Editor's Note: This weekend is the Ripley County Relay for Life in Batesville. Cancer survivors and victims are remembered in special tributes throughout the 24 hour event. The following is a story of a young survivor currently battling the disease.
Kasey McAdams is your normal two year old girl: she loves to play dress up, ride in her Barbie car, listen to her parents read to her, and imitate animal sounds. What's not normal though is the big scar on the back of her head, the PICC intravenous line in her arm, the fact that she can't play outside when it's warm. That's all due to a brain tumor, discovered six weeks ago when little Kasey started vomiting.
Her parents, Ann Marie and Roger McAdams of Versailles, thought it was a stomach virus, but it continued for 10 days. Doctors thought it could be an gastrointestinal problem. The couple would have preferred that diagnosis, but the Cincinnati Children's Hospital physicians diagnosed Ependymoma, a cancer that one in 11 people with a brain tumor develops. In adults, it's often found in the spine. Brain tumors are the most common type of cancer in children, other than leukemia and lymphoma.
A 15 hour brain surgery followed April 16. The surgeon told them it was one of the largest brain surgeries he's ever conducted. He did not give the couple much hope at the time. They were told she could come out of surgery deaf or blind, partially paralyzed, and maybe unable to communicate because it was on the part of the brain that controls such functions. He warned them she might have just one month to live. Sitting at their home on Colvin Street, Roger cries when he recalls those words. The 36 year old father of five does that a lot these days, but who wouldn't considering the circumstances.
Ann Marie, a 2005 South Dearborn graduate, recalled, "They predicted to get 30 percent of the tumor, that there would be seven blood transfusions, and she would need life support for 48 hours."
This was all before she went in on April 16. "It was the worst 15 hours of my life," added Roger.
There was good news when the doctor came out of the operating room: 98 percent of the tumor, which was the size of a softball, was gone. They both bawled tears of joy. The couple believes God had His hand in it, through the surgeon's skilled hands, and through the many prayers.
Ann Marie said upon seeing Kasey just after the operation, "When I said to Kasey ‘I love you, and she replied, ‘I love you mommy' " it was the best four words a mom could hear.
She knew her only child was back, at least sort of. "We don't have the same exact child," the 26- year -old mother said, but still they count their blessings. Kasey "screamed" when she tried to walk and fell because her legs didn't cooperate. She had to learn what she had known to do since she was 7 months old all over again. She couldn't swallow initially, and also had eye stigma complications. There were some headaches too, and a lot of pain in her neck from the torn muscles due to surgery.
In the few weeks since surgery, her parents say Kasey is quicker to anger, not as outgoing as she was, and has developed a few nervous tics. Still, they are grateful. "When she does the things she used to, we literally cry," Ann Marie said. They moved her backyard toys to the front yard so Kasey can go outside when it's shady and cooler. Heat would lower her platelet count, which is needed to fight infection, they explained. The couple has learned such things since they found out Kasey had a tumor. They advise others not to take your kids' health for granted, and to tell each other how you feel daily. Roger doesn't leave home without saying "I love you" to Kasey or loved ones. As they both said, you never know if those are the last words your loved one might hear.
Kasey did get to be the flower girl June 8 in her parent's wedding at Tanglewood Baptist Church. The couple has been together for four years, but will tell you this past month has been the hardest.
They are now spending five days a week at the UC's Barrett Cancer Center for radiation therapy, trying to ward off cancer cells. Chemotherapy is also planned if needed.
"It's the saddest place ever," Roger said of the cancer center. "It's horrible. We talk to other parents daily...You see kids come in and out. Some do not walk out," he said. Kasey gets blood thinner shots twice a day, something the couple have learned to give.
Their hopes and dreams for their daughter are different now. "I think God is going to touch her, and put her in remission right away," Roger said optimistically. Doctors won't declare full remission until three to five years. She will be tested every two months to make sure the cancer has not returned.
Meanwhile, the couple deals with her hair loss, shots, and other side effects. Kasey sleeps a lot, and the radiation makes her vomit. "That's what parents do. I wish daily I could take away her pain and put it on myself," Roger said, again tearing up.
The whole experience has made them thankful for family and friends, who have supported them by cleaning the house, providing meals, etc. as they shuttle Kasey to Cincinnati. On Tuesday, the Tyson United Methodist Church is having a spaghetti dinner with proceeds helping Kasey, and other young cancer survivors, Camille Evans and Henry Wooten.
Family members have also planned a motorycycle ride and benefit to help the couple defray medical and travel expenses involved with her long hospital stay and continual travel to the city for treatment. It will be held July 20, with the ride starting and ending at Pollard's Bowl.
Roger is the son of the late Hazel and the late Jack Bainter, and brother to Pat, Shane, and Cassie McAdams, and Heidi Sizemore. Ann Marie is the daughter of Jo Moore, Bonnie Walker is her grandmother, and she is sister to Tisha and brother Nathaniel. Roger's other children are Megan, Kiersten, Anthony and Shane.
Kasey has also been approved for the Make a Wish Foundation, and it's no big surprise, but the toddler wants to go to Disney to meet Aerial, Cinderella, and all the other Disney character princesses. She probably doesn't know that she doesn't need a tiara or sash to be a princess: a scar on her head and a tube in her arm are all she needs in her parent's eyes.