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At only a year old, Kaleigh already has a lot of interests. She loves anything she can climb (even if it’s not meant to be climbed), music, and her dog, Tucker. She’s noisy when excited and cuddly when she’s tired.
As a newborn, Kaleigh had discoloration between her retinas and was taken to doctor after doctor for answers. Her father had bilateral retinoblastoma when he was a baby, and her parents were concerned it might’ve been passed down to her. Unfortunately, they were right. The only plan, upon diagnosis, was to eventually remove both of her eyes.
But Kaleigh’s parents decided to get a second opinion. At a week old, Kaleigh and her family flew from Austin, TX halfway across the country to Philadelphia, PA. There, they met with another retina specialist, Dr. Shields of Wills Eye Hospital, who had a plan to save Kaleigh’s life. Arrangements were made at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) the following day to meet Kaleigh’s oncologist and get started.
With assistance from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s (ALSF) Travel For Care program, Kaleigh was able to travel back and forth from Texas to CHOP for treatment and check-ups. “With the amount of time needed to travel, go through treatment and then schedule follow-up appointments back home, I resigned from my job to stay home with Kaleigh,” said Jeanette, Kaleigh’s mom, “ALSF made it possible to travel month after month without having to move across the country or forfeit the incredible care we have received in Philly.”
For a while, Kaleigh was found cancer-free with vision in both her eyes. But recently, new growths were discovered. Kaleigh has since gone through three more rounds of chemo, each four to five weeks apart, and she’s scheduled for an upcoming checkup. Today, Kaleigh is still fighting her cancer.
Jeanette hopes that Kaleigh stays happy and optimistic. She hopes her daughter understands and embraces why she is different as she grows older. Jeanette also hopes for a breakthrough to curing this disease soon. She wants others who may have received a cancer diagnosis to know that “you and your child are stronger than you think.”
Kaleigh is her mom’s hero because she has been fighting hard since birth, but on most days, you wouldn’t know it because she is constantly happy, smiling and having a good time. She has kept her mom strong and positive through everything.
To Kaleigh’s family, ALSF means hope, love and support. They got involved with ALSF after Kaleigh’s diagnosis, and haven’t looked back since. They held their first lemonade stand during Lemonade Days in 2019 and raised more than $1,300 to fund more research.
“It is amazing how much people can care about your child and want to help you in any way they can – even complete strangers! We are so grateful for ALSF. ALSF provides hope that cures will be found and that no child will miss treatment because of distance. ALSF is proof that people are still compassionate and genuine,” said Jeanette.
Information provided by Jeanette Hawrylo, Kaleigh’s mom
Updated November 2019
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