Friday, November 18, 2016

Teen Girl with Cancer Makes Chemo Survival Bags for Fellow Patients

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, people will give you gifts – trinkets, blankets, stuffed animals, but most of them aren’t very practical. “You end up using none of it,” 19-year-old Kyla Pokorny told Tuesday. “It’s very nice, but I found stuff that is a lot more helpful.” She should know. At age 14, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. It’s gone into remission and come back twice.

Now, at age 19, it has spread to every bone in her body and she has been receiving her latest blast of radiation since September. It is important to her to take care of others as she takes care of herself. She spends at least three days a week in the hospital, and she usually visits with the babies and the children in the cancer ward. So for Christmas, she wanted to put together survival bags for young cancer sufferers – things that soothe the body and occupy the mind, things that she wished someone had given to her.

Things like a thermometer. Scent-free lotion. A really good heating pad. Coloring books. Pretty, comfortable head scarves. “If you’re a kid with cancer, if you have a temperature, you need to know right away,” Pokorny said. “It’s super dangerous. You need to go to the E.R.” Radiation can burn the skin. “Mine just got like peely, like a sunburn,” she said. “Some people have open wounds.” Thus the importance of a scentless, non-stinging lotion. All of this goes in her care packages. She estimates the bags cost between $100 to $200.

She has started a GoFundMe page to help finance her holiday project. Some of her bags will also be for cancer babies and very young children. She loves spending time with them, and they bask in her presence. “I feel like I have more little friends than big friends, because I’m always at the hospital,” she said. “I’m really good with kids. They like me.” She originally thought she would become a nurse when she grew up. Now she thinks she will become a child-life specialist, a professional who works with hospitalized cancer patients.

The hardest part about being a teenager with cancer, she says, is that all her same-age friends are away at college, working away at their majors. “I can’t make any plans,” she said. “I’m like stuck. Chemo messes with your brain. If I read a chapter, I wouldn’t remember it 20 minutes later.” So she waits. And undergoes her radiation treatments as needed. Her hair is gone and will never come back in its original glory. She just got a new wig – dark brown and waist-length. Life goes on, in its ever-changing way. Pokorny rides it like a wave. “I’m doing pretty good,” she says.

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