“Life is too short not to enjoy every minute”

- Kyarra, 17

About nine years ago, a little girl had gotten the flu and never fully recovered. Kyarra was not in the mood for a lot of activity after her flu sickness, but her mother took her to the park to get her out of the house. They were able to shoot some photos like they had done prior to Kyarra getting sick. Unfortunately, some time in the park turned into learning some terrible news as Kyarra was crying in pain. Kyarra and her mom went to the hospital because her mom knew that this was not her normal little eight-year-old girl and something was definitely wrong. At the hospital, the doctors ran some tests and within 30 minutes they returned with the horrific news and Kyarra was diagnosed with Leukemia. Kyarra’s white blood counts were over 100,000 at the time of diagnosis and this can cause breathing problems, stroke and the worse possible scenario is death. She was immediately transported to the children’s hospital and from that moment on, their lives were changed forever.

Kyarra was diagnosed in October 2008 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Three months into her treatment, she suffered from a stroke with an aneurysm. This caused memory loss and partial paralysis. This sweet little eight-year-old fought hard and at one point was close to dying. Although, Kyarra is a fighter and was not going to let that happen. After recovering from the initial stroke and treatment, Kyarra continued chemotherapy. When the family just started to think that all of treatment was coming to an end, Kyarra relapsed in July of 2009. This was heartbreaking news to receive. Her mom says that Kyarra’s strength and willpower overcame everything that tried to knock her down. Even when her mother would almost give up, she gained strength by watching Kyarra fight this terrible disease!

Thankfully today, Kyarra, who is now 17 years old, is on a maintenance plan which means she continues to go to labs and takes daily medication, but she is able to try and get her childhood back. All of those years of missing school, friends, and just enjoying life was stolen from her, but she is still hopeful. Kyarra says that life is too short not to enjoy every minute! Her outlook on life has definitely changed. She still struggles with adapting back to school and trying to keep her energy up, but she tries to stay positive about the future!

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in children and represents approximately 25% of cancer diagnoses among children younger than 15 years of age. There are approximately 2,900 children diagnosed with ALL each year in the United States, which originates in the T- and B-lymphoblast in the bone marrow. Guidelines for cancer centers and their role in the treatment of pediatric patients with ALL entails a complicated risk assignment, intense therapies, a crucial need for rigorous supportive care, countless transfusions, cautious management of infectious complications, and emotional, financial, and developmental aid.

Dramatic improvements in survival have been achieved in children and adolescents with pediatric cancer. For ALL, the 5-year survival rate has increased over time from 60% to approximately 90% for children younger than 15 years. Childhood and adolescent cancer survivors require close follow-up, considering cancer therapy side effects may persist or develop months or years after treatment. Kyarra is currently on a maintenance plan which means she is being treated with medication for her cancer versus actively in treatment. A maintenance plan typically follows an initial round of chemotherapy or radiation.

Kyarra’s story is like many others that are affected by pediatric cancer. These families that battle this horrendous disease all seem to become closer and learn not to stress the small stuff, but enjoy the moments that they have with their family. Runway to Hope is so proud of Kyarra and her accomplishments. Kyarra has recently started her Junior year of high school and we hope it is her best year yet!

For more stories like Kyarra’s and others impacted by pediatric cancer, please follow us on social media @RunwaytoHope and continue to check back each month for a new featured Model of the Month story.

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