Prior to 2016, Kaydence Sadler had the life of a typical child.
That all changed, just before Mother’s Day last year.
“From January until May (2016), every time she would get a cold, or a flu, her symptoms would worsen,” said her mom, Danielle Vandermolen. “One of the last things she got before we came to the conclusion of what she had, was she ended up with Fifth Disease – it’s a childhood skin condition.
“But what really led us to the diagnosis was she was covered, head to toe, with petechiae.”
Petechiae, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, are pinpoint, round red or purple spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding. They commonly appear in clusters and look like a rash.
“Our doctor here on Denman Island looked at it and wasn’t sure what to do so he called one of the pediatricians in Comox, explained that it looked like petechiae and they said we needed to get to emergency to get some tests done immediately. So we took her to St. Joe’s, and within a couple of hours we were told that Kaydence has leukemia and we had to fly her to Children’s (Hospital) immediately.”
They loaded Kaydence into air ambulance, flew her to Vancouver, and the family’s life changed.
“The next day we received her full diagnosis, and what the protocol would be.”
Kaydence was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), with a Philadelphia chromosome and CNS (cerebral and spinal fluid) involvement.
“The protocol was to have been two years of chemo treatment followed by radiation and a bone marrow transplant, to fix the chromosome deformity,” explained Vandermolen. “But after the second round (of chemo) she ended up with a fungal infection. Her lungs, liver and kidneys were riddled with this infection. Her bedroom at the hospital looked like an ICU room.”
Kaydence spent the entire summer in the hospital, with Vandermolen at her side throughout.
In September, medical staff recommended beginning the bone marrow procedure, which involved, first-off, finding a suitable donor.
Kaydence’s father, Raymond Dix, was a perfect match.
“I was truly relieved to find out I was compatible,” said Dix. “I didn’t want to wait any longer and have the situation stretch out. I got the tests done and we got the results back right away saying I was a perfect match, which was spectacular. I had a six per cent chance. So it was incredible.
“At the time, it was the only thing left. We had already exasperated every other resource.”
The transplant went smoothly and Kaydence began along the road to recovery, before a bit of a setback in December, which sent the family back to Vancouver.
Kaydence went in for a scheduled bone marrow biopsy, and followed that up with an intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
“By the end of the transfusion, she had spiked a fever. The next day, the fever had disappeared, but then that day, she was head-to-toe in what is called graft versus host disease.
“It’s a condition where the donor’s immune cells make antibodies against the patient’s tissue. So it’s kind of like her dad’s immune system and her body are… fighting.”
Vandermolen said the graft versus skin disease is currently under control, with the help of steroids.
“So far everything has worked out well, but she is at a very high risk for relapsing. If that would happen, we would likely need another bone marrow transplant.”
As a single parent, who is on disability income herself, Vandemolen’s finances have been completely depleted.
“This has put me into a whirlwind of, I have no idea what my next moves are,” she said.
“Just feeding my child, her dietary needs after the bone marrow transplant, are very restricted and regimented.”
Vandermolen said the community support the family has received to date has been heartwarming.
“That’s the thing about living where we live. Our community, I can honestly say, having lived here as long as I have, we are almost spoiled. When I look at what other (Children’s Hospital) families go through, some of them really struggle to get by. It hasn’t been easy for us either, but it’s amazing how giving the Comox Valley is. The community support, the love, and the emotion behind some of the programs we have in the community… most communities don’t have that.”
One such program is YANA (You Are Not Alone), which Vandermolen said has been a godsend.
“I feel blessed beyond belief at some of the support we have been getting,” said Vandermolen. “If I didn’t have YANA, I would have timed out at Ronald McDonald House a long time ago. You don’t time out here (at the YANA accommodations). That’s just amazing.”
Vandemolen has two children. Her older daughter, Elizabeth, is 10 and currently living with Vandemolen’s parents. Vandermolen said Elizabeth is coping as well as could be expected in such circumstances.
“She seems to be quite well adjusted, but yes, there have been times when she has been fearful for her sister’s life,” said Vandermolen. “But for the most part, she’s doing pretty well.”
For anyone looking to help the Vandemolen family, there is a crowdfunding page set up for Kaydence at https://www.gofundme.com/kaydencesupport
The crowdfunding page was originally set up eight months ago, and has been a critical resource for the family while it deals with all the expenses associated with Kaydence’s recovery process. There will be plenty of out-of-pocket expensed moving forward, including at-home occupational therapy sessions. The next purchase will be for some equipment to help with Kaydence’s mobility.
“We are trying to raise more money, to get a three-wheel jogging stroller that can hold 75-100 pounds,” said Vandermolen. “The reality of where we live is there is nowhere to walk with a wheelchair. So that would help us get Kaydence around more easily.”
In the long term, Vandermolen just wants what every parent wants for their children.
“I just want Kaydence to be a normal kid again – to be able to run around and play.”