A Nebraska mom is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with her husband and newborn daughter, but she is also fighting to ensure it’s not her last as she battles terminal cancer.
Kayla Hebenstreight, 34, had given birth to her first child in September when doctors told her only a month later that she had cancer for the fourth time. This time, it was terminal.
Doctors told Hebenstreight and her husband, Joe, that the cancer returned to her hip— the place it first formed in 2009— and had also metastasized to her lungs, according to the couple’s blog. Doctors said the cancer was inoperable.
“They gave her about a year to live, but that’s something that we’re not accepting and we’re doing everything we can to keep fighting,” Joe Hebenstreight told KETV.
Kayla’s fight includes a six-day stay at Nebraska Medical Center every three weeks for around-the-clock chemotherapy and care, the news station reported. The couple has also been traveling to Houston to explore clinical trials and possible treatment.
Joe and the couple’s infant daughter, Kendall Grace, spend time visiting with Kayla at Nebraska Medical Center, and the new mom is writing their memories down in a book.
“Now that we have her, it’s hard to think of losing that, but she makes it better,” Kayla told KETV.
Kayla’s battle with cancer began in 2007 when she was experiencing pain in her hip. Subsequent doctors’ visits and scans led to surgery in 2009 to remove a tumor, and results from the biopsy showed soft tissue sarcoma.
Kayla was cleared of the cancer in 2010 but received more devastating news that it had returned in 2012.
Now a newlywed, Kayla prepared for surgery again and she was cancer-free by January of 2013, according to the family’s blog. But in July, more scans revealed that it had metastasized to her lungs. More rounds of chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumors gave the couple the news they were hoping for, and they began planning their family.
“Typically she was getting scans every three months, but once she became pregnant, scans were no longer an option,” Joe told KETV.
The news the couple feared most arrived almost exactly a month after Kendall’s birth.
“There’s a fear, but you look at every single day as a new day and we try to make that day the best we can,” Joe told KETV.
The family has put together a support team called Kayla’s Crew, where they chronicle Kayla’s health and plan events to fundraise.
On Saturday, a spaghetti dinner and silent auction was held in the couple’s honor to raise funds for medical treatment and traveling costs.
“It’s a good time of year to be thankful for what you have and don’t take anything for granted,” Kayla told KETV.