Southside class honoring student that beat cancer - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Southside class honoring student that beat cancer

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SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) – One of the last things any parent wants to hear is that his or her child has cancer, but that's exactly what a doctor told the Moran family last summer.

Steven and Julie Moran found out their oldest daughter, Kenlee, had cancer just two weeks before her fifth birthday.

The diagnosis was discovered in June 2012 only after Kenlee fell off a slide and began complaining about a pain in her side.

"After about two days of that, we took her to the doctor," Julie Moran said. "We thought it was maybe appendicitis, so [the doctor] ordered a scan and that's when they found the tumors on both of her kidneys."

The doctor found two Wilms tumors, which are childhood forms of kidney cancer.

According to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, a Wilms tumor is the fourth most common type of cancer in children, and approximately 460 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States.

Treatment began almost immediately at Arkansas Children's Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic.

"We got admitted to the hospital Tuesday night after they found [the tumors]," Julie said. "On Thursday she had surgery, her first surgery, to have her port put in for chemo. We started chemo that next week."

Kenlee did 12 consecutive weeks of chemotherapy, and then went under the knife again. The surgeon removed one-fourth of Kenlee's right kidney and one-tenth of her left.

She then underwent seven days of radiation at UAMS and continued chemo every week until December 2012. The last few treatments were spread over the next four weeks and finally ended on April 2.

"She always took everything really well," Julie said regarding Kenlee's attitude. "We talked about how her hair was going to come out, and by the time it did start coming out, she just wanted it cut.

"She's done very, very well for a five year old, much better than I would have done," she added.

As Kenlee went through her treatments, her parents made sure she kept up with her studies.

"Her teacher was amazing, has been amazing," said Julie, who has been a resource teacher at Southside Elementary School for two years.

Kenlee could not always come to the classroom, so Kim Cummings, her kindergarten teacher, would work around that.

"As she started [her treatments], she was considered homebound, which means I went into the home and went to her house and worked with her," Cummings said. "We ‘Skype-d' with her with the class so that she could see us and they could see her. Then, there were periods of time where she would actually come to the school on Sunday afternoon, and we had Sunday school after church."

Cummings even let Kenlee's classmates keep in touch with her.

"I can't say enough about her class," Julie said. "They have sent her letters. They have never given her a funny look when she walked in with no hair – nothing. She's just always been Kenlee, and that says a great deal about those kids and those parents and her teacher."

Kenlee specifically remembers one letter she got.

"One of them made my dog," said the five year old, who has a very special relationship with her Cocker Spaniel named Mojo.

Kenlee began attending school half a day to build up her stamina. She returned to the classroom full-time once the doctors told her family on April 23 that her cancer was gone.  

"It still feels kind of surreal," Julie said, reacting to that welcomed wonderful news. "Every once in a while, this bad thought will hit you, like what if it does come back? But, we just try to go forward and be positive and know that right now she's happy and she's cancer-free and let her do things that little five-year-old girls are supposed to be doing."

Some of her classmates' parents approached Julie to hold a fundraiser for Kenlee to mark her recovery.

"[Kenlee] has made an impact on everyone, but I think her class has really seen it," said Pasha Alexander, whose son Mason is one of Kenlee's good friends.

Kenlee's mother suggested that they raise money for the Arkansas Children's Hospital, instead.

"I don't want it to be about we're doing this for Kenlee," Julie said. "It's in Kenlee's honor, but it's to help other kids that are in Kenlee's place because it wasn't that long ago that we were beginning this journey."

The Southside kindergarten class and their parents will host the "Kindergarten Kicks Cancer" event on Saturday, May 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Families can enjoy some fun activities at the Southside Elementary School gym, including train rides, face painting, bounce houses and a concession stand.

The cost of admission is $2, and all the proceeds will benefit the Arkansas Children's Hospital Hematology/Oncology Clinic in honor of Kenlee.

"It's just a celebration of her coming back to school and being cancer-free," said Sarah Grooms, who is helping organize the event. "It's also a great way for us to raise money for the children's hospital that's been such a tremendous help to her so that we can help other kids that are fighting cancer."

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