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  • Lending Hearts

Kennedy's Story

On Thursday, February 1, 2024, our friend, Kennedy, and her family were recognized at the 2024 Lending Hearts Gala presented by UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, Pirates Charities & Bristol Myers Squibb.

The following is Kennedy's story as shared by her mom, Jenn...

Kennedy is an energetic 8 year old that loves to swim, play outside, play softball, basketball & craft.  She is also a Girl Scout.  During Halloween of 2021, when she was 6 years old, she became very tired and weak while trick or treating. This was very unusual for her. She started to not feel well the days following.  After a few trips to the pediatrician, the doctor thought it was just a common virus.  When things were not improving, we went to the Emergency Room at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. After bloodwork and several tests to figure out what was going on, she was diagnosed with Leukemia quickly in the ER which was a total shock to our family.Through further testing it was found she had the most common form of childhood leukemias called B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (B-ALL).  Her world immediately turned upside down.  After having a port implanted and spending 2 weeks in the hospital undergoing intense treatments, she was able to come home.  She started to lose her hair and had to switch to cyber school to complete first grade.  She loved going to school in person so this was a very difficult change for her.  She had the most awesome Hopewell cyber teacher, Mrs. Kristen Nan, and finished first grade right on schedule!   


Kennedy's treatment plan has included several phases with different types of procedures and chemo including a clinical trial drug to prevent relapse. She did have one setback along the way with one particular chemo drug that has been used since the 1950's.  This drug caused her liver to stop working properly and landed her in the PICU.  After 60 doses of medication to reverse the issue she was back to herself!


Kennedy has been in treatment for a little over two years and has been a trooper through the numerous hospital stays and long clinic visits.  It was during one of these long hospital stays that we saw a pamphlet for Lending Hearts. It had been almost a year since Kennedy was active in the community.  This was due to staying in because of the risk of exposure in the middle of the pandemic.  One of the first activities that Kennedy was able to do in person since she was diagnosed a year prior was attend a movie at the theater with Lending Hearts!  It was such a blessing to be able to finally get back to doing something out and to have the love,  protection and understanding of people that knew what she was going through.  Since then, Kennedy has enjoyed many fun activities with Lending Hearts and looks forward to them each month.  Activities have included everything from making your own pizza at Caliente pizza shop to attending a Pirates game and getting to go out on the field pre-game as well as meeting with the players like David Bednar and getting to ask him what his favorite food was!  It has been wonderful to be able to connect with other Lending Hearts families in different parts of their treatment journey and share as well as learn from their experiences. 


In January 2023, Kennedy was able to return to In Person learning at Hopewell Elementary School to complete Second Grade. Her in person second grade teacher was also a childhood cancer survivor and was treated by some of the same doctors that we have seen at Children's!  


Kennedy is now in Third Grade!  She has also returned to participating in fast pitch softball, basketball, Girl Scouts and swimming. We are so very proud of her and all that she has continued to accomplish and she has not let Leukemia hold her back. Kennedy is in the maintenance phase of her treatment plan and will have her very last lumbar puncture and spinal chemo this month.  She is on track for her last day of treatment to be February 28th and has plans to Ring The Bell on February 29th!  In 2021, the year 2024 seemed SO far away!  We would not have made it through this journey without the support of organizations like Lending Hearts, countless family, friends & teachers!


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