When their daughter Kimmy was diagnosed with leukemia, Daniel and Taimi Hachey were told her disease had a 90% survival rate. Later tests showed Kimmy had Philadelphia chromosome-like precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a rare type, difficult to treat. The adjusted survival rate? Only 50-60%. Her diagnosis went from, “The cure rate is high,” to “We are very concerned about her outcome.”
A Life Changed
Prior to diagnosis, Kimmy was a happy and active child who teachers described as always giving hugs and high fives. She loved playing with her 4-year-old sister Amber and 2-year-old brother Matthew. She was a gold belt in jujitsu and played in piano recitals at school every year.
While COVID-19 changed life for all of us, having a 7-year-old diagnosed with leukemia amidst the chaos of a pandemic is like being on a never-ending rollercoaster. All future plans are gone, and the family is left living only for today.
It’s Not COVID-19, It’s Leukemia
Kimmy’s cancer journey began in May 2020 when her mom was concerned that she looked pale and was sleeping a lot. Early the next day, Daniel took Kimmy and her younger brother and sister out to the backyard to play since they had been indoors most of the time due to COVID-19. Kimberly, normally a very active girl, sat in the swing barely in motion. He was panic-stricken when he noticed her blue lips and pale face in the sunlight.
Daniel rushed Kimmy to her pediatrician’s office and actually felt relieved when the pediatrician said he had seen a child the week before with similar symptoms who was diagnosed with COVID-19. Ten minutes later the doctor returned. “I have some bad news – I believe Kimmy has leukemia. You need to go to the children’s hospital immediately as her hemoglobin is dangerously low.”
“It felt like someone dropped concrete blocks on me and I immediately thought she was not going to survive,” said Daniel.
What makes this cancer type so difficult to treat is that there are over 100 different subtypes. Each version is slightly different and treatment response is inconsistent.
Kimmy’s latest bone marrow sample indicated that her leukemia cell count had dropped from 2.8% to 0.62%, however these remaining leukemia cells are resistant to the drugs in her chemotherapy regimen. To achieve remission that count needs to be less than 0.01%. Kimmy recently started another treatment, blinatumomab, with the hope that it will get her to remission. She also faces a possible stem cell transplant in the next 60 days.
With each treatment that fails, there are fewer options left. The overall prognosis is guarded. Daniel explained, “If they cannot get Kimmy into remission then we will have to pray and try and get her into an experimental study treatment group or decide not to continue treatment and take her home.”
Challenges of the Times
As if dealing with cancer isn’t hard enough, the challenges are compounded by COVID-19. When Kimmy is in the hospital, she’s completely isolated, confined to her room and only allowed to leave for a walk with permission and a mask. She is only allowed to see one parent at a time within 24 hours.
While at home, she is isolated and only able to talk with friends and teachers as they stand in the driveway. Due to her compromised immune system, Kimmy cannot afford to get sick from anything or anyone. As a result, the family is unable to accept outside help from others and her siblings are unable to attend school.
As a parent, the challenges and uncertainty of treatment are constant. Daniel said, “The hardest part is not knowing if today will be her last day, or if she will suffer an adverse event from the toxic and special medicine that has a complications list longer than an encyclopedia.” As her options dwindle, he says, “Our great hope for Kimmy is that she will be completely cured so we can enjoy watching her grow up and have her own family. Basically, we are asking for a miracle.”
Hope for Kimmy
Kimmy has a heart of gold. She’s sweet and kind to everyone she meets. She has a unique way of being silly to bring laughter to her family and joy to others. But when in the hospital, her siblings are left asking, “Where’s Kimmy?” Daniel says, “We’re so proud of her for everything she has accomplished in 7 years of life.”
Even during the time of COVID-19, St. Baldrick’s donors are giving kids like Kimmy hope. Your support funds research to offer improved treatment options, fewer side effects and more years of life for the youngest cancer patients.
You Can Give Kids Like Kimmy More Tomorrows
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