to 25 in Hardtner, Kansas.

Madie Marshall, a 2019 graduate of Chaparral High School and current Kansas State University student, was diagnosed bilateral retinoblastoma and sent to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, in 2001, at the age of 5 1/2 months old. In 2003, Madie received what her mother, Nanci, calls her “magic left eye” when doctors were unable to save her vision in that eye due to the cancer’s progression. Fortunately, Madie went into remission and was able to live a largely normal life for 17 years as a cancer survivor, until she was involved in a car accident in June 2021. Although she was recovering from the accident, her knee continued to hurt, so she went to the doctor to have an examination.

An MRI was performed, where doctors found a mass on her left knee and she traveled back to St. Jude for further testing. After scans, X-rays, blood tests and a lung biopsy, Madie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her left femur that has metastasized to her lungs. July 3 Madie received her first round of chemotherapy. She will continue to have chemo treatments over the next 8 months as well as limb-saving surgery on her left leg and potentially lung surgery.

“I have gained some of my strength and energy back since getting home, so I have been feeling pretty good most days,” Madie said. “My next round of chemo starts at the end of July and we are on a rotating cycle of three weeks, so three weeks with chemo treatments and three weeks off. We will continue this cycle for 32 weeks and in the near future we anticipate surgery for the tumor.”

Rural communities unite to lift up their own

Madie was heavily involved in Barber County 4-H when she was in school, serving as president, vice president, secretary and historian of the Sunflower 4-H Club during her 12 years as member. She was also the secretary of Barber County 4-H Council for three years while in high school.

“One of my biggest 4-H accomplishments was being on the Barber County meat judging team where I competed at many contests, including Oklahoma State University Big 3, Midwest Invitational and Kansas State Sweepstakes,” she explained. “In 2016 we actually ended up winning the Kansas State Sweepstakes Contest and got to compete at the National Meat Judging Contest where we placed third high overall team.”

Madie says her county fair projects included buymanship, foods, leadership, swine and the beef project.

“I was heavily involved in the breeding beef project and got involved with market steers the last two years of my 4-H career,” she said. “I was very fortunate to have quite a few successful years in the Barber County showring.”

After years of dedication to her projects in Barber County, the community who has seen her grow up from a fledgling clover bud to a young woman with a bright future ahead of her and could not sit idle as Madie and her family were faced with a second cancer diagnosis. Instead, they have rallied around the Marshall family by holding a silent auction with a wide range of items donated by the community and a live auction of a steer shown and donated by Callen Corr. The steer was auctioned off in halves and scheduled to be processed on July 27 at the Kiowa Locker in Kiowa, Kansas, with the processing donated by owners Rick and Belinda Hitchcock. However, Madie’s uncle, Tim Marshall, said the steer actually sold 10 times during the auction. He said between the silent auction, the auction of the steer and another $2,700 that was donated separately, the fundraising efforts at the fair brought in $35,000 for Madie’s cancer treatments.

“The people of rural America are awesome,” Tim said. “Needless to say, there were very few dry eyes to be found, Madie was able to attend the auction and was there to cheer on her little sister Rhyan during her shows.”

The Marshall and Corr families know each other from showing cattle together, particularly as Callen shows cattle with Madie’s younger sister, Rhyan. Larry Corr, Callen’s father, said when his family heard about Madie’s diagnosis and the fundraising that was being organized, donating the steer just felt like the right thing to do.

“We kind of looked at it as a way to pay if forward for the many things that people don’t even know that they have done for us and hopefully this will help the Marshall’s in their journey,” Larry said.

For Madie, the gesture of love and encouragement was an uplifting reminder of the support she has in Barber County.

“I just want them to know how much I truly appreciate what they did for my family and I, and I’m not sure that I could ever express how much this really means to me,” Madie said. “Doing something like this just shows how kind and generous they are, it’s good people like them who restore your faith in the world.”

“When I first found out, I got pretty emotional because it’s very overwhelming and heartwarming to see the support from home,” Madie said. “It’s not something anyone had to do for me and my family, but the fact that they did is just something. I can’t put into words how grateful we are for everyone’s love and support. Cancer is such a hard thing to go through, but Barber County has let us know that I am not fighting this alone and there is a huge support system at home.”

Lacey Newlin can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].

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