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

Meet Keaton Kiddo ~ Emely

At just 16 years old, Emely’s whole world changed when she learned that she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a pediatric cancer that affects the body’s white blood cells, also known as lymphocytes. Emely’s journey began during her finals week at school. She noticed a lump on her throat and was having trouble breathing when leaning down to answer test questions. Out of concern, she informed her mom who immediately set up a doctor’s appointment for Emely. Initially, Emely’s doctor believed that the lump was a cyst and not anything to be concerned about. To be safe, they went ahead with further testing and just before Christmas, on December 23rd, 2020, Emely was admitted into the hospital for 10 days. During this time, on December 28th, 2020, just five days after being admitted, Emely and her family heard the devastating news that she has cancer. As you can imagine, this was shocking to the entire family and due to COVID, Emely’s family was not able to be by her at bedside. At a time when she needed them most, Emely was forced to see her family only through a hospital window, but is still fortunate she had that contact alone.

In the midst of COVID, Emely, like many other kiddos, had to transition to online learning and have experienced even more isolation than ever.  During this time that Emely and her family were experiencing these emotional hardships, Keaton’s Child Cancer Alliance received Emely’s referral from her hospital social worker and since then, has been honored to connect with her and her family. Upon the initial referral, a Keaton’s Family Navigator reached out to Emely’s mom to provide emotional support and get to know about Emely, her brother and their family as a whole. Through joy-filled experiences like a personalized Hope Chest (family care package), a Keaton’s Family Navigator was able to meet Emely’s mom outside of her treatment facility during a clinic appointment and hand-deliver the Hope Chest for Emely and her family. Following the delivery, Emely’s mom shared that Emely and her brother loved their Hope Chest!

Aside from the stress of treatment, Emely’s family commutes almost two hours, round trip, for Emely’s clinic appointments. Fortunately, Keaton’s was able to alleviate some of this stress by providing a financial grant and gas cards to support Emely’s family as she goes through treatment. In addition to the many changes, Emely has struggled with her own challenges as a teen and has expressed her troubles accepting her hair loss, a side affect of chemotherapy treatment.

“In all vulnerability, this is extremely hard for me to post, one thing that comes with chemo, as you know, is hair loss. I’m fighting for my life, and I’m worried about my hair. Being a teenage girl in a society that has set the bar high for the beauty standard makes this fight that much harder. One thing a lot of people say is “it will grow back”, and I know it will, but for some reason that does not make this easier. I’m almost done with my treatment, and I still haven’t gotten comfortable with many people seeing my head. It’s definitely a mindset that I haven’t reached yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. the bottom line is, as much as I preach self-love, I don’t always follow it, but I’m trying to learn how to. This journey has been one of the hardest ones I’ve ever had to endure, and I never in a million years thought this would be me. This is the next step to me embracing what my body is going through. Hair or no hair, my heart is the same.” ~ Keaton Kiddo Emely

Before her diagnosis, Emely was a competitive dancer. She still enjoys dancing as a way to express herself and uses social media platforms, like TikTok to share her experiences while fighting against childhood cancer. She even had the courage to share her journey on her school’s podcast. Her experience battling against childhood cancer has caused her to grow in the most beautiful way. Currently, Emely is going through treatment which is more than halfway complete! Recent scans have shown that Emely’s treatment is working and the tumor is shrinking. Aside from Keaton’s Child Cancer Alliance, Emely has amazing support from her family, friends and boyfriend. They have all remained by her side as she continues to be so resilient and take on this journey.

“Each treatment has definitely gotten a lot harder as they go on, but she is getting closer to the end of this journey. We are so excited to watch her prevail and just know in our hearts that this will be used for good in her life. I feel so honored to be her mother.” ~ Emely’s Mother

Meet Keaton’s Kiddo – Kodiak

In the Fall of 2023, Keaton’s Kiddo Kodiak was diagnosed with two rare and aggressive forms of cancer: Mixed Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS) also known as ‘preleukemia.’

Their journey began one year earlier, in the Fall of 2022, when Kodiak was struck with a series of different seasonal illnesses. Kodiak’s mom Tonya shares: “In September, he got COVID, and then in November it was the flu, and then December RSV.”

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Meet Keaton’s Kiddo – Ellora

Months before a clear diagnosis, Ellora was experiencing a loss of appetite, night sweats, and oversleeping. For Ellora, these symptoms were seen as normal for her or seen as natural changes in the growth of a 2-year-old. Eventually, she developed little spots on her hands and unexplained bruises on her body, which the doctors deemed Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP), but after seeing an informative TikTok video on the symptoms Ellora was experiencing, her mom’s gut told her it was something more than a bleeding disorder.

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Meet Keaton’s Kiddo – Samerah

14-year-old Samerah, best known as Sam has been battling quite the challenging journey, but with the love and support of her family, friends, and community she has been able to overcome so much. At the very young age of 2 months old, Sam was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis. Neurofibromatosis is not an isolated disorder. It causes several different conditions and can lead to the development of tumors on the brain, spine, and the nerves that send signals between the brain and spinal cord.

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