Junior Maddy McInerney dies after battle with brain cancer


Photo courtesy of Visual Image Photography

Maddy McInerney passed away on Nov. 25. She was 17 years old and a junior at LHS.

Hannah Hutchins, Features Editor

On the morning of Friday, Nov. 25, Libertyville High School junior Madelynn McInerney, affectionately known to her friends and family as Maddy, died after her ongoing battle with brain cancer. She was 17 years old.

Friends of McInerney absolutely adored her, remembering her as “the light in every room” and a girl with a “contagious smile.”

“Maddy was a really vibrant person; she always knew how to make people laugh. I never had a friendship like I had with her. She showed me how to be a strong person. There’s no other way to describe her, she is so unique,” said Kaitlin Sartin, a junior at LHS and a close friend of McInerney, over the phone.

Sophie Pearson, another friend of McInerney’s and a junior as well, expressed over text message that “one of the most unique things about her was her ability to make an impact on everyone she met and above everything, she had the biggest heart.”

In November 2014, an MRI found a tumor in McInerney’s brain. The day after Thanksgiving of that year, she had surgery and was diagnosed that December with glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is a type of brain cancer characterized by an aggressive and malignant series of tumors in the brain.

Later that same December, McInerney began treatment and went into remission, but the cancer returned in the fall of 2015. She began treatment again, but it did not have the same effect, and her condition slowly began to worsen.

However, friends of McInerney recall that even after her diagnosis, McInerney was still as incredibly positive as she had always been.

“Even until her last few moments…she was still that bright soul, energizing and laughing and joking around. The smiling and laughing never stopped with her,” said senior Maggy O’Leary, a longtime family friend of McInerney’s.

Leigh Anne McInerney, Maddy’s mother, said that her daughter was “very upbeat” and that she “never wanted to see anybody be sad for her.”

“She would hate to see us crying for her; she’d be really angry. She’d say: ‘Why are you crying? That’s not what you’re supposed to do,’” Mrs. McInerney recalled, laughing.

At school, McInerney was involved with many organizations, including cheerleading, choir, bowling, and Best Buddies, but the majority of her time was spent raising money to aid brain cancer research. Mrs. McInerney recalled that Maddy wanted “nothing more than to find a cure.”

In addition to taking part in St. Baldrick’s, a foundation dedicated to finding a cure to childhood cancer, McInerney also participated in several awareness walks.

These walks took place in May of 2015 as well as October of 2016 and collectively, McInerney was able to raise more than $20,000. McInerney, along with her family, friends, and community members, participated in these walks for “Team Maddy” and “Maddy’s Voice.”

Another one of McInerney’s friends, Grace Walsh, a junior at LHS, spoke over text message about the reasoning behind the team name:

“‘Maddy’s Voice,’ that’s what it’s all about; you could hear her voice over everyone and it was surely the loudest in the room.”

The walks, held by “Voices Against Brain Cancer” and “BrainUp,” respectively, both brought awareness and raised money to find better treatments for brain cancer in their search for a cure. At her first walk, McInerney won a Courage Award due to the optimistic attitude she had regarding her diagnosis.

“Throughout her whole journey, Maddy just showed so much courage. She was obviously afraid, but she didn’t show it and she was so strong. I think she is a great role model for everyone to see just how brave you can be,” Sartin said.

Throughout the past two years, McInerney has received five surgeries. Just three weeks ago, McInerney had another surgery. A splint was placed in her brain in order to alleviate some of the pain she was feeling.

“Towards the end, this week-ish [Maddy] began not being able to talk, and it was hard not to hear her voice. But her pain is finally over, and I know that God wanted her in Heaven,” said Sara Scheibler, another friend of McInerney’s, over text message.

A wake for Maddy will be held on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Koenig Center at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Libertyville from 2:30 to 8 p.m. The funeral will be held at 10 a.m. on the following Saturday, Dec. 3, also at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Two-ply tissues will be supplied, as Maddy absolutely hated cheap tissue. Mrs. McInerney recalled that once while her daughter was in the hospital, she called the 1-800 number on a box of tissues that claimed to be two-ply, but were, in fact, see through.

“I’m going to Sam’s club to buy a whole case so that when we have the funeral, no one is stuck using the tissue Madelynn hated,” Mrs. McInerney said, smiling.

In addition, the Bel Canto choir, of which Maddy was formerly a part of, will be singing at her funeral.

“She would love it. Maddy loved the choir; it’s not so much she liked to sing, I mean, she didn’t have a bad voice, she just loved people. For her, [choir] was a class where you not only sang and got credit for it, but you could be a part of a group. That’s all she really wanted,” Mrs. McInerney said.

Maddy’s passing has been felt by many, as she was incredibly active in the community. Both Mrs. McInerney and Pearson say that her passing will have lasting impacts.

“What can be learned from her passing is how having a great attitude towards life and such positive and optimistic views about things can make very tough situations more manageable. Her strength gave me and others the strength to do great things,” Pearson said.

Mrs. McInerney hoped that the way her daughter lived her life would show others something about kindness: “I think the one good thing that could come out of this would be if people are more kind to one another and good to one another, no matter who you are or who your friends are. She had a lot of different friends, different groups in different places. She got along with everybody. And I think that’s what she would want for everybody else. For everyone to be happy.”

* Editor’s note: This story has been edited and updated multiple times since its original publication on Friday, Nov. 25, to include quotes from friends and family as well as give more information.