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Kelby Wright survived four rounds of neuroblastoma and now raises money for childhood cancer research.

by Kelby Wright, a senior at Bozeman High School, Bozeman, Montana

December 4, 2000 was a terrible day for a particular family. Their toddler daughter was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma. The cancer had already spread to various areas in her body. She was just 18-months-old. 

The tumor was noticeable in her left cheek. However, the parents of the child did not know that there was also a tumor in her right adrenal gland that would most likely result in having that organ removed.

She survived the round of cancer. But soon enough, about nine months after the treatment, her stage IV neuroblastoma returned in her jaw. Her parents, devastated once again, stayed with her through the harsh chemotherapy and radiation. Her mother was always feeling around in her jaw in order to check on the tumor. 

She was a happy little girl, minding her own business and playing with the hospital toys. She always had a smile on her face. The doctors had warned that she had a very low chance of surviving both the first and second time. Soon enough, the cancer in her jaw left for a second time. And then, as doctors predicted, it returned. 

That little girl was me, Kelby Wright.

When I was 3-years-old, I broke my arm after falling off a bike that was too big for me. My parents took me to the doctor, who discovered the third round of neuroblastoma. At the time, the side effects from chemotherapy were making me miserable. The neuroblastoma I was battling had an amplified gene, which gave me a slim chance of survival after my first relapse. Now I was on relapse number two. 

My parents decided to take me off chemotherapy, choosing radiation and pain management, so I could be happy for the rest of my life, instead of miserable. My parents and doctors did not expect me to live. 

But, as unexpected as it was, even without chemotherapy, I survived for a third time. 

You might think that was the end of it, but no, cancer returned for a fourth time. I was just 6-years-old and neuroblastoma was found in a lymph node under my arm. Once again, doctors gave me very little chance for survival.

But here I am, 12 years later and a senior in high school writing about neuroblastoma, fundraising for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for my senior project and full of hope for the future. 

Hope is not something to give up. 

My parents never gave up hope for me, even when they thought I might die. To give up hope is essentially to give up in general. With hope, one feels a sort of humble empowerment. You know you do not have control, but you can’t help feeling that things will eventually get better.

Hope makes life easier. Without it, we are helpless. We can’t function.

Kelby Wright is a senior at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana. She is a four-time neuroblastoma survivor. Kelby graduates in June and aspires to teach art to children. This year, she put her graphic design skills to work and hosted a fundraising event selling greeting cards to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, raising over $2,000. 

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