Kaelyn celebrates no more chemo

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By Brandon Mattingly


A fight against leukemia is something that would terrify the strongest-willed of adults, so doing so as an elementary school student, and fighting a winning battle, is truly an inspiring story.

Eight-year-old Kaelyn Adams has been doing just that since December 2009, when she was diagnosed with a 12-and-a-half by 10-and-a-half by six-and-a-half centimeter cancerous mass in her chest and neck. Since that time, many people have used the word ‘miracle’ when describing the youth who celebrated the end of her chemotherapy just over a month ago.
Kaelyn’s father, Bro. Cal Adams -- pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Springfield -- said it has been a long, difficult struggle, but that 969 days of chemotherapy and hospital visits has paid off.
“She’s back in school and she’s getting back to who she was,” he said. “It was worth it. Every second of it, it was worth it.”
Kaelyn, a third-grader at North Washington Elementary School, was surrounded by friends and family at her No More Chemo party at St. Jude’s hospital last month after nearly three years of treatment.
The Adams family’s scary battle started while they were living in Bastrop, La. in 2009, when Cal and his wife, Krystal, a Washington County native, took Kaelyn and her younger brother, Phillip, now five years old, to the hospital after both had gotten sick. Phillip quickly recovered, but it didn’t take long to see something more serious was going on with his older sister after a knot on her neck continued to grow over the weekend following a visit with the family’s pediatrician.
“The lady who ran the tests always joked and laughed, but when she did an ultrasound on Kaelyn’s neck and chest, she got really quiet and stopped talking,” Cal said. “Still, I thought she had pneumonia or something and they were just going to have to send us to the hospital for.”
What doctors discovered was much more disheartening. The mass that had developed in Kaelyn’s chest had caused her left lung to collapse, displaced her heart and was growing to the right side of her chest. The family was told to get Kaelyn to St. Jude’s as soon as possible, where they were given the grave news that they could have as little as a couple of days left with their daughter.
“That was probably one of the hardest things a dad could ever hear,” Cal said. “I’d always been a fixer. Anything that was wrong, I’d try to fix, but you can’t fix that.”
As if the heartbreaking diagnosis weren’t enough, the timing could not have been worse for the Adams family, who found out Krystal was pregnant with their daughter, Emily, now two years old, just three weeks before the diagnosis. Due to health concerns, Krystal’s pregnancy limited the ways she could care for her daughter for much of the process, putting further strain on the couple in a difficult time, though Cal said he and his wife did everything in their power to help Kaelyn through the struggle.
Kaelyn was held in in-patient care for 17 days to get the mass in her chest under control and until recently, everyday life has been hectic, to say the least.
Cal praised the job St. Jude’s has done with his daughter and said they’ve provided more for her than he could have imagined.
After a doctor showed Cal an x-ray of Kaelyn’s chest that showed no visible evidence of cancer a few months after her diagnosis, they got even better news on Feb. 19, 2010.
Cal got a call from one of the nurses, telling him that Kaelyn’s most recent bone marrow aspiration came back negative, meaning there was no sign of cancer, and she’s been in remission ever since.
Chemotherapy continued into September of this year, as is protocol for St. Jude’s patients, but she was able to avoid radiation treatment throughout the process.
Cal recollected his daughter’s only request during her fight.
“She said, ‘Dad, when I get done with all of this hard stuff, will you take me to have tea with the princesses at Disney World?’” he recalled. “I said, ‘Honey, if it is in my power whatsoever, I will be glad to do that for you.’ I told my wife later that if I’ve got to mortgage the house, we’re going to Disney World.”
Fortunately for Kaelyn’s parents, each St. Jude’s patient benefits from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and Kaelyn’s wish was sponsored by Dixiana horse farm in Lexington.
Earlier this month, she got to have her tea with Cinderella and princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) at Disney World, and she also presented a winning jockey with a trophy at Keeneland last Wednesday.
That’s only part of what she’s been involved in lately, as she’s become a bit of a poster child for the children’s hospital thanks to her outgoing personality that was showcased in a commercial with NBA superstar Dwyane Wade.
“She has always just oozed with personality. That’s just who she is,” Cal said. “They captured that (in the commercial) and that just tickled me. It didn’t matter how bad things were, she always looked for the positive.”
Kaelyn has also been interviewed by Matt Lauer and television star Marlo Thomas, spoke to executives of companies like Sears and Wal-Mart in Chicago and spoke to owners of professional sports teams in Aspen, Co.
The Adams family moved to Washington County in the summer of 2011, and it was an adjustment that Cal and Krystal were unsure about, but Cal said the move has been a blessing.
“One of the things my wife said when we left Louisiana was that there’s never going to be another church that loves us the way that Cherry Ridge (Baptist Church in Bastrop, La.) loved us,” he said. “She told me, ‘I still kind of stand by that. There’s no church that loves us like they did. I actually believe Temple loves us more.’”
Cal said his family has received amazing treatment from the church community since he took over as pastor on June 12, 2011, but that he already knew Temple was a place with his family’s best interests at heart after receiving five job offers from various churches in a four-month span.
Upon learning about their situation with Kaelyn, a representative from one of the churches that had extended an offer said that the time may just not be right.
“That told me that he didn’t truly care about my family and want to administer to my family,” Cal said. “I’ll never forget the pulpit committee (at Temple) said nothing would please them more than if they were a part of Kaelyn’s miracle. That showed me the heart of the church. We know we’re right where we’re supposed to be.”
There’s still plenty going on with Kaelyn and her family these days, including the St. Jude’s Give Thanks Walk on Nov. 17 at the Louisville Zoo. Team Kaelyn will be in full force and Cal said anyone wanting to donate to St. Jude’s through their team is more than welcome.
Also, St. Jude’s has filmed a documentary on Kaelyn’s fight that will air on television some time in the next few weeks.
Programming information is not yet available.
To see Kaelyn’s commercial with two-time NBA champion Dwyane Wade and a fellow-St. Jude’s patient, visit www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/08/thanks-and-giving-family-_n_1081871.html.