Young cancer survivor loudly rings in the end of chemo
The drive from Altoona to Pittsburgh was the longest 120 minutes of Melissa Kruise’s life.
Not knowing was the most excruciating part.
Her 9-year-old daughter Kaylee had been experiencing double vision. After dilating the young girl’s eyes, their pediatric eye doctor recommended mom and daughter leave his office and go directly to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville.
That evening, an MRI revealed a brain tumor and two days later, May 11, the child was scheduled for surgery. Radiation and chemotherapy followed
“Hearing the word ‘cancer,’ I literally fell to the ground. I felt like I couldn’t breathe,” said Melissa Kruise on Thursday at the hospital. “I was like, ‘Will you save my kid?”
Her kid is definitely thriving, and on Thursday rang a hospital bell to commemorate the end of chemotherapy. A day earlier, an MRI revealed the energetic young girl is now cancer free.
Being cheered on by nurses and doctors and family members, including her little sister Kenzie, 2, Kaylee walked down the hallway where she had spent many days receiving treatment and feeling pain – but this time with a smile on her face as she approached the area where the bell hangs, ready to sound off for everyone to hear.
She didn’t just ring it once — she made sure — by giving it a second tug and then her mom had an opportunity to ring that bell.
“This is the best Christmas gift I could ever receive, my daughter is now cancer free,” says Melissa Kruise. “I never need another Christmas present. This is a forever present.”
Melissa Kruise had an early birthday present for her daughter, who turns 10 on Sunday and will have a party at Chuck E. Cheese. She bought her a James Conner jersey. Kaylee has been inspired by the Steelers running back who is also cancer survivor.
“We both have James Conner jerseys,” said Melissa Kruise, who was wearing a black and gold T-shirt with the saying “Pittsburgh is Stronger than Cancer. “He is an amazing young man who has overcome so much. Having cancer as a young person is not easy. But having Children’s Hospital helps. They took care of everything from the physical to the emotional to the financial. We have a wonderful family and friends and the parishioners from church who helped us on this journey.”
There were tough days when Kaylee hurt. She thanked her mom for being there every step of the way. There was a time she said she was sorry her mom had to take care of her.
“To watch her go through this was so horrible,” her mom said, through tears.“All I wanted to do was to take the pain away. We are done with this chapter, and ready to start a new beginning and see where it takes us.”
Thursday also marked the day local policemen and women brought Christmas toys to the hospital. They gave Kaylee a children’s Kindle Fire.
The hospital staff will miss her. Cancer impacts the entire family, said Dr. Allison Close, pediatric hematology oncology fellow at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“Kaylee is such an upbeat kid,” Close said. “She has such a positive attitude and is the definition of resilience. The entire family was amazing to work with. One day she said to me ‘I have the best idea. I want to take us all to Disney for my Make-A-Wish.’ That is quintessential Kaylee.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or email@example.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.