Hope, Strength, and Healing for families coping with a child cancer diagnosis

Meet Keaton’s Kiddo – Aliya

Keaton’s kiddo Aliya has always been a strong, fun, and loving spirit since the time of her birth, according to her sweet mom, Jess.

Born a resilient kiddo, Aliya fought through being a preemie and stayed in the NICU for the first 3 months of her life, while waiting for her lungs to develop. Shortly after, she, unfortunately, faced many challenges and developed severe asthma due to her lungs being premature. At around 10 months old, she began having seizures and developed epilepsy, which caused her and her family to spend a lot of time in and out of the hospital.

At the age of 8, things seemed to look up for Aliya. Her seizures had stopped and her asthma was not as severe. She was finally able to attend school without worry and felt like a regular kid. However, that all lasted for a very brief amount of time as Aliya’s mom began to notice that she was frequently expressing feeling tired and had a sudden lack of energy. She also began looking pale, as well as constant nose bleeds and bruising. At the time that these symptoms began, Aliya’s mom was attending nursing school and feared that Aliya could potentially be showing signs of Leukemia. She immediately contacted Aliya’s doctor with her concerns but was unable to schedule an available appointment for two weeks. Despite this setback, Jess trusted her maternal instinct and just knew that something wasn’t right. She decided to take Aliya to the ER where they diagnosed her with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, in April of 2020, and sent Aliya and her family for further testing at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland.

When Aliya began her treatment, her family’s world changed drastically. They commuted 6+ hours for treatment, 5 or more days a week so that Aliya could receive the proper care she’d need. Like many families, their transportation time was long, along with many other unforeseen stressors that took a tremendous toll on them financially and emotionally. Although Aliya’s mom, being her family’s sole provider, did whatever she could for Aliya and her siblings, she just knew she couldn’t reliably continue with their commutes for Aliya’s treatment. Because of this, Jess decided to transfer Aliya to a local treatment hospital in Sacramento and relocated her family’s residence so that Aliya could be closer to her treatment hospital.

Shortly after transferring treatment facilities, Aliya’s family was referred to Keaton’s Child Cancer Alliance through their Hospital Social Worker. With the family experiencing so many changes, our team was happy to step in and offer support however we could.

“Our social worker connected us to Jasmine from Keaton’s Child Cancer Alliance in 2021. From the moment of meeting Jasmine, she put me at ease. The way she listened and talked to us, you could tell she and the rest of the team genuinely care about their jobs and us as families. Keaton’s has literally become a part of our family and had shared in many memories along the way with us, even during the pandemic when we felt even more isolated. Keaton’s has not only been there for us emotionally but also financially helping with bills and gas or even food cards when times got tough, they never judged, just understood, and helped the best they could. We love all the events that have been thrown for these kids and their families to help out with school supplies, clothes… any necessities the kids and families may need.”

Our Family Navigator Team is honored to reflect on the growth and connection we’ve had with Aliya’s family over the past year. As with all families, we strive to keep our mission alive by sharing care and support to childhood cancer families as they endure such challenging times. Most of all, we love celebrating our Keaton’s kiddos’ milestones. We are happy to share that Aliya has officially been declared cancer free and got to ring the bell on August 4th, 2022, sharing the experience with her loved ones and pediatric caregivers. Her mom Jess shares, “No matter what you’re going through, just breathe and remember you will get through it, just one day at a time, and never lose hope.”

Now that Aliya is back to a life of just being a kid, she would like to experience traveling, and enjoys doing art, and playing with her friends. This strong, resilient, and beautiful cancer warrior also hopes to join our Navigator team as a volunteer so she can give back to other children and families as they fight their battle, knowing that no kiddo should ever fight this alone.

“I know you’re scared, and hurting and wishing it will all end, but never give up hope, you are strong, you are beautiful and you will get through this 🧡” ~ Keaton’s kiddo, Aliya

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