Strength and spirit in the fight against cancer
When Jessica noticed a small lump on her daughter Kailyn’s leg, she thought it might be an odd muscle or a swollen lymph node. She and her husband Trent decided it needed checking as soon as possible, so they took Kailyn to her pediatrician the next day. Initial tests and an ultrasound couldn’t determine exactly what the mass was, but after an MRI, doctors diagnosed Kailyn with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
“It’s just an unbelievable diagnosis,” Jessica says. “It’s very hard to wrap your mind around—that a 7-year-old can have cancer in her leg when she seems perfectly healthy and perfectly fine.”
Luckily, Kailyn is fighting Ewing’s with the doctors and staff at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Alanta. Doctors successfully removed the tumor from her leg three months after diagnosis. Her personalized recovery plan included CT scans, MRIs, bone testing and almost weekly chemotherapy sessions.
While the treatment has been difficult, with hospital stays ranging from one to five nights at a time, the family has come to see the Aflac Cancer Center as a home away from home. Kailyn enjoys playing with fellow childhood cancer patients, her nurses, and the toys and video games in her room at the center. Ever concerned for others, she even brought brand-new dolls people had given her and shared them with other patients, because she noticed there were only a few available.
“The emotional support that not only the doctors, but the staff as a whole, provide for families is amazing,” Trent says. “In the infusion room, volunteers come in to entertain your child while she’s going through treatment. People talk to you about what you’re going through, and they really spend time with all of us to make sure that we have everything we need. It’s been incredible.”
Kailyn’s aunt gave her a puzzle with 17 pieces, the same number of chemotherapy sessions she has to go through. After each session, she gets a new piece, a special way to show how close she is to being finished with the treatment that makes it hard for her to be a normal 7-year-old. Simple things other kids take for granted, like sleepovers or swimming in a lake, are prevented by her chemotherapy. Frequent hospital stays rule out most vacations and family trips. “She’d like to be able to get back into gymnastics, sports and other activities without having to worry about getting hurt,” Jessica says.
With the end of Kailyn’s treatment in sight, Trent and Jessica are beginning to think about what she can do when her treatment is over. Both hope that she uses the strength she’s gained during this experience to help others.
As far as Kailyn’s thoughts on her future, her parents say the answer changes, but she wants to be a video game creator when she grows up. In the more immediate future, when she finishes her treatments she’ll be happy to have a sleepover with friends, and she wants a puppy.
When asked what she would tell another child facing cancer, Kailyn simply says, “Any kid that has cancer is awesome.”