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Kensleigh, who is not yet 1 year old, is often trying to roll over and crawl. She loves to play under her play mat, give kisses on the nose, give hugs, and babble. Despite the difficulties she has faced because of cancer, baby Kens is always smiling.
Around 2-and-a-half months of age, Kens's left eye began moving involuntarily. Her parents brought it to the attention of her pediatrician, who reassured them that it was probably just her trying to focus, her eye just wasn't strong yet. But at 3 months, the movements became more frequent, and then they developed in her right eye as well. This time, her pediatrician thought it might be nystagmus, which is common in babies. When it continued to be present even at the 4-month mark, Kens was referred to an ophthalmologist. He also said it looked to be nystagmus and would probably resolve on its own when Kens hit 1 or 2 years. If it didn’t, they’d set up an MRI for her at Children's Hospital in Milwaukee.
A week and a half later, Kens’s eye movements were getting worse and happening all the time. Her parents took her back to the ophthalmologist so he could see the changes firsthand. After observing Kens, an MRI was ordered to help narrow down what the cause of her increased eye movement could be, and on the morning of July 20, Kens’s parents took her to Children's Wisconsin. At 3:42 pm, they received the call regarding the results: abnormal growth was found in Kens’s brain, and it looked to have spread. There was cancer. Kens and her family’s lives took a turn for the worse that day.
"She will be in amazing hands,” the ophthalmologist tried to reassure them, “It is all going to be okay."
The very next day, Kens and her family dove headfirst into this new and difficult journey. A nurse explained that Kens had a large tumor that was putting pressure on her optic nerve behind her eyes. She also had multiple other lesions and some fluid build-up around her brain. After doctors took another 140 MRI photos of little Kens’s head, they also discovered tumors behind her eyes, in the middle of her brain, and a couple on the base of her brain stem. The largest tumors measured approximately one inch by one inch.
By this time, half a year had gone by. On August 8, Kens spent the afternoon in surgery to remove a portion of one of the tumors. She then went to pathology for testing, and a drainage tube was placed in her brain for hydrocephalus. She also had an endoscopic brain biopsy that revealed she had a stage 1 or 2 glioma which was treatable but not curable. On August 11, Kens was released from the hospital, and her biopsy will continue to have molecular testing done to determine if this is a fast-growing cancer. On August 23, she had a CT scan to check for brain bleed from her surgery. On August 28, Kens will begin chemotherapy once a week for 12 weeks.
“Kensleigh will need chemo for the rest of her life unless there's a cure for this type of cancer,” Makenna, Kens’s mom, said.
She hopes that God leads Kens in the right direction, stays with her through this long journey, and heals her. She hopes Kens will be strong and okay. She is her mom’s hero simply because she is her daughter. She is a warrior. She is her entire world. “She is the person that saved me when I needed it,” Makenna shared. “She changed my life, helped me have a better outlook, and has taught me so many things in just seven months, like how to be strong, not only for her but for myself and my family. She has shown me that no matter how bad something is, you can get and will get through it. She has shown that to me so many times. No matter how bad something is or what goes wrong, that little girl still always has a smile on her face. She is never not smiling.”
Makenna wants those who may also be facing a childhood cancer diagnosis to know that you’re going to be okay, no matter bad things seem right now. “Take it day by day,” she says, “Have hope and be there with your baby as much as you can, be strong for them! They need that just as much as you. Stay positive and have a good outlook on things. I promise you are not alone! You got this!!”
During her fight, Kensleigh’s family feels supported by their community around them as well as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. They have Strikeout Cancer Tumber Rattlers games near them, where recently Kens was played for by two amazing boys. Seeing so many other people playing for even more kids with cancer was heartwarming to Kens’s family. To them, the Foundation means everyone is standing up against cancer, hoping that a cure will be found, holding fundraisers to help raise money to support kids with cancer and help find a cure. “It shows me that nobody is alone,” said Makenna. “Everyone is supporting everyone!”
“Hi.” – Kensleigh’s first word amidst her babbling!
Information provided by Makenna H., Kensleigh’s mom
Updated August 2023
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