September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Join us today, September 8, 2014 as CURE Childhood Cancer honors Kirsten Olander. Join our fight as CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time! Donate to Kirsten’s fundraising page.
Kirsten Olander, was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin Lymphoma in July 2012. She was 12-years old. Prior to this, Kirsten was a vibrant, athletic girl who enjoyed playing softball and hanging out with her siblings and friends. She was sweet and funny with a quirky side. She loved animals and wanted to become an orthodontist when she grew up.
Kirsten was a very easygoing girl who hardly ever complained about anything. In June of 2012 she had gone to one of her favorite places, summer camp, which she had been attending every year since she was seven. While at camp, she ran a low fever, broke out in a rash and went to the camp nurse. It wasn’t irritating her enough to keep her from horseback riding and hiking for miles caring a pack. After arriving back home, she started getting night sweats. But this didn’t stop her from going on runs with her sister in the Florida summer heat. Then she felt a lump near her collarbone. She was even reluctant to tell mom and dad because it was right before a summer trip to the beach. After she told her older sister, Magen, she was forced to reveal that the lump was there. This prompted a trip to her pediatrician. After a chest x-ray we were advised that there was a large mass in her chest. She was referred to Sacred Heart hospital in Pensacola, FL.
Her chemotherapy began right away and she completed the treatment regimen of two rounds of chemotherapy. She was always the favorite patient of the nursing staff. She was always cooperative and never complained. She had to be told over and over that it was okay to ask for medication when she was in pain. She then went on to have proton therapy radiation in December 2012. At that point, it looked as if the cancer had stopped growing and she looked forward to getting back to normal. Her hair had started growing back; she put some weight back on and even started practicing softball with her team again.
As part of the aftercare, she was to have regular scans to make sure everything was okay. She had a scan in February 2013 that showed the cancer had started to grow again. This was rough for her because she was feeling good and she was enjoying life again.
She underwent two more chemo treatments but they had little to no affect on the cancer. The cancer was growing on her lungs and her breathing was difficult. She was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator. The doctors tried an experimental treatment as a last-ditch effort to stop the cancer. Again, there were no positive results. She still wasn’t getting enough oxygen so she was placed on a more powerful ventilator (an oscillator). This oscillator required her to be heavily sedated and paralyzed so it did all the work of breathing for her. Her lungs were not improving and in fact, they were becoming more damaged by the prolonged period on the oscillator. After a week of no improvement and more decline, the doctors broke the new to us that there was no chance of recovery. We had to make the very difficult decision to take her off life support so she wouldn’t have to suffer any longer. As hard as it was to let her go, it would have been harder to see her in the state she was in. She passed away on June 12th 2013. She made it to her 13th birthday on May 12th. But that was her last.
Despite her tough battle with disease, she always maintained a positive spirit. This picture was taken less than two weeks prior to her death. She kept her special sense of humor throughout her ordeal. She taught us all grace under extreme hardship.
It is our wish to create a Named Research Fund with CURE. This will require a good deal of fundraising. Please leave a donation to help us honor her courageous fight. Her spirit lives on in our hearts but with this legacy her spirit will continue to inspire others to work towards a cure. Please help us today!