In September 2011, just as her father began his 4th tour overseas in the US Army, Kaitlyn began her own journey. She was unable to eat or sleep. Kaitlyn's mom took her to numerous doctors for months, but they were unable to diagnose the source of her illness.
On the Monday after Thanksgiving 2011, Kaitlyn's mom picked her up from school and she insisted on going to the hospital. Doctors found a tumor in her abdomen and she was rushed to a children's hospital. The next day, she had a bone marrow biopsy and a tumor biopsy. Lymphoma was the initial diagnosis. On Wednesday Kaitlyn had surgery to insert a port-a-cath to receive chemotherapy. By Friday, the diagnosis changed and the family was told that she had stage 3 group 3 Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Kaitlyn's cancer had not metastasized, but doctors said her cancer was, indeed, terminal. The type of cancer that Kaitlyn had was usually found in the extremities of the body and amputation was the course of treatment. However, her tumor was in the core of her body attached to every vessel and artery, including the aorta. Due to the severity, the location, and the size of the tumor, no doctor in the country would perform surgery on her. Radiation was also not an option and chemotherapy was not guaranteed to help. On December 2, 2011, her father returned from Afghanistan and Kaitlyn began chemotherapy.
Her chemotherapy consisted of three long days of treatment and 4 days of recuperation from the side effects. Kaitlyn continued treatment until she was able to return home just before Christmas. In January, Kaitlyn continued treatment and an MRI showed it was helping to shrink the fast-growing tumor. Surgery became possible and Kaitlyn endured a grueling 13 hour operation to remove her tumor. Unfortunately, Kaitlyn suffered dual kidney failure during the operation. A specialist was called in to attempt to save her kidneys and was successful at saving only one.
The seven year old, who weighed 32 pounds that morning and 76 pounds by that evening, found herself in the Intensive Care Unit. Doctors discovered Kaitlyn also has a blood clotting disorder that took her grandfather's life at a very young age, but is treatable once discovered. Kaitlyn continued chemotherapy, dialysis, MRIs, blood draws and eventually intense radiation. She suffered burns that went from her stomach through to her back. Kaitlyn required many additional surgeries to remove her port-a-cath, remove her gallbladder and appendix and oral surgery from effects of chemotherapy. She has developed additional tumors, which have been surgically removed. Kaitlyn will continue to get tumors in her lifetime. Each one will need to be tested for the return of cancer.
Through the entire journey, Kaitlyn has been the epitome of resiliency. She may have been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but she is the one setting the terms and proving cancer wrong! Kaitlyn is wise beyond her years and she inspires everyone who meets her.