HARRAH, Okla. - 10-year-old Kaelyn Hairell is showing off her skills on a RipStik in the driveway of her Harrah home.
Soon, she drops the RipStik and begins shooting baskets. Her dad, who is a coach and educator in Harrah, watches and shouts advice and encouragement.
Kaelyn loves rough and tumble play outside, but two summers ago she suddenly lost her appetite. Bruises kept showing up all over her body that couldn’t be explained by her normal play.
“I Googled her symptoms and it gave me leukemia. I thought, well, you don’t Google your symptoms because, of course, you’ll get the worst results,” David Hairell, Kaelyn's dad, said.
In this case, blood tests confirmed her parents fears, which still came as a shock.
“Your 8-year-old’s mortality is not part of a typical daily discussion,” says David.
He and his wife, Katy, are back in the Jimmy Everest Cancer Center for Kaelyn’s next chemotherapy treatment.
She is happy to grab the microphone from a visiting reporter to interview her parents. This spunky girl says she wants to be a vet, a ninja, and a baseball player. But her original blood tests made pediatric oncologist Dr. Sayani TewarI deeply concerned.
“She was high-risk because of her counts. She presented with extremely high white blood cell counts,” Dr. Tewarl said.
Because of this high-risk classification, Kaelyn receives chemotherapy injections directly into her spinal column. The aggressive treatments she’s received have been extremely hard on her.
She’s endured many complications including infections, nausea and weight loss that left her as light as 49 pounds.
“She reached a point where she said, 'I’m ready to go. I’m OK with dying,'” David said.
“This is not a sprint. It’s definitely our marathon,” Katy said.
The Hairells say the staff at Jimmy Everest Cancer Center has backed their daughter, cheering her on as she slowly regained her strength and the leukemia went into remission.
"She will probably lead a normal life,” says Dr Tewari. “A fulfilling life, where she goes to college and has her own family. I hope that."
“She’s vivacious, determined, she doesn’t let stuff hold her back. She just has a very positive outlook,” her parents added.
Kaelyn’s family, community, and the medical staff at Jimmy Everest are counting on her spunk and spirit, anxious to see her continue to play and grow just like every 10-year-old girl.
If you’d like to help children like Kaelyn fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.
'Kids with Courage' is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.