Kellen's journey started when he was 17 months old. On a Sunday, Kellen was getting ready for a bath when the light hit him just right and we noticed a strange bump on his lower right abdomen. We thought the bump was a hernia. We called the pediatrician immediately. I spoke with the doctor and they asked a series of questions. Once that was done our doctor told me to call in the morning and schedule an appt for that morning and if there were problems with scheduling, to them reception that it was approved per her request.
The next day once 8:30am came I got an appt scheduled for 9:30am. My husband, Tim, took him to the doctor and I was going to meet them. I had gone to work early, but would be there. I was a few minutes late and will never forget the look on the doctors face when I got to the room. She was white and said that she would be back in a moment. The moment seemed forever. She came back and said “This is something, it feels like mass of some sort.” Something no parent ever wants to hear. She informed us that she had already called the local hospital and that they were waiting for us. She had ordered an ultrasound and blood work as a STAT. Once she got those results she would call and let us know if a CT was necessary for additional confirmation. My heart was in my throat… what was she saying??? A mass??? Then she asked if we had questions. The only thing that I could think to ask, sounding naïve, was, “Can’t we just do surgery and remove the mass and it will be okay?” That’s when it was put into context for me. Her answer was not what I was expecting to hear. “Unfortunately, no – when I say mass I mean that this is probably a form of cancer or leukemia”. What, what did she just say! My mind was going a mile a minute and then understood. We immediately got to the hospital to begin testing. First the ultrasound, then the blood work. Then the first call came, “we need you to check in for a CT, the order is there already waiting”. Not a good sign… Then CT… we waited and waited for the next call. The call came, Kellen had cancer. A Wilms Tumor to be exact. Our world came crashing down on us.
Kellen’s Wilms Tumor was the size of a small football (nerf football if you want to have a gage) growing off of his right kidney. From this point on his care would now fall in the hands of one of the best Oncology teams in the world at Children’s Memorial Hospital, soon to be known as Ann & Robert H. Lurie’s Children’s Hospital in couple short months. Kellen was at Children’s Memorial on Wednesday for another round of pokes and scans to confirm his diagnosis. Once the doctors got their work ups on the situation, surgery was scheduled for the following Monday. Within one week we went to having a normal life to being prepped for our baby’s major surgery to remove his mass and prep for what to expect during chemotherapy with our child and wondering what the future was going to hold. On the day of surgery, we were anxious, and Kellen was scared. We were able to be with him during his sedation in the pre-op room where I sang his favorite song to calm him. Then they took him away to surgery. The staff closed the curtain around my husband and I for some privacy. We fell apart and prayed. During Kellen’s surgery the staff called me every hour to let me know how surgery was going. A few hours passed and then our surgeon came out letting us know that Kellen was stable and surgery was successful. She had removed his right kidney, the right lymph node and the mass. He also had a central port installed in his chest. This port would be the place where blood would be drawn, and where his chemotherapy would be administered.
Kellen’s surgery recovery time was one week. And to tell you, children are amazing! To put this into context, Kellen’s incision was from his bottom rib to his groin. Within 5 days after surgery, Kellen was running down the halls like nothing had happened!
The following week would begin Kellen’s chemo. Kellen was diagnosed in Stage 2. We were fortunate to find it so early. (Wilms Tumors are typically not found early, but we were lucky that Kellen is long and lanky and we were able to spot it. Only 500 kids are diagnosed with Wilms a year!) His chemotherapy would consist of 20 weeks and intensive monitoring. During those 20 weeks, Kellen had become immune comprised causing him to endure in-hospital stays in isolation, multiple emergency room visits due to fevers, and a blood transfusion as his blood counts were dangerously low. Kellen did all of this like a superhero. He never fought any moment of anything that needed to be done and woke up everyday with a smile still on his face.
Kellen is now coming on 6 years off of treatment and is still considered in full remission. We are able to say after this past year that Kellen is cancer free! He is monitored every year at this point. He is a happy and healthy 2nd grader, thanks to the incredible care from his health providers at Lurie Children's Hopital. Kellen is one of the lucky ones. Too many kids are affected by cancer are not. One major reason many kids lose this struggle is research for pediatric cancer is grossly underfunded. 5 of the 43 children diagnosed every day do not survive their fight. We’ve decided to take a stand and fight, but we cannot do this alone. We need your help supporting our fight, and giving hope to our most vulnerable…our kids. Help us kick cancer’s butt!
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