Kai Stephens was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia as a two-year-old on November 7, 2017 – almost exactly two years ago. The now four-year-old Springfield boy has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment ever since, but his white blood cell counts are still not stable.
Kai’s mother, Ashley Stephens, said that, despite his now years-long battle with cancer, her son remains positive. “Our little guy keeps battling, has never given up and is pretty much always fighting.”
Kai and his family receive a lot of support from Women’s Care, as Ashley is a Women’s Care patient. To show their support and rally around Kai, several staff members at the Women’s Care clinic bought orange cancer awareness ribbons from Ashley. The ribbons say “Kai” on them, and the staff at Women’s Care could not be more proud to wear them.
The group of employees gathered for a photo of all of them wearing their ribbons. In a recent Facebook post, the group wrote, “We are Kai Strong. One of our patient’s sons is battling Leukemia at just four years old. Help us in showing support for this family as they fight this terrible disease.”
Ashley said the gesture was incredibly kind. “Women’s Care has been an amazing support, always asking how he’s doing when I have appointments,” she stated. ”It was so awesome that they wanted to take a picture with his ribbon to show support.”
Kai recently went on a trip to Disney World through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The little boy is scheduled to continue chemotherapy treatment through January 2021. Unfortunately, Kai’s story is all too common. Childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children in the United States. An estimated 15,780 children ages zero to 19 in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Still, there is hope. Constant research and efforts to eradicate cancer have resulted in more targeted and precise treatments, such as Car T cell immunotherapy, which attacks the genetic components and drivers of cancer.
Life After Beating Cancer
While advancements in cancer treatment have dramatically improved childhood cancer survival rates, at least two-thirds of all childhood patients will face long-term, chronic conditions following their cancer treatment. Such conditions can include a compromised immune system or struggles with learning and cognitive impairment.
How Childhood Cancer Treatments can affect Reproductive Health in Female Patients
Childhood cancer treatments often result in adverse effects on future reproductive health and pregnancies in female patients. This makes the role of obstetricians and gynecologists essential throughout the process of cancer treatment in female children.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that gynecologists be aware of the effects of childhood cancer treatments and discuss options to preserve female patients’ reproductive health.
Some of the ways childhood cancer treatments can affect female patients:
- Risk to fertility and future pregnancies
- Increased risk of estrogen deficiency
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Decreased? Damaged? Reduced? ovarian function
While cancer treatment and its side effects can be overwhelming, research and work are constantly being done to improve outcomes.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF), started by Alex Scott, is a national childhood cancer foundation dedicated to raising funds for research into new treatments and cures for all children battling cancer. ALSF has funded more than 800 research grants and recently opened the Childhood Cancer Data Lab, which is made up of a team of designers, programmers and data scientists who build tools to analyze data to find cures for childhood cancer. The team pulls data from previous research and analyzes findings to accelerate the path to better treatments and cures for kids everywhere who are fighting cancer.
For those looking to get involved in helping fight cancer, visit the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation site. The site outlines how individuals and families can play a role, how universities and large organizations can get involved and more. Maintaining awareness and learning more about childhood cancer and the efforts underway to fight it can serve as its own form of advocacy, too. Learn more at the National Cancer Institute website.
To follow along with Kai’s story, or to purchase a ribbon, visit the Team Kai Facebook page.