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Parkston rallies for 2-year-old girl battling leukemia

PARKSTON -- What started as a routine tonsillectomy in October has turned into the journey of a lifetime for a Parkston 2-year-old girl. On Oct. 26, Jayce Moege had her tonsils removed and shortly after she fell ill, losing weight and dropping he...

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PARKSTON - What started as a routine tonsillectomy in October has turned into the journey of a lifetime for a Parkston 2-year-old girl.

On Oct. 26, Jayce Moege had her tonsils removed and shortly after she fell ill, losing weight and dropping her liquid intake from 90 ounces each day to just 4 ounces.

"She just never got over it," said Jayce's dad, Jeremy Moege. "We knew something was wrong."

And he was right.

After more than a month of waiting, tests and doctor guesses that Jayce's mysterious illness was the result of a postoperative infection, Jayce was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia November 28.

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Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow with excess immature white blood cells. It progresses rapidly, causing severe fatigue, recurrent infections and bruising easily, all symptoms Jayce presented.

Jayce was sent to the Sanford Children's Specialty Hospital in Sioux Falls at the time of her diagnosis and has been there every day since, sans a seven-day stretch in February that she was allowed to go home between chemotherapy treatments.

More than three months into her hospital stay, Moege said Jayce is about halfway completed with her treatments.

On Tuesday, Jayce is tentatively scheduled for a bone marrow draw and spinal tap in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. In about a month, Jayce will have her transplant and will be required to remain in a Minneapolis hospital for no less than 100 days afterward. Then, when she is released, she will be mostly quarantined to the family's home for a year while she recovers, only leaving for doctor appointments and other necessary tasks.

"Everybody asks us, 'What are you going to do? How are you going to do it?' " Moege said. "It really doesn't matter, we'll figure it out as we go. We just have to do it, and that's all there is to it."

But first, the family has to get through Jayce's chemotherapy treatments, which hasn't proven easy through the first two rounds.

The first time, she contracted C. Diff. Colitis - inflammation of the colon caused by certain bacteria - and a rash that spread over her entire body.

The second round, she stopped eating or drinking. The inside of her digestive tract, from her throat to her colon, was burned from the drugs, and she was confined to a feeding tube and IV medication.

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Now, just finished with the third round of treatment, Jayce has no symptoms - she's the same happy, bubbly 2-year-old her parents remember prior to her diagnosis late last year.

"Nobody thinks they'll have to go through something like this - it's something somebody in Sioux Falls might have. It's Minneapolis, it's a bigger town 200 miles away," Moege said. "It's never here, it never happens at home. Until it does."

And, while on the topic of "home," Moege took time to acknowledge the Parkston community, from his wife, Jill, whose boss has allowed her to take an extended time off of work and to the more than 500 people who packed into the Parkston American Legion Hall Sunday morning in support of Jayce. On Sunday, a group of residents put together a meal served for a free-will offering, silent and live auctions, raising money for the Moege family to help defray medical expenses for Jayce. Moege declined to disclose how much money was raised at Sunday's benefit.

Moege's mother, Judy, echoed his sentiments, calling the generosity of the community "unbelievable."

"People say small towns are boring and there's not enough stuff going on," Judy said. "But when it comes down to something like this, why would you want to live anywhere else?"

Now, as the family moves forward, Moege said they've learned how to take life day-by-day, and they're looking forward to getting Jayce home and to when she will be able to run and play like a "normal" girl her age. But, most importantly, Moege said, they are mentally preparing for the inevitable difficult days yet to come, knowing they'll get through them with each other's support.

"You can't make any plans. People ask how things are going and you tell them that today, things are OK, but ask me tomorrow and it might be different," Moege said. "It's life-changing. It'll never go back to what it was before. It changes you, it just does."

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