Kayla | St. Jude Thanks and Giving 2013

Kayla

8 years old
Tennessee
acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Kayla has big dreams. With a bubbling personality and a bright smile, Kayla makes friends with everyone she meets.

For several weeks, Kayla complained of stomach aches and headaches off and on. Then one afternoon in September 2012, after playing at the park, Kayla’s pain became unbearable. “Kayla was crying immensely, saying she was in pain and her head was hurting so much,” said Kayla’s mom, Myestia. She had a temperature of 102.7° F.

At the doctor, tests revealed Kayla’s spleen and liver were enlarged.

“But when they took blood is when I really panicked,” said Myestia. “She wouldn’t stop bleeding. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s not normal. Something else is going on, something deeper. It’s more than just a headache or a stomachache.’”

Doctors suspected cancer and quickly transferred the little girl to St. Jude. At St. Jude, Kayla is undergoing two-and-a-half years of chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer. St. Jude has increased its survival rates for ALL from 4 percent before it opened in 1962 to 94 percent today — the world’s best.

Kayla’s family was relieved to learn they’d never receive a bill from St. Jude. “We had insurance, but my husband lost his job, and we lost insurance,” said Myestia. “Sometimes I think, ‘Oh pinch me.’ It seems unreal that we’re not having to pay for this. I’m just so grateful. I can focus on Kayla.”

St. Jude Child Life specialists helped Kayla understand what leukemia is and how it affects the blood cells. “That was so helpful for her,” said Myestia. “She can explain to her friends what’s going on now, why she needs to wear a mask, and why some days she feels good and other times, she doesn’t.”

Kayla is an outgoing girl. She loves arts and crafts and playing outside, and she wants to have her own TV show when she grows up. “She enjoys life, and she is an entertainer at heart,” said Myestia. To her family and friends, Kayla’s already a star.

Kayla will begin third grade in the fall. She is cancer free.

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