Floydada 6-year-old inspires family to keep going as he battles second round of leukemia
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - ‘Heroic Hunter’ is inspiring his community and his family to keep going, as the Floydada 6-year-old battles leukemia for the second time.
His family juggles caring for him, work and paying the bills. His mom, Kayla Wells, says it’s a balancing act many families can relate to.
The kindergartner was originally diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia two weeks after his 4th birthday. He did chemotherapy, had his first stem cell transplant, and after spending months in the hospital rang the bell, signaling he was cancer-free.
Wells says she’s grateful for that period of peace in their lives. Hunter got to play baseball and go on his wish trip to Disneyworld. Nearly two years to the day after his first diagnosis, Hunter’s family found out he had relapsed.
“We never prepared for him to relapse, because after the first year we were like oh he’s made it a year, we’re confident, we’re happy,” Wells said. “There’s nothing worse as a parent than watching your child suffer.”
Since he relapsed in October, their life has gone back to hospital walls and road trips from Floydada to Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, along with caring for Hunter’s twin sister Ella. He recently received his second stem cell transplant.
“So, we do a week at a time. My husband is at the hospital with him now, taking wonderful care of him and we switch on the weekends. We’ll do that until the end of April,” Wells said.
Wells is the elementary school counselor in Floydada. Her husband Robert is a small business owner, and she says the bills keep piling up.
Wells says she can’t express her gratitude to her community, with local businesses donating proceeds from sales, Floydada donating entry fees from games, and several fundraising meals. The school district has also allowed her coworkers to share their PTO time. Even with all the help, Hunter’s treatment is expensive, and Wells says that worry adds to the hardship of seeing her child in pain.
“I’m pretty stoic when I’m here. I’m very outgoing, I’m very happy, I’m very positive. But admittedly, some of that is a front. It’s hard to come here and the bell rings and I’m used to seeing his little blond head run around the corner to come give me a hug and I don’t get that right now. Someday I will, but just not now,” Wells said.
Wells says their struggle is all too common, but more should be done about it. The National Pediatric Cancer Foundation reports only four percent of federal funds for cancer research goes to kids.
“No kid should get cancer, no person should get cancer, but we have to try harder. We have to do more. We have to look for answers and ask questions,” Wells said.
She’s grateful for how their community has stood behind them with fundraisers, but she says even more lives can be changed if people donate to organizations that fund pediatric cancer research.
She says 100 percent of donations to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation goes to pediatric cancer research. St. Baldrick’s Foundation provides support services to families through information, advocacy and support groups. She says you can donate to pediatric cancer research through Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and it has co-pay assistance programs to help families.
“Whenever you’re giving back to these larger organizations, they have a little more pull in their ability to help,” Wells said.
Through it all, she says Hunter has been her little hero, inspiring his parents to keep going.
“He’s always kept a really positive mindset. He’s kind of been, I just want to go home. I’m going to get out of here. And what he says is I’m going to get rid of this bug. That’s what he calls his cancer is the bug. I’m going to squash this bug,” Wells said.
Wells says there have been cases where children who’ve had a second transplant like Hunter have been cured. She hopes the same for Hunter, so he can go back to being a little boy.
“Frankly cancer will always be a part of his story, I just hope it’s not a part of his future,” Wells said.
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