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A family’s resilient journey: Kylah’s brave battle against Wilms tumor

A family’s resilient journey: Kylah’s brave battle against Wilms tumor

In the unpredictable journey of parenthood, most experiences with illness are brief – the common colds, the scraped knees, the occasional upset stomach. These are the routine chapters in the story of childhood. But for the Eschete family, a typical day in March 2023 transformed into a journey of courage, fear and ultimately, hope. 

Kylah Eschete, a spirited 7-year-old, lived life with a zest that was infectious. Her mother, Kylynn, described her as a “best of both worlds type of girl - rough and tumble, yet as girly as they come, embracing all aspects of her personality.” Kylah's vibrant energy was a source of joy for her family, including her three siblings. However, a seemingly harmless trip to the store one day with her father, Kaine, marked the beginning of an unforeseen challenge. 

Initially, it appeared to be a minor upset stomach, but the situation took an alarming turn when Kylynn, after putting Kylah to bed following an episode of vomiting, noticed an unusual color. Upon further inspection, as she checked her abdomen, she could visibly see and touch a concerning mass. This discovery signaled to her parents that this was something more serious than they had initially thought. 

They rushed to their local hospital in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where the family quickly realized the gravity of Kylah's condition. The local medical team, recognizing the need for specialized care, recommended an urgent transfer via ambulance to Children's Hospital New Orleans. This marked the start of a pivotal chapter in their lives. Arriving late at night, they were soon engaging in a life-changing conversation with Zachary LeBlanc, MD, a renowned physician specializing in hematology and oncology. Within the span of less than 24 hours, what began as a regular day had escalated into a life-altering ordeal. 

Reflecting on those initial moments, Kylynn shared, "It was a whirlwind. Everything was happening so rapidly. As parents, we were bracing ourselves, trying to be strong for Kylah and her siblings. We sensed that everything was about to change for our family." 

The journey to understanding and confronting Kylah's condition began, under the guidance of Dr. LeBlanc. "After a biopsy and several tests, Kylah was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor, a rare type of kidney cancer primarily found in children," he explained. "It’s a condition that requires immediate and aggressive treatment, but with a promising prognosis when detected early." 

Wilms Tumor, or nephroblastoma, as Dr. LeBlanc detailed, is a cancer that starts in the kidneys. It's most common in children and can sometimes be detected due to a lump or swelling in the abdomen, alongside other symptoms like fever, pain, nausea or even blood in the urine. Wilms Tumor arises from immature kidney cells. For reasons not fully understood, these cells can grow out of control, forming a mass. Early intervention is crucial, highlighting the importance of swift action from the Pediatric Solid Tumor Program at Children’s Hospital New Orleans

Kylynn and Kaine listened intently, processing the flood of medical information. The reality of their daughter facing cancer was a heavy burden to bear. "I remember feeling a mix of shock and fear," Kylynn recalled. "We were entering a world we knew little about, relying heavily on the expertise and guidance of the medical team." The family, while shaken, rallied together, their bond strengthening in the face of adversity, and their trust in the medical professionals guiding them through this journey. 

The hospital staff, sensing the family's distress, provided not just medical explanations but also emotional support. "They were amazing at breaking down the information, making sure we understood every aspect of Kylah’s diagnosis and what it meant for her treatment," Kylnn added. This support guided the Eschete family, helping them navigate the challenges of pediatric cancer treatment. 

As the reality of Kylah's diagnosis settled in, the family began to comprehend the journey ahead. They were entering a new world, one where hospital visits, treatment plans and medical jargon would become part of their everyday vocabulary. 

Dr. LeBlanc and his team laid out a comprehensive treatment plan, tailored to Kylah’s specific needs. The approach was multi-faceted, involving chemotherapy, potential surgery and constant monitoring. Their goal was to not only treat the tumor but also to support Kylah’s overall well-being throughout this process. 

In those early days of diagnosis, the Eschetes found themselves navigating a variety of emotions – fear, uncertainty, but also a growing sense of resolve. They were not just fighting a disease; they were fighting for Kylah’s childhood, her health and her future. As they braced for the road ahead, their journey was just beginning – a journey marked by challenges, but also by incredible courage, unwavering support, and the endless love of a family united against a rare and unexpected condition. 

The treatment plan for Kylah at Children’s Hospital New Orleans was both intensive and comprehensive. It revolved around a regimen tailored specifically for her condition, one that required frequent and careful medical interventions. Kylah’s treatment involves a specialized chemotherapy protocol known as the UH3 regimen, which is particularly intense. This approach was chosen to aggressively target the tumor, aiming to maximize the chances of a successful outcome. 

Kylynn shared the family’s routine since the treatment began, "Kylah visits the clinic every Wednesday. Some weeks, it’s a single day visit, while other times, she needs to stay for several days, depending on her treatment cycle." The rhythm of their life had shifted to the beat of Kylah’s treatment schedule. Hospital visits had become a regular part of their weekly routine, each one a step towards Kylah’s recovery. 

In addition to chemotherapy, Kylah's treatment included a critical surgery to remove the tumor. This step was essential due to the tumor's size and location. Throughout the surgical process, Kylah displayed incredible bravery and resilience. Her ability to remain strong and positive during such a challenging time has been an inspiration to everyone involved in her care, highlighting the personal and emotional aspects of her recovery journey. 

Kylah’s treatment plan was not just a physical battle but also an emotional one. "There are days when she gets really down," Kylynn said. "But most of the time, she remains positive and tough, keeping a good attitude." The family’s support played a crucial role in helping Kylah maintain her spirits during these challenging times. 

The prospect of Kylah's recovery brought a sense of cautious optimism to the Eschete family. Although recent developments have revealed that Kylah’s tumor has regrown and spread, the family remains committed to her treatment and optimistic about her journey.  After this period, a series of evaluations will be conducted to assess her progress and determine the next steps in her recovery journey. 

Kylah’s strength and resilience were evident in how she coped with her treatment. Despite the demanding nature of her regimen, she remained engaged in the activities she loved, balancing her health needs with her zest for life. "She loves to play and be active, always brimming with energy," according to her parents. "Her siblings have been incredible too; they play with her and look out for her, making sure she's involved and safe. We're cautious, naturally, but it's important for us that she enjoys her childhood to the fullest." 

The Eschete family continues to hold onto a future filled with hope and healing as they navigate the complexities of Kylah's treatment. The journey, though fraught with challenges, has been a remarkable testament to the strength of a young girl and the unyielding support of her family and medical team. 

Kylynn, drawing from her own family's experience, shared candid advice for other families grappling with a Wilms Tumor diagnosis. "Ask every question you have, don't take anything lightly. It doesn't matter if it seems trivial; ask it anyway," she strongly advises. "Allow yourself to feel every emotion and keep pushing through because that's the only way forward." Kylynn's words resonate with a sense of understanding and solidarity. "It's a tough path, but you have the strength to walk it. Remember, you're not walking it alone." 

As Kylah bravely faces her treatment, her spirit remains unbroken. Her laughter still echoes in the hallways of the hospital, a reminder of the joyful child within, undeterred by the trials she faces. The Eschete family's journey is a powerful reminder of the power of love, the strength of family, and the remarkable capabilities of modern medicine. 

To learn more about the pediatric oncology program vital to Kylah's treatment, or to find guidance and support, visit the Children's Hospital New Orleans Hematology & Oncology Program website for comprehensive resources and expertise.