Mighty Meredith

Words By Jill Lock Photos by Erin Hixson Photography and Contributed by The Nash Family and Jill Lock

The meaning of her name is “great ruler” or “protector of the sea.” I think it’s fitting for the four-year-old warrior known to us as Meredith Carroll Nash or Mighty Meredith. She occupies one of the tiny desks in my pre-k classroom this year. Unicorns and rainbows are her jam! She is sunshine on a rainy day. She can even be smiles and jokes on her worst day. Did I mention that she is also fighting for her life? She has that disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissue. Do you know that one? The C word… Cancer.

Meredith’s specific C diagnosis is Diffuse Anaplastic Wilms Tumor, a type of kidney tumor with cells that are aggressive and resistant to treatment—the rarest type and most challenging to overcome. At times, it doesn’t feel real. When she first attended the Richmond Hill United Methodist Day School at the ripe old age of two, she was the picture of health. The following year for PreK 3’s, I was blessed to be her teacher at the Day School. She had chunky cheeks, the kind you want to take a bite of, and Barbie socks—up to her knees. Cuter then cute, her smile could light up a room. I guess the reality of childhood cancer is that it can happen to anyone.

Now, remember the part I said about her being all smiles and jokes even on her worst day, well let me explain. As our school year together was coming to an end in May, Meredith was starting to have some tummy trouble, inevitably leading to the day before the true madness began, surgery day. On June 5th, just before they wheeled her back to remove her left kidney, the nurses came in to give her some calming juice when three-year-old Meredith turned to her daddy and said, “Hey Daddy, guess what?… Chicken Butt!” In true Meredith form, she had us all busting out with laughter. If you get the chance to meet her, you will know that she was made for a greater purpose. God knew exactly what he was doing when he created this fierce little mermaid.

The force behind Mighty Meredith is her amazing Mama Courtney, her skillful Dad Blake and a goofy Big Brother Parker, who is a great caretaker for his little sister and loves her something big.

As her teacher, I needed a place to keep my thoughts so I started a journal as a place to unpack my emotions.

May 16, 2023 We are wondering if she has kidney stones? UTI? What’s causing all this tummy pain? She doesn’t want to miss RHUMCDS end of year party at school. 41lbs.

May 17, 2023 RHUMCDS last day of school / graduation program- and she powered through like a champ with a giant smile as always.

June 2, 2023 ER for pain in belly after numerous urgent care visits and they could no longer help her. They ended up keeping her for the weekend and scheduled emergency surgery on that Monday the 5th.

June 5, 2023 MM had surgery to remove her left Kidney—unfortunately the tumor was ruptured. We continued to pray for clear margins.

June 7,2023 The first of many transfusions to make her feel better.

June 16, 2023 Not so great news—pathology came back and MM has officially been diagnosed Stage 4, meaning radiation and chemo. They did not get clear margins.

June 19, 2023 Full test day—Pet Scan, Sims Scan for radiation, blood work, chemo schedule, social work… all the things! They want to put her under for each treatment! Nope—she is strong enough and smart enough to stay still.

June 21, 2023 Mighty Meredith’s 4th birthday!

June 22, 2023 Treatment begins—chemo and radiation, concern about spot on diaphragm, need another CT Scan to determine radiation time period.

June 23, 202: Olaf—that dang radiation tube machine (kinda scary looking). Chemo will be every Monday for the first 12 weeks and then every other Monday til she finishes the round of 30.

June 27, 2023 Listening to Fat Bottom Girls, Queen and the Frozen soundtrack during treatment—she’s got great taste in music…

July 1, 2023 We don’t like Mondays—Red Chemo—counts are dangerously low, isolation, night terrors, lots of pain, very sick—radiation—this is the reality of her treatment at this time.

July 19, 2023 She rang her first bell—finishing her 10 days full abdominal radiation, 10 days full tumor radiation (but a month total). Down to 25lbs

August 5, 2023 Proper and official diagnosis of Diffuse Anaplastic Wilms—Kidney Cancer.

90% chance of relapse and very aggressive cancer cells.

August 2023 – January 2024 Tons of appointments, clinic, counts, sickness, ER visits, night terrors, repeated phone calls to insurance, and even the loss of dear family. Hell and heart ache and the testing of faith.

January 2, 2024 Scans, counts, ultrasound, X-rays, EKG and Echo: Good News! Everything is stable. No Growth. No evidence of any new metastatic disease. Praise Jesus! M will remain on oral medication for the nest 6-9 months and is officially on Maintenance.

January 8, 2024 First official day back to school, Pre-K with me again!

January 18, 2024 Meredith is starting to eat again weighing in at 33lbs and her hair is steadily growing back, too!

January 31, 2024 Ringing that bell again! 30 rounds of chemo done! Each round was two meds, four chemos total. The end of treatment bell doesn’t necessarily mean she is cancer free but that she has accomplished BIG things.

February 4, 2024 World Cancer Day—Meredith finally slept through the night! Praise Jesus!

February 9, 2024 Shell Out for a Cure honored Mighty Meredith and her bestie, Luna the Great. Truly amazing—the kindness of strangers and what they can accomplish. I learned after Meredith’s first treatment the cost can be astronomical and quite frankly, financially draining!

February 13. 2024 Port came came out and mom has it saved in a jar!

March 3, 2024 MM was honored with the first Prayer Shawl at Richmond Hill United Methodist Church.

This year, Meredith was one of the two children who were honored at the Shell Out for a Cure event in Richmond Hill. She and Luna the Great’s stories were shared with attendees. Teary-eyed and motivated to help, those attending the event raised $139,000 towards Cure’s mission to fund targeted research to end childhood cancer, while supporting the families affected by the disease.

For the Nash family, there is a reality of possible relapse, secondary disease, hormonal issues, and growth stunts. This reality is heartbreaking. Mighty Meredith may carry this diagnosis with her forever, but it will not define her. Meredith has learned that pokes, tests and appointments are pretty much life. While hair loss, trouble walking, and exhaustion can try to steal the joy, there is something about sunshine, the ocean and the kindness of strangers that helps heal all things for this sweet family. Mighty Meredith is so loved.

If you would like to further be informed, educated, aware of the scary truths, and see strength to overcome a parent’s worst nightmare, be inspired or grow stronger in faith, you can follow Mighty Meredith’s Cancer Journey on Facebook @Mighty Meredith.