Monday, December 11, 2017

Reach For The Cure

A few months ago, Kennedy’s school offered the opportunity to put together a project representing a common theme “Within Reach”.  Kennedy wrote a very short synopsis of her experience with childhood cancer titled, “Reach for the Cure”.  Out of 300 entries the PTA Reflections Northwest Council received, Kennedy’s literature piece was selected to represent the Northwest Suburban Council (CCSD15) at the next round of judging.

Her submission went up against dance choreography, film production, literature, music composition, photography and visual arts.   There were beautiful entries and she is shocked that she made it to the next level.  Possibly it was the subject of her submission that influenced the judges, not many kids experience a life altering event so young.

Kennedy loves to read and write.  She journals a few days a week and is currently working on a graphic novel which reflects pieces of her life and those around her.  What I personally love most about her Reflections submission is her innocence in addressing a serious subject.

Kennedy’s Reflections essay is below.   Wish her luck in making it to the next round!


Reach for the Cure
By:  Kennedy Khalimsky


Do you know what’s in reach?  The cure for cancer.  It’s just right there!

You know, I met a girl who had cancer, her name was Kennedy Khalimsky.  Oh yeah, that’s me.  Today, I’m telling you my story.

It all started on New Years Eve in Mexico in 2011 and I was feeling queasy.  I had stomach pains, then later I puked.  I felt so sick that I didn’t even make it to midnight.  I was 4 years old.  The next day I spent eating pretzels by the pool. 

Fast forward and we are home.  My dad pulled up with the car and we went straight to the doctor.  Nothing’s wrong with me.  A few weeks later, my mom takes me again and for the second time, there’s nothing wrong with me.  My doctor prescribed me soup and liquids for the next week.

My parents took me for the last time and my dad demanded that they took blood.  They did and that’s when they knew I had leukemia, a type of blood cancer.  They found out the cancer was low risk after the first month of treatment but still, it was the beginning to a long journey, a two and a half year journey of chemo. 

After that, I was in and out of the hospital, one time I was there for a whole month.  I also had every day chemo treatments.  I hated the shots and when they had to access my port, it was the worst.  I even wore a “no pokey” shirt.

Every night, I had to starve two hours before and one hour after my chemo pill and my mom and I would practice visualizing killing cancer cells. I was princess K and I was a white warrior killing the evil cells inside.  I’m not sure if it was the pills or my nightly mind attacks but it worked.  I reached for a cure and I found it with the help of my doctors and family.

If my body could reach a cure for cancer, I know I can achieve anything I reach for.




Artist statement:  My story relates to the theme because the cure for my cancer was in reach, just not there yet.  My cancer was low risk but still very dangerous.  The story explains how it all happened and the things I did to get through it all.












Edan Gelt

Monday, September 25, 2017

Clinic Visit - 3 Years Out of Treatment


We visited Loyola on September 20th for Kennedy’s quarterly visit.  Being three years out of treatment, her scheduled appointments will now move from quarterly to every 4 months.   Another mark of progress, each year, another month added between follow-up visits.

Dr. Suh was happy to see Kennedy and she loved to see him.   Thankfully, all is good and she’s growing (fast).  Her favorite nurse Christa wasn’t there to take blood and I thought she would panic but she played it cool.   She loves to watch the needle go in; I would be totally sick but she gives it no mind at all.

Kennedy has definitely blossomed this summer; she has grown several inches and is looking more and more like a teenager than a little girl.  This is bittersweet.  I’m so happy to enjoy her growing up but I want just a little longer with her sweet little girl persona (versus her new, hormonal Sybil temperament).  Although only 10, she has turned into a pre-teen, full of attitude and uncontrollable emotion with a figure to match.


While at clinic, there was a little boy screaming bloody murder in an adjacent room. Hearing him made my heart break.  I didn’t know if they were accessing his port, if he was newly diagnosed or if he was just deathly afraid, but it brought back a flood of memories.  The screaming reminded me of Kennedy’s diagnosis day and them trying to get an IV in.  We had to hold her down while she screamed, and in the end they failed after several attempts. All the memories I buried deep inside came rushing to the top.  I hate cancer, I hate clinic and I hate that Kennedy had to suffer. Returning to this place every few months makes me face what I try to forget every day.  With that said, I love that she is healthy, I love her doctors that got her healthy and I’m happy she is a vibrant, kind and hormonal pre-teen.

The CureSearch walk was this weekend.  Our team raised over $8,000 in benefit of CureSearch and I am thrilled. Our fundraising seems to decrease year after year as we move further away from the diagnosis.  Although I wish I could do more, there are so many families afflicted with other diseases, natural disasters and important causes to support. I am grateful that in aggregate the Chicago walk brought in over $120K to fund Childhood Cancer Research.

The walk was both an uplifting and heart wrenching experience.  The children in-treatment and those that are cancer survivors were honored and adorned with a ribbon, Super Heroes (both children and characters) were all around and face painting and kids activities kept everyone in good spirits.  Kennedy’s best friends came to support her, as did our own friends and family.

For the families of those children no longer with us, the mood was somber.  Each child that lost his/her battle was remembered by family who walked on to the stadium field holding an 8x10 photograph. Doves released at the end of the ceremony had us all sobbing. I don’t want to imagine what these parents experience every day.  I give them all credit for showing up year after year, trying to raise funds for other families that still have hope.

Childhood Cancer Awareness month is almost over but everyday more than 43 children are diagnosed with cancer.  Just because September is coming to a close, it doesn’t mean the foundations that support childhood cancer research stop needing funding.  If you haven’t already done so, please consider donating to CureSearch at http://www.curesearchevents.org/site/TR/CureSearchSuperheroesUnite/CureSearchSuperheroesUnite?team_id=2752&pg=team&fr_id=1461
 


Edan Gelt

Monday, August 21, 2017

Kennedy Update and CureSearch


It’s been 6 months since Kennedy has been officially “cured” from cancer, 3 years since her last round of chemo and 5 ½  years since she was diagnosed.  Those are big numbers.  With each day, we step further and further from what could have been to what is, and we are eternally grateful.

We still visit Loyola four times per year for clinic checks but as we move away from our experience with childhood cancer, we can’t forget there are kids less fortunate than Kennedy that are currently losing their battle or just couldn’t win and are no longer with us.

For the past several years, we have fundraised for CureSearch (the organization that backed Kennedy’s chemo protocol) and volunteered on the pediatric floor of Loyola.  This year I was named publicity chair of the CureSearch Chicago Walk and hoping to achieve coverage of the event and cause while also raising the money needed to help the organization do what they do best.  The article (http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/arlington-heights/community/chi-ugc-article-edan-gelt-of-palatine-named-2017-curesearch-2017-07-18-story.html) announcing the appointment ran in the Daily Herald and Chicago Tribune.  As a result, Kennedy received a note from a Palatine State Representative.
 
I love CureSearch because the protocol they backed saved her from potential heart damage and delivered less-severe side effects.  Most people don’t understand that even though treatment is over and Kennedy is “cured”, the chemotherapy can still wreak havoc and cause long-term organ and cognitive damage into adulthood.  It’s hard to escape the effects of chemicals being pumped into one’s body during key developmental periods.

Kennedy has personally raised $85 for this year’s walk by making and selling slime with her friends.  In May, Kennedy and her friend Angela went door to door and sold slime for $.50 - $3 a jar.  We were astonished by her idea and accomplishment.  While many of her friends were selling slime for personal gain, Kennedy was raising money for a cause that is embedded in her soul.  As a 10-year old, she has more empathy and understanding than most adults I know.

So with that end – this is where I ask you to walk with us on September 24 or just donate to a wonderful cause.   Our goal is $7,500 and we are almost there!  The link to our CureSearch fundraising website is: http://www.curesearchevents.org/site/TR/CureSearchSuperheroesUnite/CureSearchSuperheroesUnite?team_id=2752&pg=team&fr_id=1461
 
Thank you all who donated already, this cause means the world to our entire family!

With Love,


Edan Gelt & Gene Khalimsky

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Happy 10th Birthday Princess Kennedy!



Happy 10th birthday to our beautiful Kennedy!

Dear Kennedy,

Outside of every day, there are three specific times of year we stop and take pause to reflect and appreciate how lucky we are to have you in our lives; the anniversary from your leukemia diagnosis date, the date you finished your last chemo treatment, and your birthday.  These are the days that we look at you a bit differently; hug you more often and hold you a little tighter.  This isn’t to say we don’t appreciate you all other days of the year but most days we forget everything you (and we all) endured.

At 10 years old, you’re more mature than your peers – both mentally and physically.  I contribute genetics to your physical development but without a doubt, your early life experience makes you more perceptive to the social world around you.  You identify pre-teen drama and steer clear; you already know that life is too short to waste your time on gossip and petty behavior.  It took me years to learn some of the lessons you understand at 10 years old.

You are a hard worker.  School doesn’t come very easy for you; often you spend hours reading and re-reading, writing and re-writing but you never give up – you are determined to get it done and come home boasting straight A’s.  Same with dance, you often struggle but work extra hard – practicing with every free moment, not wanting to disappoint your teammates. 

Kennedy, you are our miracle.  We are so proud of who you are and can’t wait to meet the woman you will become.  You and Maddox are the joy and loves of our lives. 

Happy birthday princess KK!

Love,

Mom and Dad


Letter written on May 3, 2017 by Edan Gelt and Gene Khalimsky.





Thursday, February 23, 2017


It's official, February 2nd marked Kennedy's cure date which means we are done with Leukemia - for good!!! 

To celebrate, we went out to dinner, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Sergey and Nicole celebrated with us. Kennedy picked sushi. The next day, we let Kennedy play hooky and I took her for a relaxing mani-pedi and then sprung Maddox from school early for lunch with Grandma.  Kennedy had a blast.  A big thanks to the Simonians for the beautiful fruit arrangement and Lannoye's for the flowers - Kennedy was so appreciative!

I still have my moments of wonder - for example, at Maddox's wrestling meets, Kennedy loves to play with an adorable little wrestler on our team, a 5 year old girl.  When I see them together I can't believe how young Kennedy was when she was diagnosed.  I look at Kennedy standing next to this  little 5-year old and she looks like a giant at 9 years old.  I wonder how much she missed, how much we all missed the first 2 years of treatment. What would life have been like if she never got sick?  Sad that we can't give her those years back to be a healthy and vibrant normal little kid. 

Then I manually shift my thinking to the positive -  of how much she's grown in 5 years and how lucky we got, the incredible friends we met along the journey (Kate, Donna, Megan, her incredible doctors), the invaluable lessons we learned, the appreciation for life - a better perspective.



 We were lucky.  We got to keep her.  It's a constant reminder of what really matters in life.  Observing is a unique lesson we got out of this.  People act so strange sometimes - they hold possessions near and dear, spend years seeking revenge or harboring resentment, or work at jobs they hate, spending time with people they don't like, etc.  They forget what matters most - but we never will.  That was the gift from this experience.  We appreciate and are grateful for pretty much everything these days.

So with that said, hug your loved ones tight, remember what really matters and don't take anything or anyone for granted - every moment is a blessing.

Thanks for taking this journey with us! We will be reaching out for the CureSearch Chicago 2017 Walk soon and would appreciate any support - they do a great job backing childhood cancer research and protocols.

Love,

Edan Joy Gelt, Gene Khalimsky, Maddox Khalimsky, Kennedy Khalimsky and our furry son Jaxon.