By Kirsten Rintelmann
The Williamston Post
Four-year-old Kailynn Schneider from Stockbridge is fighting for her life at an age when no child should have to.
Instead of devoting herself to coloring pictures and watching her favorite cartoon,Tom and Jerry, her childhood now includes medical tests, surgeries, chemotherapy and the word cancer.
After suffering weeks from symptoms, on Oct. 1 Kailynn Schneider was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, grade III, an aggressive brain tumor located in her posterior fossa. The diagnosis came as a shock to her family. How can their once healthy and happy young daughter be sick and have cancer?
From her birth on March 30, 2010, Kailynn Schneider has been considered a blessing and a surprise to her parents, Jerry and Lisa, her brothers 19-year-old Logan and 15-year-old Jacob, as well as family and friends.
“I was so sure she was going to be a little boy when she was born.” said her father Jerry Schneider.”But I wouldn’t trade her now for anything.”
In her short life Kailynn Schneider has also, for the most part, never dealt with any serious illnesses.
“She was the easiest of all my kids from day one,” said her mother, Lisa Schneider. “She has never given me any problems… and she has hardly ever been sick, just minor colds and flus …”
All that changed on Sept. 1 when Kailynn developed symptoms that would lead to her cancer diagnosis.
“Back on Labor Day, she started to complain that her neck would hurt and that she didn’t feel good.” said Lisa Schneider. “Every time she’d say her neck would hurt she would also throw up and it kept happening again and again.”
Kailynn’s uncle, WMMQ 94.9 morning show producer Joey Pants, said Kailynn’s grandma, Mary Unruh-Schneider, noticed the symptoms, too. Mary is Pants’ mother and Jerry’s brother.
Kailynn “would wake up from a nap at my mom’s house and complain that her neck hurt and her head ached,” said Pants.
At her first visit to the doctors, Kailynn was diagnosed with juvenile migraines, said her father. On her second, she was told she needed to see a chiropractor. It wasn’t until she had an episode in the doctor’s office was she directed to go to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital for an MRI and then sent by ambulance to Ann Arbor’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, after the results came back.
“They wouldn’t say what it was,” said her father. “And it wasn’t until after her first surgery is when they finally diagnosed it.”
The results showed that Kailynn had a type of brain cancer called anaplastic ependymoma, grade III, in her posterior fossa. The doctors figured that she’d had the tumor about a year and a half, said her father.
Kim Zapor, cancer resource nurse for the University of Michigan Health System, said that
“According to Cancer.gov, children with posterior fossa ependymoma may present signs and symptoms of obstructive hydrocephalus due to obstruction at the level of the fourth ventricle.” said Zapor. “They may also present ataxia, neck pain, or cranial nerve palsies. In children, approximately 65-75 percent of ependymomas arise in the posterior fossa.”
Kailynn is being treated at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and has had three surgeries. The first two were to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Approximately 85 percent of the tumor has been removed, according to her mother. The third surgery was to put in a shunt to remove fluid on her brain that had built up.
Kailynn has also had to overcome other complications. According to her mother, the nerves that control her speech have been affected and her voice has changed and is fainter. Additionally, Kailynn is dealing with sixth nerve palsy which affects her depth perception and is drawing her eye inward.
“With her eye there is a possibility that it will correct itself, but there is also a surgery that can help correct it,” said Lisa Schneider.
To remove the rest of the tumor, Kailynn must now go through chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Because the remaining 15 percent of the tumor is tightly attached to the nerves in her brain, the hope is the chemo will shrink the tumor enough to safely remove the rest of the tumor without causing Kailynn Schneider lasting effects. The first round of chemo began Dec. 8.
While medical and other expenses have taken their toll on the Schneider family, there has been an outpouring amount of moral and financial support. On Nov. 9, Ellie’s Country Kitchen hosted a benefit dinner called “Kickin’ it for Kailynn” between 2-7 p.m.
The benefit was created and organized in just three weeks by Tammy Farris and Kailynn’s aunt Sabrina Neuman Schneider, wife of Joey Pants.
“Having a benefit is heartwarming, but it’s also so sad and emotional because it means that someone needs your help,” said Farris.
All proceeds went to Kailynn and her family. Food supplies were also donated by five sponsors, which included All State insurance agent Cliff Hart, Ben Stiffler, D&G Equipment of Williamston, Dan’s Services Cleaning, and combined sponsors Leroy Twp. and Williamston fire departments.
Brian Stiffler, cook and owner, said that 464 meals were served and food sales and tips totaled around $11,000.
“That’s the most I’ve ever done,” said Brian Stiffler. “That is nearly a weeks worth of sales and we did that in just five hours and all the money went to the family.”
Ben Stiffler, also believed that the benefit was a success for both the restaurant and for the family. Ben Stiffler is Brian’s brother whose been involved in the family restaurant and also a city councilman in Williamston.
“In the 27 years since we’ve been open, we’ve never had that many people come through the register and in just five hours.” said Ben Stiffler. “After closing, we only had seven orders left to give and that was after we had substituted items after selling out.”
The Living Arts dance studio next door to Ellie’s Country Kitchen was rented to hold the overflow of people that could not fit in the restaurant. Along with a meet-and-greet with the Schneider family, donated items were also raffled off,
The money from the dinners and the raffle totaled more than $15,000 for the family.
“The support we’ve received from the benefit, the community, and prayers really helps.” said Lisa Schneider. “I want to thank everybody for everything they have done for her and us.”
Kailynn and her family still have a long road ahead of them, but a lot of support is behind them.
To follow and support Kailynn’s fight visit:
Money donations can also be given at: http://www.gofundme.com/kailynn