Kayla, age 7, loves holding her dad Kevin’s hand as they walk through the hallways of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The two share a unique bond: They’re both St. Jude patients.
As a teenager, more than 25 years ago, Kevin, who is now 44, underwent treatment at St. Jude for medulloblastoma, the same type of brain cancer that Kayla is fighting today. His treatment included surgery and radiation therapy. Kevin’s younger sister, Kara, also received treatment at St. Jude for medulloblastoma, but sadly, she lost her battle in 1992, when she was 12 years old.
After Kevin finished treatment, his trips to St. Jude became less frequent. He 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. “She would be inconsolable.”
An MRI soon revealed a mass on Kayla’s brain. The doctor sent the family immediately to St. Jude.
“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, followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
We had talked about Kevin’s experiences at St. Jude, but we never really thought it was a possibility for our children.
It’s been difficult for Kevin to watch his baby girl 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 recently finished treatment and now visits St. Jude every three months for checkups.
She loves to dance and finished first grade on the honor roll.