In August 2018, 10-year-old Karalyn developed a large, painless lump on her neck. The following weeks were filled with ER visits, antibiotics and surgery. On September 11, 2018, Karalyn’s mother, Jennifer, received a phone call from their physician. She expected to hear that Karalyn’s biopsy was normal, but instead, she found out her little girl had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That’s when their world turned upside down. Karalyn was officially diagnosed with Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage 2A. Her cancer was on both sides of her neck and the top of her chest. Thus began the overwhelming journey of oncologist visits, port placement surgeries and reading multiple pages detailing the risks and side effects of chemotherapy.
Karalyn was prescribed 3 rounds of ABVD chemotherapy, meaning she would get four different chemos every 14 days. Jennifer vividly remembers the helplessness she felt when first watching chemo run into Karalyn’s port and through her body. On day 15 of treatment, Karalyn’s hair began to fall out and it didn’t stop until every single strand was gone. Every two weeks, Jennifer would watch her daughter suffer through fear, worry and emotional detachment while receiving chemotherapy, and she would pray that Karalyn did not get sick during the infusion.
Jennifer also vividly remembers getting Karalyn’s scan results and the pain of having to tell her daughter that her cancer was not gone. The doctor initially recommended radiation but the risks were too great, so Karalyn instead underwent two additional chemo treatments. She was then considered to be in remission but future scans would be needed to monitor two new lymph nodes for possible growth.
Despite all of the ups and downs, Karalyn remained very strong and she gave her family strength too. She would always say, “I just have to do it.” Since the completion of her treatment, however, the weight of everything Karalyn experienced has caught up to her. She suffers from anxiety and a fear of “what if”. She spent her fifth-grade school year in her bedroom as opposed to a classroom. She avoided going to her friends’ houses. She missed her final father-daughter dance at school.
Jennifer regrets that she can never give back all that cancer took from Karalyn, including her innocence. Karalyn was forced to mature and endure with a terrible situation that no child should have to experience.
Every child who has been diagnosed with childhood cancer inspires us to Rally On to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures. Please join us in the fight against childhood cancer by making a donation or setting up your own Rally fundraiser today.