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Treatments fall short for ill Ceres girl
The shock of bright red hair is gone, a casualty of chemotherapy treatments. Brain cancer has put little Madison Magee through more than a six-year-old girl should have to endure. Now her family is dealing with a medical shock: No other treatments are available to fight the terminal disease.

"It's really hard to believe, especially looking at her," said Keri (Van Vooren) Magee, Madison's mother. "She's doing wonderful but that's really hard. She's so full of joy and she and her sister are playing ... but they told us it could be soon."

Hospice staff has been called in to help the family deal with any questions Madison may ask as her condition worsens.

On June 17 the Hidahl Elementary School student was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was pulled from classes so the family could stay in the Bay Area while doctors conducted a treatment of surgeries, radiation, and chemotherapy at University of California San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF). Madison's form of cancer is so rare that even doctors are surprised.

"They've not seen any quite like it," said Keri. "I had to get several opinions and most of the doctors that I've spoken to have only seen one or two (cases) in 20 years of practice."

The family was pinning great hopes on a recovery when Madison's December MRI showed the tumors were gone. After undergoing her last cycle of chemotherapy on Jan. 26, an MRI in March revealed six new tumors in the brain and spots on the spine that appear ominous.

"They just said it was too aggressive and nothing was operable," said Keri. "And it was also in the same place, which means they can't do any more radiation. She's already had the highest dose of radiation she could get in that spot. She's also had the heaviest chemo that a kid can get."

UCSF doctors sent Madison home to Ceres so that she can spend the rest of her days with her parents, Keri and Shawn Magee and younger sister Shannon. Others in the family are doing what they can for support.

Both mom and dad are doing their best to cope emotionally with the prospects of losing Madison.

"We're pretty much a mess. I mean, we go back and forth being numb and being completely devastated. We get through the day or we take turns, depend on who's falling apart. We want to make sure she has a lot of happiness in the time that she has left with us. We make sure that we are doing things as a family. Pretty much our worst time is when we put her to bed at night and it's just my husband and I. That's really hard. We're not sleeping well."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation sent Madison and her family on a trip to Disneyland last week, which aunt Chelsea Wilson called a "bitter-sweet" occasion. There are plans to take Madison to Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo.

"In addition to unimaginable grief, the family is facing financial stressors," said Wilson. Keri has been on leave from her county social worker job to attend to Madison during medical treatments and stays at Bay Area hospitals. Because of the leave she's going to have to pay COBRA expenses for medical coverage for the family which is hard to absorb.

"Their credit card bills are outrageous from back and forth to San Francisco, and that's been going on since last year," said Wilson.

The family has set up a bank account, the Madison Magee Donation Benefit Fund, which can be accessed by the public for donations at any Wells Fargo Bank branch .

Wilson described Madison as a bubbly girl who has been the center of attention.

"She just runs in the middle of a circle and talks to everybody. At the Concerts in the Park she was the first one out there trying to get the other kids dancing. She's a very social kid, very carefree."

Madison was photographed by the Courier decorating the downtown Christmas tree in 2006.