The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
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    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Mattie Powell cancer free for now 2009.04.22

Written by David Green.


Things are good in the Powell household now.

Mattie and her parents are back from treatment at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Mattie recently celebrated her fourth birthday and she’s growing a good head of hair after so many months of baldness. She participated in her tap dance recital Sunday and she’s having a great time on the playground equipment donated by the Make a Wish Foundation.

And best of all: She’s been declared cancer free.mattie.swing.jpg

That’s not to say that the situation might change. As of now, the brain cancer that doctors have fought with radiation, chemotherapy and a clinical trial using antibodies has disappeared.

Duane and Sara Powell are well aware of the recurrence rate for their daughter’s cancer, and they’ve painfully learned of the deaths of other children with the same affliction—a medulloblastoma tumor.

In Mattie’s case, however, they have extra reason for optimism.

Other children didn’t receive the new treatment as a first line of defense. They headed for Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center  as a last chance. They already had conventional treatment, but the cancer returned and not all of those children are alive today.

In Mattie’s case, she started with conventional treatment at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., but soon signed up for the trial in New York City.

Treatment there started with rounds of radiation that were followed with the introduction of antibodies through a small reservoir in the top of her head.

In February, after the family had returned to their home near Morenci, the results came in. An MRI showed no tumor. The cerebrospinal fluid also tested clear of cancer cells.

That’s the best news the Powells could have hoped for, but the constant concern about a return appearance lingers. The wait between tests is a bit unnerving.mattie.plaque.jpg

“The next couple of years are critical,” Duane said. “We’re now waiting three months between tests. A couple of kids were two years out before there was a recurrence.”

The Powells will return to St. Jude May 5 for a battery of exams—their first visit since last October.

“We’re excited to go back to Memphis,” Duane said. “We have many friends that we left there.”

They also intend to visit a couple of youngsters who, like Mattie, are now back at home recovering.

If results are good, doctors will probably remove the central line catheter implanted in Mattie’s chest. The device allows medication to be administered and blood withdrawn without the poke of a needle.

The Ommaya reservoir in her scalp will stay—better to leave it in place and ignore it than take it back out.

Long journey

Looking back on the past year and a half, Duane knows how fortunate his daughter is to be running around the house playing.

Doctors were blunt when discussing the initial brain surgery, acknowledging that death could occur on the operating table, but Mattie made it through that ordeal with practically no problems.

When the Powells signed on with the experimental treatment at Sloan-Kettering, they knew that more radiation was ahead before the treatment began.

“That was a tough decision for a parent,” Duane said. “You want to cure your child, but you want her to have a quality life.”

Full dose radiation at that age can lead to learning disabilities, but doctors were to use a lesser strength with a slim chance of any long-term effects.

“We went there knowing it was the only place in the world where they were doing this clinical trial,” Duane said. “Between the radiation and the new treatment they were able to take care of it.”

Watching Mattie tear around the house playing with her 13-year-old sister, Hannah, you would never know what she recently went through.

“The way she’s acting now is the way she acted most of the time during her treatment,” said her father. “She was always out playing and walking. You seldom found her in her room. That’s what helped us get through it. Her morale was great.”

That and the support from a wide network of family and friends.

“The support we’ve had is just overwhelming,” Duane said. “We just can’t say enough about what people have done for us.”

It’s a chilly, windy day, but Mattie is heading outside to her new playground before taking a drive around the yard in her birthday gift—a child-size electric John Deere Gator.

It’s difficult to remember what normal is, but life at the Powell home appears to moving in that direction.

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