By: Trish Adkins
The night before 6-month old Matteo was diagnosed with a rare pediatric kidney cancer, his mom, Kim stayed up late baking cookies for an upcoming lemonade stand at Power Home Remodeling to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
“Never in a million years did I think my kid would have cancer. We knew about childhood cancer. We were aware. But we did not think it would be us,” said Kim.
Everyday, 43 children are diagnosed with childhood cancer. A childhood cancer diagnosis brings with it fear, uncertainty and a never-ending fight for cures.
Keep reading to learn more about Matteo and to meet Kensley and Sara, two other children who faced a childhood cancer diagnosis:
Matteo was just 6 months old when his dad, Alfred, noticed a hard spot on his side. The pediatrician immediately sent Matteo to the emergency room. A CT scan showed a mass on Matteo’s kidney. Matteo’s parents left their local hospital and took him to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Matteo’s cancer, the extremely rare cellular congenital mesoblastic nemphroma, accounts for less than 5-percent of all pediatric kidney cancers.
After having the mass and one of his kidneys removed, doctors saw no evidence of disease. However, three months later a routine scan showed a new tumor in Matteo’s lungs. Matteo began six months of chemotherapy and surgery to remove part of his lung.
Today, Matteo is almost 2 years old and cancer-free. His family, who loved Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation before his diagnosis, has now hosted two front yard lemonade stands and remains involved through Power Home Remodeling’s corporate partnership initiatives.
“We are navigating through childhood cancer by choosing lemonade,” said Kim. "Giving back and helping fund research gives us something good to do with all the hard things cancer gave us.”
Five-year-old Kensley started her day on May 13, 2019, just like she always did by adorning herself with every bracelet she owns, earrings, necklaces and a crown.
But before the day ended, Kensley was at her doctor’s office with a fever and strange bruising. A blood test was ordered. Her mom, Tina, received a call two hours later and was told to get Kensley to the emergency room. Her blood work indicated leukemia.
Her local ER sent her hundreds of miles away from her home in Montana to the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver. There, Kensley had a bone marrow aspiration and received her official diagnosis: chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).
In a matter of two days, Kensley’s life had completely flipped upside down.
Now, Kensley starts her days with every bracelet and her crown, but also with a daily oral chemotherapy pill. Her monthly oncology appointments monitor her white blood cell count while bone marrow tests every three months check to make sure the leukemia is going away. The goal is total remission.
“Receiving a cancer diagnosis is scary,” said Tina, “Having a child with cancer changes you. You breathe deeper, love harder, forgive more. Is it hard? Absolutely. By far it’s the hardest thing I have ever faced as a parent.”
Sara was a turtle enthusiast, a dance party queen, a sweet tea lover and a big fan of Mississippi State football. When she was 14 years old, she experienced sudden vision loss. The cause: germinoma, a type of brain tumor.
Sara had surgery, chemotherapy and proton radiation. Treatment left her with some side effects including dizziness, chronic migraines and generalized pain. But, she still loved to dance (albeit with a cane) and she was still her social butterfly self.
But before she turned 18, Sara relapsed. This time, the tumor was on her right optic nerve destroying her vision.
The relapse was so rare, that there was no standard treatment protocol. Doctors put together a plan which included high dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.
Shortly after Sara started treatment, she began having trouble breathing, which turned into acute respiratory distress syndrome. For two months, Sara fought cancer and treatment side effects. And then, sadly Sara passed away.
Her mom, Angie, continues to fight for other children by participating in childhood cancer fundraising through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. In September, Angie organized “Sara’s Turtally Awesome Walkers,” to raise money for research.
“I believe research saves lives and I do not want to see any more children die from cancer,” said Angie.