A Sedalia family is hoping to bring awareness to childhood cancer by telling the story of their journey with son Kaizler Wood, 4, who was diagnosed with Pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Dec. 23, 2015.
Rachel and Tony Wood, of Sedalia, have five other children, Uriah, 2, Canyon, 6, Nylah, 8, Arianna, 9, and Zoe, 11. Until December, life for the family was busy but normal until Kaizler fell ill with fever and joint pain. Within two days his mother noticed his lips were pale and she decided to take him to Riverside Pediatrics. Two complete blood counts showed his hemoglobin at 5.6; normal is 11 to 13. A further test at Bothwell Regional Health Center again confirmed the low count.
A Christmas diagnosis
Riverside Pediatrics told Rachel that Kaizler’s symptoms could be a viral infection or it could represent leukemia. They recommended Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.
“It’s interesting the way perspective works, because I never prayed so hard for a virus before,” Rachel said. “I was like ‘oh please God let it be a virus.’”
On Dec. 23, 2015, Kaizler was diagnosed with Leukemia and life for the family changed quickly.
Rachel said she woke up in the hospital room to hear one of the doctors talking to her husband.
“They were telling him pretty much, that he had leukemia,” she added. “Not a good thing to wake up to.”
Dr. Joy Fullbright confirmed the diagnosis, a port was placed into Kaizler’s chest, and on Christmas Eve, he had his first chemotherapy treatment. When diagnosed, Kaizler’s case was listed at standard risk but was soon upgraded to high risk.
“They expected him to go into remission by the end of the first month, and he didn’t,” his mother said. “He didn’t go into remission until the end of March. When he didn’t hit remission at the end of January, they placed him in high risk.”
Cutting off the curls
A bright point in Kaizler’s life was when they decided to have his curly hair cut off April 12, in preparation for more chemotherapy. Sedalia Police Department officers arrived as well as friends to offer their support.
“He had awesome hair, he didn’t want to shave it, I didn’t either,” Rachel said.
SPD Officer Casey DeVorss and several others had their heads shaved at Rock N Rollers Hair Studio as a sign of solidarity for Kaizler. DeVorss also presented Kaizler with a SPD cap and a policeman Build-A-Bear.
Rachel noted it was a pleasant surprise that SPD officers and the others were there to support Kaizler.
“He thought it was pretty cool,” Rachel added. “Especially when they let him play in their cruiser and let the kids talk over their speaker system. It was pretty fun.”
A family under stress
Taking care of a sick family member, especially a child, is something many people don’t understand. Kaizler’s father said “people from the outside looking in” may not realize the stress involved day-in and day-out.
“You just really don’t have an idea until you are there,” he noted. “Whether it’s a co-worker or friend or family member or even just an acquaintance there is really no way to truthfully know and understand the stress, and the exhaustion, and the fear and anxiety. Even with trust in God, all those things still come.”
“We trust God, if God ever decided to take Kaizler, we would trust him 100 percent on that,” Rachel said. “It doesn’t mean we’d like it.”
“Just remember that if someone going through this, is a little short one day or a little unresponsive or they look exhausted it’s probably because they are,” Tony added.
“Even when nothing is going on, there’s a lot going on,” Rachel said.
A family with a seriously ill child is always on point. At the end of March, Kaizler went into remission, but by April 23 he went into a medical crisis. His blood sugar dipped extremely low, he went into seizures and became unresponsive and had to be life-flighted to Children’s Mercy. The family said they thought they were going to lose him.
Tony, who works at McCarthy Toyota in Sedalia, added that it was the “scariest day” of his life. He was working at a different dealership in Blue Springs that day and decided to stay in Kansas City and meet Kaizler at Children’s Mercy.
During Kaizler’s stay there, Rachel said the oncologists and neurologists conferred and could not determine exactly what happened. The family believes it could have been related to his chemotherapy treatments.
“He was on anti-seizure medicine for three or four months and then we were able to wean him off, because the EEG didn’t show any seizure activity,” Rachel added. “They really don’t have any idea, but I’m sure it has something to do with the chemo.”
Remission doesn’t mean cure
Kaizler has stayed in remission since March, but when a child goes into remission it doesn’t mean they are in the clear. The cancer could return and it often does. Chemotherapy continues as maintenance and will continue for Kaizler until April 14, 2019.
“A lot of people think that means we’re done or that it’s not scary any more,” Rachel said. “That’s not the case at all. That just means he didn’t have a traceable amount of leukemia cells in his blood.”
Tony and Rachel said the prayers from their church, First Christian, and from other people in the community has given them strength this past year.
Since Kaizler’s treatment is ongoing, the couple also hopes to host a benefit auction sometime in the future.
“To prepare for any possibilities in the future, while the hope is that it never comes back,” Tony noted. “The realistic scenario is that we know several individuals whose children are on their third and even one child on their eighth battle with cancer. The realistic option is that it could very well come back.”
The couple has set up a “Prayers for Kaizler” Facebook page where they give updates on Kaizler and their journey with childhood cancer. They welcome people to join the page.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.