Southside class honoring student that beat cancer

SOUTHSIDE, AR (KAIT) – One of the last things any parentwants to hear is that his or her child has cancer, but that's exactly what adoctor 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 Kenleefell 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 formsof kidney cancer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cummings even let Kenlee's classmates keep in touch withher.

"I can't say enough about her class," Julie said. "They havesent her letters. They have never given her a funny look when she walked inwith no hair – nothing. She's just always been Kenlee, and that says a greatdeal 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 avery special relationship with her Cocker Spaniel named Mojo.

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

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

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

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

Kenlee's mother suggested that they raise money for theArkansas 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 inKenlee's place because it wasn't that long ago that we were beginning thisjourney."

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

Families can enjoy some fun activities at the SouthsideElementary School gym, including train rides, face painting, bounce houses anda concession stand.

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

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

Copyright 2013 KAIT.All rights reserved.