On October of 2016, Keira awoke crying due to intense pain in her lower back. It was so painful, she couldn’t even walk. Danielle & Justin, Keira’s parents, believed it to be a field hockey related injury since she had just started playing this new sport. After a visit to her local hospital, where she was examined and kidney stones were ruled out, she was sent home.
Keira had a 103-degree fever for almost a week, but then it finally broke. The family put the incident behind them after she recovered.
The lower back pain returned
A few weeks later, after a fun night of trick-or-treating, Keira awoke in pain once again. “She woke me up and told me the pain was in her backbone,” says Danielle. “I told her we’d get to the bottom of it and set up an appointment with her pediatrician the same day.”
After prescribed lab work following the doctor’s visit, Keira’s pediatrician sent them to CHOP’s Main Campus for a full evaluation. “Once we got to CHOP, it took almost a day for Oncology and Hematology to find blasts (leukemia cells) in Keira’s blood. We were thankful for their diligence and collaboration, which set us on the right path to treatment,” says Danielle.
B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) diagnosis
Once the blasts were found, three healthcare professionals delivered the diagnosis of Keira’s condition: B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). The family was shocked but faced the diagnosis with resolve and were prepared to do all that they could to fight cancer alongside Keira. Shortly after, Keira started chemotherapy. ALL is the most common form of leukemia found in children, accounting for about 25 percent of all pediatric cancers. It also has one of the highest cure rates of all childhood cancers.
Keira went through the standard phases of treatment: induction, consolidation, interim maintenance and delayed intensification, and is now in the maintenance phase. She has seven more months in the maintenance phase, which includes chemo (IV & LP chemo) along with oral doses.
For regular appointments, the family takes Keira to CHOP’s Specialty Care & Surgery Center in Voorhees, NJ, where she is seen by Nicholas Evageliou, MD, Vandana Batra, MD, and Jenn Randall, CRNP, and a wonderful team of nurses and staff.
From the moment they arrived, the family felt part of the CHOP community. Danielle shared that she felt CHOP was caring for her whole family, not just Keira. “When I was in a panic and thought my career and home life would be turned upside down, the social workers picked me up off the ground and told me about intermittent FMLA — giving me assurance that I could still work, and care for Keira and my then 4-year-old son, Liam,” says Danielle.
An ambassador for CHOP
Keira is a no-drama kid. She was frightened when she heard the word cancer, but with her parents’ encouragement to “stay positive” she met the treatment plan with grace and continues to live life to the fullest.
Now, 9 years old, she loves to sing, dance, play basketball, and once she’s healthy enough, she looks forward to playing on the lacrosse team.
Being an ambassador for the Parkway Run & Walk, CHOP’s largest fundraiser for pediatric cancer research and care, was an easy decision for Keira as she has been an ambassador for CHOP long before she was given the opportunity to formalize it. “We were at an event in Northern NJ and there was face painting. Keira asked to have the words CHOP painted on her face. Everyone was asking what it stood for, and she proudly shared information about CHOP to everyone she could,” says Danielle.