Daddy's girl


St. Jude patient Kayla and her dad, Kevin

Kevin's history with St. Jude now includes his daughter, Kayla.

 

Kayla is a daddy’s girl. Holding hands with her dad as they walk through the halls of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Kayla leads the way from the cafeteria to the medicine room to the colorful play areas where they relax between appointments.

Kayla’s dad, Kevin, is no stranger to St. Jude. More than 25 years ago, a teenage Kevin underwent treatment at St. Jude for medulloblastoma, the same brain tumor his daughter is now fighting. It’s also the same brain tumor that took the life of Kevin’s younger sister, Kara, who was 12 when she lost her battle.

Kevin finished treatment, graduated from high school, attended college and married his wife, Dinah. They had two children, first a son, also named Kevin, and then Kayla.

Life seemed a million miles away from St. Jude. Then, in June 2013, the unthinkable happened.

Kayla began to have headaches.  “They weren’t normal headaches,” Dinah said. “They were severe. She would be inconsolable.” Dinah and Kevin took Kayla to the emergency room, where doctors thought the pain was from a sinus infection. But Kayla’s headaches continued. “This isn’t right,” Dinah told Kayla’s pediatrician, who agreed. An MRI was ordered.

“That’s when we learned there was a mass in Kayla’s brain,” her mother said. “That’s when the doctor said ‘we’re sending you to St. Jude.’”

Those words hit Kevin like a weight. “We had talked about Kevin’s experiences at St. Jude,” Dinah said, “but we never really thought it was a possibility for our children.”

At St. Jude, doctors confirmed that Kayla’s tumor was also medulloblastoma. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Kayla also received physical therapy to help her regain her strength.

It’s been difficult for Kevin to watch his baby go through this, but he’s been a rock for Kayla. “They compare scars,” Dinah said. “They share battle stories.”

Kayla’s family is grateful for the strides St. Jude has made in the treatment of cancer over the years. “Since Kevin was here as a patient, St. Jude has expanded their understanding of medulloblastoma,” said Dinah. “They now know there are categories of medulloblastoma. They know what treatment is best for what particular type. St. Jude is a research hospital. What they learned from Kevin and his sister could be helping how they treat Kayla today.”

Kayla is now home with her family, where she continues oral chemotherapy. She visits St. Jude for regular checkups. Kayla is a sweet little girl who loves to dress up in fashionable outfits and dance. And she’s definitely the apple of her father’s eye.

 

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