For Kendal’s whole life, she was inseparable from her twin sister, Kenedi. Born at 33 weeks, they spent 30 days in the NICU. At one year old, they celebrated their golden birthday in gold tutus, and like most twin girls, they wore the same adorable outfits. They learned how to walk and picked up on new words together.
But, unlike many other twins, they were both diagnosed with the same cancer.
Four rounds of harsh chemotherapy, plus fevers, line infections, CT scans, sedations for surgeries, multiple x-rays and loads of lab tests. They fought acute myeloid leukemia with every bit of strength their tiny bodies could endure. It wasn’t easy — the twins had to have tubes passed into their stomach via their nose so they could eat and spent 5½ long months in the hospital (127 days, to be exact).
Once their treatment ended and they were put into remission, they were considered low-risk by the doctors. As they recovered, they had to re-learn how to eat, among other things.
Seventeen months later, Kendal relapsed.
She had to be separated from her sister for the longest span of time ever, making the reality of cancer even more painful. “The twins had never spent a night apart before Kendal's relapse. Now, they've spent 20 nights apart (and many more to come),” says their mom, Abby. “They haven't even been able to touch each other … It isn't fair. It's not okay.”
Abby started noticing something was wrong with Kendal when her eyes swelled shut a few months after a routine baby check-up. She was fussy and had a low-grade fever. Her parents took her to the doctor again. They took urine and blood samples which showed she didn’t have enough cells in her immune system to attack bad bacteria or other organisms that invaded her body. Her fever worsened, her ear drum ruptured and she continued to have a gamut of tests. All the while, her family hoped for the best: that it was just a simple virus.
Just after Kendal had a biopsy, they got the news: the cancer was back, and with it, the tubes, medication, pills, pain and nausea.
Kendal started chemotherapy again in February, and is preparing for a big procedure called a bone marrow transplant (BMT) to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow cells with healthy cells. On top of chemotherapy, she has to take a variety of medications: some three times a day, some once a day, some only on certain days, some only with food. If she gets nauseous and throws up, she has to do it all over again.
“It’s still hard for me to even say that word. Relapse. But it’s our new reality,” says Abby.