Kickin' cancer with Plum City's Kaelyn Nevland
No parent is ever prepared to hear their child has cancer. Plum City parents of a loving, energetic girl who loves music and school were no exception.
Although having Down Syndrome put Kaelyn Nevland at a higher risk of getting Leukemia, her parents — Heather and Chad Nevland — were still shocked when she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia B-Cell on June 13.
"My husband and I were shocked and very scared. We were absolutely devastated. All you can hear at the time is the word cancer and your whole world turns upside down," said Heather Nevland. "My husband was actually in North Dakota ... with his father, who had stage 4 cancer and they only gave him a few days to weeks to live. When I called to tell him that our daughter was diagnosed with cancer he had to leave his father's side to come back for Kaelyn."
Kaeyln — who is a pre-schoolers at Plum City Elementary — celebrated her fifth birthday on July 11, two days before she was discharged from her 30-day induction phase at the hospital.
"Kaelyn is a very energetic little girl. She loves school and looks forward to going back this year. She absolutely loves music!" Nevland said. "She is a big fan of watching YouTube videos of her favorite songs. She loves to dance and sing. She loves playing with her sister and she loves going to the park or in our backyard and playing outside."
Kaelyn's diagnosis came after Nevland noticed that her daughter's swollen glands and face and pale, grey-looking skin on June 11. The family took Kaelyn to the urgent care room in Menomonie where the doctors tested her for strep throat. Nevland asked the doctors to draw blood as well to check for something more serious since she knew that Kaelyn's Down Syndrome put her at higher risk for developing Leukemia.
"About an hour later they called and told me that her strep test was positive and that her white blood count was a little low but that could be from the strep and to follow up the next day with more blood work to check the numbers," Nevland said. "The next day when I got Kaelyn up and out of bed she was limping while she was walking so I assumed her foot was asleep and tingling. I gave her a bath and when I got her out of the tub she could not stand or walk at all."
At her follow up exam, the doctors found that Kaelyn's white cell count was quite a bit lower than the day before, which led them to suspect she had cancer. Kaelyn was taken to Rochester by ambulance for a bone marrow biopsy.
"She has been taking her chemo treatments like a champ! She is a strong little girl and we are so proud of how well she has been taking her treatments," Nevland said. "She is eating great and we were able to have her feeding tube removed when she was discharged from the hospital. She still has not been able to walk due to bone and nerve pain from the cancer but we are working hard to get her back on her feet and she is showing signs of her strength returning every day."
According to Nevland, Kaelyn is on phase three of six of cancer treatments, called interim maintenance one, which will last eight weeks. She will then move on to the delayed intensification phase for eight weeks, followed by interim maintenance two phase for another eight weeks and ending with maintenance, which is a two-year phase of treatments.
"We are looking at over two years of chemotherapy treatments all in Rochester and she is only able to move on to the next phases if her blood counts and other factors are good," Nevland said. "We hope she stays healthy this school year so she doesn't have too many bumps in the road to reach her phases."
With their lives changing dramatically following Kaelyn's diagnosis, the Nevlands are trying to find their new normal.
"We've had a lot of change in the last few months, including the many trips to Rochester for chemotherapy, lab work, immune therapy, physical therapy and nutrition appointments," Nevland said. "We will do whatever it takes to keep her healthy and on the right track to become cancer free. We are just taking it one day at a time and try to see and find the positive in everything that has happened this summer."
The community's support since Kaelyn's diagnosis is one of the positives the family has encountered in the last few months.
"We are fairly new to this community, only being here for almost four years. Last year was the first year our two girls were in school, so we don't know a lot of people here yet and we have been so blessed with all the caring support we have received for Kaelyn," Nevland said. "It is such a blessing to be living in a wonderful tight-knit community. We appreciate all they have done for us and we love them all for that!"
A fundraiser was held for Kaelyn on Sept. 2, at the Rolling Greens Golf Course in Durand, sponsored by the Plum City Lions Club.
Anyone interested in donating to the Nevland family can do so through their GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/kicking-cancer-with-kaelyn.
"We just want to thank everyone for all their kindness and prayers. We know the prayers are being heard as she is getting stronger each day," Nevland said.