Kathy Brown, mom to Kendra Brown (age 17), Garden, MI
What is your child’s diagnosis, and at what age did they receive it?
Kendra was diagnosed on November 9, 2002 with a Medulloblastoma brain tumor. She was four years old at the time of diagnosis. At the time of her diagnosis, we were told it was cancer and she might not live.
Can you tell us a little bit about your child – their personality, hobbies?
Kendra is very shy and likes to be alone or do things as a family. She does not have many friends, due to her illness. Other children her age grew and progressed, while Kendra was stuck in time. Due to the cancer she is very small for her age and very immature.
If you are comfortable, share with us the feelings you had on the day your child was diagnosed?
My husband and I were told by our local optometrist that Kendra had a tumor, which he saw during an eye exam. When he told us, it was instant panic. Kendra was air lifted from Manistique, Michigan to Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan Hospital. When we arrived there she was instantly put into an ICU room. They needed to stabilize her. We met her Neurosurgeon and Oncologist, and were told before she even had surgery that she had brain cancer. Tears came to both of us instantly, and panic set in further. I could not eat for a very long time and would not leave her side. I slept on the floor in her room for the two weeks she was in ICU before and after her surgery. We were told she would probably not make it. It was the worst thing that ever happened to us, the worst day of my life.
How does CBTF impact both your child’s and your family’s quality of life?
Kendra has one thing she loves and looks forward to every year – CBTF’s Camp-Mak-A-Dream in Gold Creek, Montana. The CBTF funded Kendra’s flight to and from Michigan this past year. Without CBTF, we could not afford to send Kendra out to Montana. Having a child go through surgery, radiation, three years of chemo is very hard on a family financially. I had to leave work to take care of her, and treatment took place 8 hours from our home.
CBTF and those who donate to it make dreams come true for families like ours. Kendra loves camp in many ways, but the part that means the most to her is their slogan, “Here we are all the same.” Kendra feels like an outcast at school and has no regular classes, so the feeling of being accepted for who she is pleases her so much. Camp-Mak-A-Dream is the one place she is accepted as a “normal” teenager.
What do you want the licensing community to know about the realities of childhood cancer?
The biggest thing I would like people to know about having a child with any type of cancer is that it changes your whole family’s lives forever. Cancer hurts in many ways. Now we live with the fear of Kendra dying at any time, due to the long term effects of the chemo and radiation to a body that was not completely developed yet at the time of her treatments. It takes so much out of you. You’re tired, you hurt emotionally, you cry into your pillow at night so it is not seen by anyone, you pray, you pose the famous question, “Why her,” all the time. It is not something that goes away. You live with it every day.