Classy Cat recovering from brain tumor makes her return at Homecoming game

Then-sophomore Classy Cat Mackenzie Lincoln performs a routine during halftime on Feb. 10, 2016, in Bramlage Coliseum. (File Photo by Rodney Dimick | The Collegian)

Last Saturday’s Homecoming football game featured the return of Classy Cat Mackenzie Lincoln, junior in accounting, after the dancer received treatment for a brain tumor that was discovered over the summer.

At the beginning of the fall semester, the tumor and a cyst were still attached to Lincoln’s brain and she was in the midst of multiple surgeries and medication.

The treatments lead to Lincoln taking herself out of Kansas State courses for most of the first quarter of the school year. Now, Lincoln has returned to campus, and is dancing and marching with the K-State marching band again.

“Friday was exactly three months following the diagnosis, and somehow I got to do the Homecoming parade, as well as the Homecoming game on Saturday, which was exactly three months following my surgery,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln said she is grateful to return to K-State, and surprised by how soon she came back.

“It’s been a very full-circle experience,” Lincoln said. “My goal was to dance at, at least, one game this season and my doctors thought that I was crazy for thinking that at the time. Now, to be able to be back when we’ve still got three games left is very overwhelming — a total moment of awe. I teared up a couple of times during the game and just kept thinking ‘finally.’”

Lincoln’s return to school on Monday was just in time for her to be enrolled in eight-week courses, and she is still set to graduate on time in May 2018.

“I’ve been here back on campus without any emergency surgeries, on my own, and that’s been an improvement,” Lincoln said. “I’m also still on track to graduate, which is pretty unbelievable.”

Frank Tracz, director of bands, has witnessed Lincoln’s journey since the beginning of the semester.

“Mackenzie’s a tremendous inspiration to me and the band,” Tracz said. “She’s a young lady who has done a remarkable job of persevering throughout this whole ordeal. She’s shown great fight, grit and determination throughout.”

Last month, Lincoln was released for moderate activity by her doctor after recovering from a spinal fluid leak that occurred following one of her surgeries.

“I got released for moderate activity, which for me, meant that I could dance again,” Lincoln said. “I did the pregame, then I cheered first quarter of the Homecoming game. I had to sit out second quarter, then cheered and danced during certain parts of third and fourth quarter.”

Lincoln’s absence from Classy Cats practice required her to have to quickly learn new dance routines for the game, but she said she was happy to take on the challenge.

“I had to learn four new routines right before all of it, but I didn’t see that as a bad thing,” Lincoln said. “It was all worth it when during the pregame we ran out to do the Classy Cat dance, and during this everyone was wooing at me, yelling ‘Go Mac.’ When we went out onto the field I could hear all of my teammates yelling for me, which was just really cool to know that all of that support was there.”

Lincoln’s quick return to dancing did not come without concern from her friends and family.

“A lot of the girls on my team have been nervous,” Lincoln said. “A lot of them still ask me if I’m sure that I’m ready to be dancing again, but there is still a lot of excitement. My family has been through a lot, but they’re starting to get to that stage of relief.”

Christina Quigley, Classy Cat coordinator, said she was ecstatic to welcome Lincoln back to the dance team.

“Since Mackenzie was diagnosed I have watched her fight and refuse to give up,” Quigley said. “She’s an incredibly strong woman that has experienced something one cannot imagine. It was an extremely awesome moment to see her out on the field last Saturday morning at the football game. We’re thrilled that she is back performing and practicing with us.”

Lincoln said she plans to dance at tonight’s basketball game, which is the first one of the season. Although she’s set to be back for the whole season, Lincoln still watches out for complications concerning her health.

“My left eye does still shake,” Lincoln said. “It can be hard to focus on things when I’m moving. When I looked up in the crowd during the Homecoming game, I couldn’t even see my parents because my vision is still so shaky.”

Thursday morning, Lincoln was fully released by her doctor. Two specks of the tumor remain and will be monitored for the next six months before her next MRI examination.