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CHoR patient Kyleigh kicks off Anthem LemonAid 2023
May 19, 2023
CHoR patient Kyleigh smiles at her Anthem LemonAid stand

    An unimaginable cancer diagnosis at age 7

    Seven-year-old Kyleigh Beasley loves knock knock jokes and game nights with her family. Her mom, Kelsey, describes her as a “girly girl” who loves pedicures, shopping at Claire’s, pink and purple — and racing dirt bikes with her brothers outside her Dinwiddie County home. She’s full of energy and rarely sick so when Kyleigh had a series of unexplained fevers in May 2022, Kelsey said, “My mom instinct told me something else was going on.”

    Over Memorial Day weekend, Kelsey noticed a lump on Kyleigh’s left arm. Although she didn’t have any pain, Kelsey took Kyleigh to a local children’s urgent care because she suspected the lump was from a fall Kyleigh had on a trampoline a few weeks earlier. She was told Kyleigh had fractured her arm and was referred to an orthopaedist.

    “The doctor took a look at the x-rays and immediately referred us to Massey Cancer Center,” Kelsey recalled. “Kyleigh had her first set of MRI, PET and CT scans on June 10. The following day I got a call from the doctor who told us the tumor was cancer.”

    The whirlwind of pediatric cancer

    Doctors diagnosed Kyleigh with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of cancer that forms in the soft tissue. Last July, she received her first chemotherapy treatment, which continued for nine months, and involved inpatient and outpatient care. She also had 33 radiation treatments. Because of the size and location of the tumor, the goal of the combined treatments was to shrink the tumor enough that it could be surgically removed.

    Kyleigh wearing her wig and jumping with her pom pomsFor Kyleigh, whose life went from going to kindergarten and cheerleading competitions to doctors appointments and hospital stays, the initial weeks after her diagnosis were difficult. Her long brown hair began falling out and was eventually replaced by wigs. Rather than choosing traditional wigs though, Kyleigh only wears baseball hats with attached hair that can be curled and styled. She has six different hat/hair combinations including her favorite one with long brown hair and a pink and purple cheetah print. Kelsey said the hair has improved Kyleigh’s confidence, and Kyleigh loves making people laugh by twisting the hat so her hair covers her face.

    Throughout Kyleigh’s treatment, Kelsey said she appreciated the care provided by hospital team members. From explaining treatment, medications and side effects in ways that Kelsey and her husband, Aaron, could understand, to finding ways to entertain Kyleigh during long clinic visits and distract her during difficult treatments, Kelsey said she is amazed at how team members “adapt to each child’s comfort level to make each visit as smooth as possible.”

    For Kyleigh, making slime, playing Candyland with child life specialist Katie Barber and visiting with her favorite nurses Kaylee and Brittany (“because they are nice and silly”) top her list of hospital memories. She also said she likes doing arts and crafts and visiting with princesses when they visit the clinic.

    Helping others through Anthem LemonAid

    Each year a patient is invited to represent CHoR during Anthem LemonAid, a weekend event where lemonade stands are set up across the region to benefit the hospital. Although she was in the middle of treatment, team members unanimously nominated Kyleigh to be this year’s Anthem LemonAid ambassador.

    “LemonAid is giving her something fun to do and something to look forward to,” said Kelsey of her energetic, chatty daughter. “She’s going to love it!”

    Last summer Kyleigh’s cheerleading friends hosted a lemonade stand and made posters with Kyleigh’s picture to raise money for CHoR. This year, Kyleigh will help promote the event, visit area lemonade stands and encourage others to support the hospital. The 23rd annual event is scheduled for July 21-23 and will benefit kids like Kyleigh by supporting hematology and oncology services.

    “I am excited to share my story and talk on the news,” said Kyleigh, who is also looking forward to hosting her own lemonade stand with some help from her brothers, Riley and Kason, and baby sister, Emersyn. “I want to raise money for the hospital because they help me feel better.”

    Looking forward to the Children’s Tower and brighter days ahead

    When Kyleigh was first diagnosed, Kelsey was pregnant with Emersyn. She recalled how she and Aaron used to take turns staying in the hospital with Kyleigh, often switching roles in the parking garage with their other kids in the car. They said they are excited for the family-friendly atmosphere of the Children’s Tower, the ability to move from the outpatient clinic to inpatient care without leaving the buildings and the private inpatient rooms including designated ones for immunocompromised kids like Kyleigh.

    “When your child is diagnosed with cancer, everything changes in the blink of an eye,” said Kelsey who called CHoR “a blessing when you need it.” “Despite the obstacles, Kyleigh continues to live each day with a smile that is contagious. She finds ways to brighten the lives of everyone she meets.”

    By Alissa Poole

    Learn how your family can support cancer care at CHoR through LemonAid.

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