Community rallies around 12-year-old’s battle with cancer

South Athens Elementary third-grade teacher Brandi Spencer is shown with her 12-year-old stepdaughter, Maggie Sue Spencer, and 2-year-old daughter Kazelee Spencer. South Athens has been holding “Maggie Sue Mondays," in which teachers and many students dress in orange to show support for Maggie Sue, a Kaufman Junior High student battling leukemia. (Courtesy photo)
South Athens Elementary third-grade teacher Brandi Spencer is shown with her 12-year-old stepdaughter, Maggie Sue Spencer, and 2-year-old daughter Kazelee Spencer. South Athens has been holding “Maggie Sue Mondays,” in which teachers and many students dress in orange to show support for Maggie Sue, a Kaufman Junior High student battling leukemia. (Courtesy photo)

By Toni Garrard Clay/AISD Communications Specialist

Maggie Sue Spencer doesn’t live in Athens or go to school here. But the first day of every week at South Athens Elementary has been designated “Maggie Sue Monday.”

“Most people here don’t know Maggie, but they know she’s my family and they love her because they love me. That’s huge,” said Brandi Spencer.

Spencer teaches third grade at South Athens Elementary. She met Maggie Sue — now a seventh grader at Kaufman Junior High — when the youngster had just turned 4. Not long after, she became Maggie Sue’s stepmom. Spencer describes Maggie Sue as a peacemaker and an outgoing, bubbly cowgirl. “She always seems to have a smile on her face, even now.”

The smiles have been more difficult for everyone since the 12-year-old was diagnosed in December with pre-B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer. Maggie Sue receives chemo directly into her spine and through a port every Monday at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. She has been admitted several times since the initial diagnosis, owing to complications that accompany treatment.

“Brandi is like family to all of us,” said South Athens Elementary Principal Claudia Stiles. “So when we got the news about Maggie Sue’s diagnosis, we all had that helpless feeling. We wanted a way to show Brandi and Maggie Sue that we support them, and they’re in our thoughts and prayers.”

Because Mondays are typically the days Maggie Sue receives chemo, teachers and many students at South Athens wear orange every Monday. Orange is the designated color for leukemia awareness and patient support.

“The very first Monday we had it, Maggie Sue asked me, ‘How’s Maggie Sue Monday going?’ She was so excited. We sent pictures of the class and teachers. It was really special to her,” said Spencer.

Just speaking of the outpouring of love brings tears to Spencer’s eyes. “Last week, a little girl in kindergarten brought her tooth fairy money to buy an orange bracelet,” she said. Another student, with little of his own, brought a five-dollar donation he had saved himself because he wanted to give it to help Maggie Sue. “He was so proud and happy to give.”

“People have just rallied around us. The outpouring we have received … There are no words,” said Spencer. “The biggest thing we ask is just pray for her. Pray for our family.”

Teachers and many students at South Athens Elementary have been wearing orange on Mondays to show support for Maggie Sue Spencer, the stepdaughter of campus third-grade teacher Brandi Spencer. Orange is the color designated to show awareness and support of leukemia patients. Maggie Sue, a seventh-grader at Kaufman Junior High, was diagnosed in December, and the campus has established “Maggie Sue Mondays. (Courtesy photo)
Teachers and many students at South Athens Elementary have been wearing orange on Mondays to show support for Maggie Sue Spencer, the stepdaughter of campus third-grade teacher Brandi Spencer. Orange is the color designated to show awareness and support of leukemia patients. Maggie Sue, a seventh-grader at Kaufman Junior High, was diagnosed in December, and the campus has established “Maggie Sue Mondays. (Courtesy photo)

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