Briony Karsyn Aden, age 9, of Gothenburg will be the youngest Relay For Life Honorary Chairperson at the 2019 event and she is celebrating being a “normal kid” again after extensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments last year.
“Cancer made me appreciate just being able to be a normal kid again,” Briony said. “I had a hard time adjusting to being in the house and away from friends, school and dance. I love being able to run around, go shopping, and just be out in public again!”
But in early December 2017, she put school, sports and her beloved dance classes on hold and learned all about cancer instead when a tumor was found via an ultrasound at Gothenburg Health. The Aden family was sent straight to Children's Hospital in Omaha where doctors performed a biopsy and placed a chemo port.
The results came back on December 15, four days after Briony’s 8th birthday. It was the day she was officially diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilm's Tumor that hooked into her vena cava. Wilm’s tumor is a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children. Also known as nephroblastoma, it’s the most common cancer of the kidneys in children. The vena cava is a major blood vessel that returns blood to the heart.
Briony went through six weeks of chemotherapy before her surgery to remove her kidney and the tumor. Doctors had to remove part of the wall of her vena cava as well. Once the tumor was removed, they found a section of anaplastic cells and labeled her as high risk for relapse.
Because of this, the chemo regimen was changed to a longer, more aggressive form. Briony spent nine months on chemo, with rounds of single day treatments, as well as five day-long treatments where they stayed inpatient at Children's. She also received six doses of radiation to her tumor site. She completed treatment on August 17, 2018 and had surgery for port removal in October of that year.
Through it all, Briony’s parents Andrew and Megan, as well as sisters Kinzie, age 12 and Luna, age 3, were standing strong with her.
What follows is a mom’s perspective as well as a nine-year-old cancer survivor’s perspective of having cancer in the family.
Megan: “As Briony’s mom, first hearing that she had cancer just put me into complete shock. I didn't even realize until we got to Children's that they assumed cancer. We got the call after her ultrasound and all they could tell us was that her kidney was three times the size that it should be. Our entire trip there, and being admitted that evening are a blur. And then they started talking about starting chemo. I was a mess, but did my best to keep a brave face for Briony. And the entire staff, from our oncologists and her surgeon who were on call that evening were amazing in assuring us that Wilm's was treatable and we were in the best place for her treatment.”
Briony: “My first reactions to hearing I had cancer were confused and scared.”
Megan: “Briony's spirit is what really kept us strong as a family. She stayed so positive and upbeat throughout the entire experience. That and the amount of support from our community, friends, and family. We so appreciated the way that so many people, a lot that we didn't even know, rallied around us and came together to help out in any way possible!”
Briony: “Everyone praying for me kept me going. I knew that God would help make me better. And I loved all of the visits and sweet gifts from my friends and family.”
Megan: “As Briony’s mom, cancer changed the way that I looked at life in every aspect. We really learned to not take a single day for granted!”
Briony: “My message for anyone that gets diagnosed with cancer is to just fight it, and believe that they can beat it! My goal for the future is to continue in school and dance and sports, and to become a pediatric nurse and dance teacher.”
This is the Aden family’s first year being involved with Relay for Life. Briony and her family feel honored and excited for her to be an honorary chairperson this year!
“As rough as it is to talk about, spreading awareness is so important to us, especially when it comes to pediatric cancer,” Megan said.