Thursday, November 20, 2003

Read About How Megan Maly Is Winning Her Battle

This is not something that, emotionally, I could have written.

I had to leave it up to Bill Maurer, a former colleague of mine at the Register and Tribune, to get the job done.

Bill, who has his own consulting business, writes and publishes the Blank Children’s Hospital quarterly newsletter. For the fall edition, he put together a wonderful story about Megan, our 4-year-old granddaughter; Kevin, our son; Donna, our daughter-in-law and Dr. James Roloff, Megan’s magnificent doctor.

I’m letting Maurer take over now. He writes the story beautifully:

Megan Maly had been feeling punky for a week. Instead of walking, for some reason she preferred to crawl. And then there were those bruises her mother had spotted when changing a diaper the night before.

It was New Year’s Day 2001, a Monday. The office of the pediatrician Megan saw was closed for the long holiday weekend.

"Kevin and I decided we couldn’t wait until the next day to take Megan to the pediatrician," says Megan’s mother Donna. So the Malys got up on New Year’s morning and drove Megan from their West Des Moines home to the Emergency Department at Blank Children's Hospital in downtown Des Moines.

"We didn’t even bring her blanket or pacifier because we thought she’d get a quick x-ray of her leg and the doctor would see her and send us home," Donna Maly says. "Instead, they did x-rays and blood work and then told us, ‘We’re admitting your daughter. It looks like she has leukemia’"

Unfortunately for Megan, "She has experienced nearly every side effect that a child can get with lymphocytic leukemia," says Dr. James Roloff, the Blank Children’s cancer specialist who was on call that New Year’s Day and who has treated her since.

Fortunately for Megan, nearly 2 ½ years of chemotherapy—along with 15 spinal taps and eight bone marrow examinations and assorted other pokes too numerous to quantify—appears to have rid her little body of the form of leukemia that affects roughly 2,200 children in the United States every year. Her last treatment was in May—three weeks before she turned 4—and Dr. Roloff doesn’t expect she’ll have any more.

"I would say she is 90 to 95 percent likely to be ‘event-free’ of any disease" from now on, he says. "All the indicators appear to be favorable."

And her odds of survival grow better with each passing day, matching the improvement in therapies that have been introduced in the last quarter of a century. In the mid-1970s, children with acute lymphocytic leukemia had a survival rate of 53 percent. By the mid-1990s, the survival rate had increased to 85 percent.

Megan Maly had all the classic symptoms of leukemia when her parents took her to Blank Children’s Hospital, the only hospital in Iowa totally dedicated to the care of children. Besides being tired, bruised and sore—caused by cancer cells packing themselves into the marrow of the bones in her legs—she had a low-grade fever. She got a nose bleed at the hospital that was difficult to stop.

Her platelets—that portion of the blood that is used for clotting—should have registered between a count of 150,000 to 450,000. Hers was but 4,000—and it later fell to 2,000.

The next day, a bone marrow test was done. And on January 3, a port—a long flexible tube through which chemotherapy could be infused—was placed in her upper right chest. Doctor Roloff also performed a spinal tap, so pathologists could check the fluids in the spinal column. Then he prescribed chemotherapy. The oncologists in Blank Children’s, all members of the nationwide Children’s Oncology Group, administer the same treatment that would be used at any other children’s cancer center in the United States.

She spent 35 days of the first two months of 2001 at Blank Children’s Hospital, a total of 60 days in the first 15 months of treatment. Donna Maly was with her almost every minute.

"I had to know what they were doing, what they were putting in her body, what that was going to do to her," says Donna Maly.

As far as Kevin and Donna Maly are concerned, the experiences at Blank were positive.

"They are the greatest staff in the world," Donna Maly says of the group of nurses and others who cared for Megan. "They did a remarkable job for us.

"We dealt with a lot of people, and there was not a one that I would say was less than top notch."

And, she adds, "Dr. Roloff was great. He’s so knowledgeable. He does a good job of making you understand and of keeping the whole family involved."

One of the advantages of Megan having her illness when she did is that "she was young enough that she didn’t know life in any other way," says Donna Maly. Now she does.

Weighing in at 18 pounds when she checked into Blank Children’s Jan. 1, 2001, and never getting more than a couple pounds heavier in two years, she is now up to 34 pounds. She has her hair back, she took swimming lessons for the first time over the summer, and she learned to ride her bicycle (with training wheels). She is attending the Little Lambs pre-school at Mount Olive Lutheran School, where her brother (Nathan) is in first grade.

She is, says her mother, "such a sweetheart, and yet very independent, determined and stubborn."

Not to mention the custodian of a smile that could melt an iceberg.

[Maxine and Ron Maly say thanks to Dr. James Roloff; to Megan’s other physicians; to the fantastic nurses and other members of the medical team at Blank Children’s Hospital; to Patrice Maurer, director of development at Blank, and to writer Bill Maurer. All of you are incredible. Ron Maly’s e-mail address is and his website addresses are and].

Vol. 3, No. 79
Nov. 20, 2003

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Getting Up Close And Personal With a Special Pig

Iowa City, Ia.—First of all, I’d like to point out that I don’t get up close and personal with just any pig.

I mean, I don’t start discussions in public with your run-of-the-mill hog.

But when it comes to a certain porker that now has celebrated its 68th birthday, I’m easy.

I’m talking about Floyd of Rosedale, the bronze pig that has been awarded every year since 1935 to the winner of the Iowa-Minnesota football game.

Floyd will be living in the football offices at the University of Iowa for the next year because the Hawkeyes walloped Minnesota, 40-22, Saturday in Kinnick Stadium. It’s a familiar place of residence for him because Iowa has beaten Minnesota three straight years.

I was in the Metrodome in Minneapolis a year ago when the Hawkeyes wrapped up an 8-0 Big Ten record with a 45-21 victory over Minnesota, and I got a pretty good look at how Floyd was moving into his golden years. But I vowed to do even better this year.

So I went from the press box to the sidelines midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game with the intention of striking up a conversation with him.

Floyd was relaxing on the 25-yard line in his usual position—standing proudly and with his snout directed downward--when I got there.

"How’s it going?" I asked. "Has Kirk Ferentz been feeding you well?"

"It’s been a great year," Floyd said. "Kirk got that big pay raise last year when the Hawkeyes won 11 games, so the eats have been better than usual. If I don’t watch it, I’ll have to go on the Atkins diet.

"Don’t forget, when I made this deal with the governors of Iowa and Minnesota in 1935 to be the prize in this rivalry, I promised not to pack on any extra pounds."

"Well, you’re hanging in there just fine, Floyd," I said. "You’re a prize porker in my book. By the way, I assume you’ve been doing more than just eating Ferentz’s food during the past year.

"You’ve always had the reputation of being one of the more handsome hogs in the area, so I’d like to ask you a question that maybe no other sportswriter has asked you:

"You got a girlfriend?"

Floyd smiled at that one.

"Darn right I’ve got a girlfriend," he said. "A steady girlfriend. And she’s the prettiest female pig in Johnson County. I think she even got some votes for homecoming queen."

Then Floyd’s expression changed. I could tell he wanted to talk about another matter.

"I’m glad you came over to see me, Ron," he said. "Phil Haddy, the Iowa sports information director, brought over your book, "Tales from the Iowa Hawkeyes," a while back and I just finished reading it last night.

"I noticed that you wrote about me on Page 54. That was very nice of you, and I’m glad you straightened out the story on how I got to be part of the Iowa-Minnesota rivalry. Lots of people didn’t know that I was the product of racism."

"Well, I appreciate that," I said. "Actually, George Wine of Solon—the guy who used to be Iowa’s sports information director—told me about the racism stuff."

"Whatever," Floyd said. "Thanks to George, too. He and I would get along just fine. He’s a farmer now, too, you know."

Wine told me that Minnesota had "manhandled" Ozzie Simmons of Iowa in the 1934 game. Simmons was one of few blacks playing major college football at the time, and Wine said Minnesota was "guilty of some late hits and abusive play against him."

The situation was so bad that when Minnesota played at Iowa in 1935, Clyde Herring, Iowa’s governor, said he couldn’t guarantee the safety of the Gophers’ players because of what had happened to Simmons in 1934.

Floyd B. Olson, Minnesota’s governor, tried to calm the situation by offering Floyd as the reward for winning the Hawkeye-Gopher game. Wine said the 1935 game—won by Minnesota, 13-6--was played cleanly and there "were no racial incidents."

After Iowa lost, Herring presented Olson with Floyd of Rosedale, a full-blooded champion pig and a brother of BlueBoy from Will Rogers’ movie "State Fair."

Olson gave Floyd to the University of Minnesota and commissioned a sculptor to capture the pig’s image.The result was a bronze pig 21 inches long and 15 inches high.

"That’s the straight scoop," Floyd told me. "Most people really don’t want to tie racism in with this football rivalry, but I’m glad you told it the right way. I always heard that you don’t pull any punches with your writing, and you proved it in your book."

"Thanks, Floyd," I said. "You’re my kind of pig, too."

By the time Floyd was wrapping up that part of our conversation, the game was almost over. So along came Robert Gallery, Iowa’s 321-pound offensive tackle and future multi-millionaire. He’s expected to be a first-round pick in the 2004 NFL draft.

Gallery was on a mission. He reached down to pick up Floyd and took him to the 50-yard line in front of the Iowa bench.

But before Gallery carried Floyd away, the pig looked at me and said, "Thanks again for coming over to talk with me. I wanted to show you that I’m a pretty good interview. I know you’ve probably talked to a lot of pigs at the State Fair every August in Des Moines, but I’ll bet they don’t have the vocabulary I have."

"You’re right about that, Floyd," I said. "You obviously picked up a lot of good words over in the Iowa football offices."

"Darn right," Floyd said. "That’s another reason I like it better in Iowa City than Minneapolis. They swear a lot more up north."

Floyd said he had one more thing to tell me.

"Hey, don’t be bashful," he said. "Come over and see me sometime when you’re in Iowa City in the off-season. You’re my kind of sportswriter, and I’ll bet I can give you another good column in a few months.

"But call before you come. I don’t want to miss you if I’m on a date with my girlfriend. I don’t have any curfew from January until two-a-days start in August."

Then away went Gallery and Floyd to the 50. Gallery stood to the left of Floyd, Erik Jensen – Iowa’s senior tight end – was on the right. With the game over, they carried Floyd to the center of the field for the celebration.

Iowa’s players leaped to put their hands on the pig as a signal that he’d be spending another year in Iowa City. The sellout crowd roared.

"This is definitely my kind of town," Floyd shouted.

[Ron Maly’s e-mail address is If you want to contact Floyd of Rosedale, write to him at the same address. Like Maly, he responds to everyone who contacts him – even those people and pigs who write in crayon].

Vol. 3, No. 78
Nov. 16, 2003