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Cancer survivor and world-champion Irish dancer raises money for hospital that saved her life

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Cancer survivor and world-champion Irish dancer raises money for hospital that saved her life

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After fighting for her life twice, Megan Stuart, 20, is using a personal victory as a springboard for giving back to the hospital that saved her.

The Minneapolis woman has already faced her share of challenges.

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Stuart and her twin brother were born eight weeks early. Then, at just 4 months old, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, she said. 

CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS: HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT A PARENT WHO HAS A CHILD WITH CANCER

Years later, just as she was on the verge of achieving her life’s goal in Irish dancing, the COVID pandemic shut down her favorite sport. 

Even so, in an on-camera interview with Fox News Digital, Stuart referred to herself a number of times as “lucky.” (See the video at the top of this article.)

Megan Stuart, 20, of Minneapolis, was recently crowned world champion at the 2024 CLRG World Championships of Irish dance, right. She’s using her win to raise money for the cancer charity that helped her as an infant, left.  (Courtesy Megan Stuart/Shamrock Photography)

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She was lucky, she said, that Children’s Minnesota — the hospital where she and her brother spent 40 days in the NICU after their premature birth — had the facilities and know-how to treat an infant with stage 3 neuroblastoma. 

And now she is lucky, she added, that she’s been given a platform to give back to it.

After nearly a decade of attempts and close finishes, Stuart was crowned the world champion in Irish dance last March at the CLRG World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. The CLRG is the world’s largest and oldest Irish dance governing body.

“I think it would be really great to do something to just give back.”

Celebrating a victory with a large party with family and friends is customary, but Stuart is marking her championship by raising money for the Cancer Kids Fund at Children’s Minnesota, a charity close to her heart. 

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CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVOR BECOMES NURSE AT HOSPITAL THAT HELPED SAVE HER

“This is something I’ve been thinking about [doing] for a really long time, before I even won — I was like, ‘Wow, I think it would be really great to do something to just give back,’” Stuart told Fox News Digital in an on-camera interview. 

“I feel really, really lucky to not only have had Children’s Minnesota in my life, but also to have survived cancer and to have their entire team … contribute to saving my life, and then … to have a great dance community,” she said.

Fighting for her life

Stuart’s mother first noticed something was off with her newborn daughter shortly after the doctors released her baby from the NICU.

“I think it was after a couple of weeks, [my mother] was like, ‘Something’s just not right. Megan’s not quite matching up with John in terms of traditional development,’” Stuart recounted to Fox News Digital. “There were some weird illness-like symptoms going on.” 

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HIGH-SCHOOL STUDENTS ARE MAKING STRIDES IN CANCER RESEARCH: ‘GIVES ME HOPE’

Tests for common illnesses such as RSV and flu came back negative. But Stuart’s mother “just kept insisting that something was wrong.” 

After more rounds of testing, Stuart’s markers indicated that she had stage 3 neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that develops in nerve tissue. 

Her doctors were stunned, even re-running the tests to ensure the results were not a fluke. 

outside of Children's Hospital

Stuart and her twin brother spent 40 days in the NICU at Children’s Minnesota after they were born prematurely. The Stuart family then found themselves back at the same hospital after her cancer diagnosis. (Children’s Minnesota)

Dr. Susan Sencer, vice president of chief specialty pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, was Stuart’s oncologist. 

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“I have had the privilege of witnessing some truly remarkable journeys, Megan’s being one of them,” she told Fox News Digital in an interview.

After her diagnosis, “Megan faced an incredibly challenging start to life,” Sencer said, noting that “her resilience and determination throughout treatment were extraordinary.” 

MOM’S RAW POST ON CHILDHOOD CANCER GOES VIRAL: ‘IT AFFECTS THE ENTIRE FAMILY’

The medical team faced unique challenges in treating Stuart, who was extremely small due to her premature birth.

While Stuart said the harsh chemotherapy drugs “majorly affected” her development, she has not had any significant long-term health impacts, which she called “unbelievable.” 

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“They always look for major heart defects, and [chemotherapy] can really affect your hearing, too,” she said, which, for an Irish dancer, would prove disastrous. 

baby with nasal cannula split with woman in irish dance dress doing a jump

Stuart, shown in both images above, was diagnosed with stage 3 neuroblastoma before she was 5 months old. The chemotherapy she received as an infant does not appear to have had any lasting health effects. (Courtesy Megan Stuart/Shamrock Photography)

For two years after the diagnosis, the Stuarts “basically lived” at Children’s Minnesota, she said, during which time they “benefited greatly” from the Cancer Kids Fund.

The fund provides child care for patients’ siblings, plus arts and crafts programs and other services outside the medical setting.

With her fundraiser, Stuart is aiming to help other families facing situations similar to what she went through years ago.

NOVEL CANCER TREATMENT OFFERS NEW HOPE WHEN CHEMO AND RADIATION FAIL: ‘BIG CHANGE IN PEOPLE’S LIVES’

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Stuart regards her championship win as an opportunity to tie together two key communities in her life, cancer survival and Irish dance.

‘Dead set on winning’

Stuart began taking Irish dance classes at Corda Mór Irish Dance in Edina, Minnesota, at age 4, following in her older sister’s footsteps. (In Gaelic, “Corda Mór” means “great heart.”)

“In typical little sister fashion, I just wanted to be like her,” she told Fox News Digital. “I thought she was the best dancer I’d ever seen.” 

At the time she laced up her first pair of dance shoes, Stuart had just been declared cancer-free, something she said was a “cool coincidence.”

two little girls in Irish dancing outfits

Megan Stuart, left, started dancing because she wanted to be like her older sister, Molly Stuart, right. She won her first regional title at the age of 10.   (Courtesy Megan Stuart)

Right away, she set a goal to win a world title. 

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“As soon as I knew … what the world championships were, I was dead set on winning,” she said. “Not because I was like, ‘Oh, I need to win,’ but I just thought how cool it would be.” 

While Stuart quickly experienced success at the regional level, winning her first local championship in 2014 at age 10, she was a long way from winning a world title. 

Right away, she set a goal to win a world title. 

In 2020, Stuart finally won a major international competition – the All-Ireland Championships – and seemed well on her way to achieving the goal she’d set as a child.

Then, just weeks later, the 2020 world championships were canceled due to the COVID pandemic. The 2021 world championships were called off as well. 

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Undeterred, Stuart kept training — and in 2022, she placed second at the world championships. While she was thrilled with the outcome, she believed she had the potential to win.  

SOME BREAST CANCER PATIENTS COULD BE AT RISK OF ANOTHER TYPE OF CANCER, STUDY REVEALS

In 2023, Stuart again placed second at the world championships. 

“Being so close to the top so many times, it really pushed me over the edge to my very best level,” she said. 

Instead of focusing on winning, she centered her training on “finding reason within dancing” and performing for the love of it. 

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On March 29, 2024, Stuart’s dream became a reality. As the announcer at the world championships announced the second-place dancer – it was not Stuart – she jumped to her feet, screaming.

Fauna Gille, co-owner of Corda Mór Irish Dance, told Fox News Digital it was clear from the beginning that Stuart was a champion in the making.

“To win Worlds became Megan’s dream, but it’s the journey to get there that has given us the memories of a lifetime,” Gille said in an email.

“Megan has shown us what ‘great heart’ means throughout this journey, through her kind spirit, perseverance, passion for her craft, and steady and strong nature through the many ups and downs of both Irish dancing and life,” she said.

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Stuart, said Gille, “is a role model for her peers, and an inspiration to her teachers and so many others.” 

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Sencer, Stuart’s oncologist, agreed with that. 

“I’m not surprised she’s now a world champion dancer,” she said. “Her transformation from a tiny patient battling cancer to a celebrated dancer on the global stage is a testament to her incredible strength, perseverance and passion for life.”

outside of Children's Hospital

“Her transformation from a tiny patient battling cancer to a celebrated dancer on the global stage is a testament to her incredible strength, perseverance and passion for life,” Dr. Susan Sencer, Stuart’s oncologist, told Fox News Digital. (Children’s Minnesota)

Stuart’s triumph, said Sencer, is “a powerful reminder that with courage and support, it is possible to overcome even the most daunting obstacles and achieve greatness.”

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The doctor added, “Megan’s journey inspires hope and proves that life after cancer can be full of vibrant possibilities.”

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For her part, Stuart said, “Standing on the podium during that award ceremony, I was like, ‘Wow, this is so meaningful.’”

She went on, “My life is truly incredible, and I just feel – there’s no better word for it – so incredibly lucky.”

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Alzheimer’s blood test achieves faster diagnoses, high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

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Alzheimer’s blood test achieves faster diagnoses, high accuracy at Mayo Clinic

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With nearly seven million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s disease — and 13 million projected to have the illness by 2050 — early diagnosis and treatment are more urgent than ever.

To help address this, Mayo Clinic has announced a new, non-invasive blood test that detects a protein in the brain that signals Alzheimer’s.

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The goal, doctors say, is for this test to offer a convenient, less invasive alternative to traditional diagnostic methods.

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Fox News Digital spoke to Dr. Alicia Algeciras-Schimnich, professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic Rochester in Minnesota, about the new test and what it means for Alzheimer’s patients and their families.

“This is the first Alzheimer’s disease blood test offered at Mayo Clinic Laboratories,” said Algeciras-Schimnich, who led the clinical validation study to gauge how well the test performed.

A new, non-invasive blood test detects a protein in the brain that signals Alzheimer’s, Mayo Clinic (not pictured) announced. (iStock)

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“While there are other commercial blood tests for Alzheimer’s disease, the uniqueness of our test is its high accuracy rate.”

How does it work?

One of the hallmark features in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease is the formation of plaque containing a protein known as beta amyloid.  

“The pTau217 assay assesses the accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain by measuring the amount of phosphorylated Tau 217 (p-Tau217) in the test sample,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.

EXPERIMENTAL ALZHEIMER’S DRUG GETS FDA ADVISORY PANEL’S THUMBS-UP: ‘PROGRESS IS HAPPENING’

Accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain can also be evaluated by imaging techniques, such as PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, the doctor noted — but those methods have some limitations. 

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“The PET scan to evaluate beta amyloid is expensive and not a widely available technology,” said Algeciras-Schimnich. 

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical practice and medical research group based in Rochester, Minnesota. Mayo Clinic has announced a new, non-invasive blood test to help determine if patients have Alzheimer’s. (iStock)

“And the CSF collection requires an invasive technique to remove spinal fluid, so it is also not widely used.”

The Alzheimer’s disease blood biomarkers serve as a non-invasive tool that can improve access for patients who need answers, she said.

How accurate is it?

In patients with symptoms of cognitive decline, the blood test has a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 96%. 

“Sensitivity measures the ability of the test to correctly identify patients with the disease, while specificity measures the ability of the test to correctly identify those without the disease,” Algeciras-Schimnich explained.

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“A blood-based test not only offers convenience, but could help transform Alzheimer’s disease research.”

Patients who take the test are classified as positive or negative for the presence of the accumulation of beta amyloid. 

“In a small number of patients, the test will not be able to differentiate between the presence or absence of beta amyloid,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.  

Woman blood draw

Patients who take the test are classified as positive or negative for the presence of the accumulation of beta amyloid.  (iStock)

“These patients will need additional tests to determine if they are positive or negative for the accumulation of beta amyloid.”

The test is purposely designed to minimize the number of false positive results as compared to other tests, the doctor said.

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“The test has been validated at Mayo Clinic through a rigorous quality process backed by scientific experts and clinicians,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

The test is currently available for clinicians to order through Mayo Clinic Laboratories. 

Alzheimer’s disease

Evidence of Alzheimer’s disease is seen on PET scans at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment (CART) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, March 2023. (REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo)

“Since it is a blood test, it requires a blood draw by a phlebotomist, so anyone who is averse to blood should be aware,” said Algeciras-Schimnich.

At this point, the test is only recommended for individuals 50 years of age and older who have symptoms of mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia.

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“We don’t yet have enough data to support how the test performs in younger individuals,” Algeciras-Schimnich said.

Michelle Rankine, PhD, a certified dementia practitioner in Texas, is not associated with Mayo Clinic but shared her comments on the test’s potential.

A PET scan in Washington, D.C.

Accumulation of beta amyloid in the brain can also be evaluated by imaging techniques, such as PET scans or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) biomarkers, the doctor noted — but those methods have some limitations.  (Michael Robinson Chávez/The Washington Post)

“As the global burden of Alzheimer’s continues to rise, a blood-based test not only offers convenience, but could help transform Alzheimer’s disease research,” Rankine told Fox News Digital. 

“This could make screening more efficient in averting the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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“This innovation addresses a growing need and could accelerate development of new treatments, improve patient evaluation and care, and potentially even allow for early intervention before symptoms become worse,” Rankine added.

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Dr. Anna Cabeca: These Are the Superfoods That Help Shrink a Menopause Belly

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Dr. Anna Cabeca: These Are the Superfoods That Help Shrink a Menopause Belly



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