Just shy of her fourth birthday, McKynsie Jones seemed like a happy, energetic child until everything changed one fateful day in June 2015.
“We remember seeing signs and symptoms progressing rather quickly,” recalled Jennifer, McKynsie’s mom. “She wanted to suddenly nap for hours at a time, and then complained about walking and using her arms to do simple things like pick up toys. A few days later, she had bad bruises all over her body from head to toe.”
McKynsie went from playing in the pool with her sister one minute to barely responsive and deeply exhausted the next. Her mom called the doctor’s office and took McKynsie for blood work. The results showed low hemoglobin, enlarged liver and spleen, and issues with her bone marrow.
The family doctor recommended Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for McKynsie’s lifesaving pediatric oncology. Its outpatient clinic sees more than 400 visits a month, and the recovery rate at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Fort Myers far surpasses the national average.
There, McKynsie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. “I think what we remember most is how quickly life turned upside down. We had to learn to keep faith over fear, because each day brought new challenges,” said Jennifer.
“She would be happily playing one minute, then out of nowhere, she’d spike a fever requiring her to be rushed to the hospital because her immune system crashed. Rather than taking it day-by-day, we had to take things minute-by-minute because with childhood cancer, things can go from one extreme to the next so very quickly and completely blindside you,” she added.
McKynsie’s battle was especially difficult. She reached a point during treatment where her family was unsure of her future because she was so sick, and they began to prepare for the worst. However, the incredible team of doctors, nurses and staff at Golisano Children’s Hospital was able to save her life despite all odds.
Treatment protocols at Golisano Children’s Hospital are provided at the same level of excellence as other nationally known cancer centers. That means the families who call Southwest Florida home can stay close to their support network of friends, family and colleagues, while their children still have access to the best in pediatric services and oncology.
“Barbara’s Friends helps families tremendously while they are struggling with the devastation that cancer can bring. It can be books to occupy kids while waiting at an appointment, movies for families to enjoy together even if confined to the hospital, games to play while waiting for chemo to run, and help for when families are out of work and feeling very lost about which way to go,” explained Jennifer.
“A donation to Barbara’s Friends is very important to so many families that are trying to adjust to a new norm for their family,” she added. “Donations truly do help families focus on being there for their child, rather than worrying about the financial burden cancer brings.”
McKynsie has been done with treatment for three years, and dreams of being a teacher when she grows up. In the meantime, she will be giving back to her community by participating in Clips for Cancer, an annual fundraiser for Barbara’s Friends that benefits young cancer patients whose families may require financial assistance during their stay at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
On Friday, September 11 at 8 AM, McKynsie will shave the head of Ralph Ketron, the assistant chief of administration for the Lehigh Fire Control and Rescue District. “I am shaving my head to support the children who have survived cancer as well as those that are still battling, and to bring cancer awareness to our community,” Ralph said. “Having the opportunity to bring joy and laughter to these childhood cancer survivors will raise their self-esteem and bring a sense of normalcy to their lives. A child’s smile is the gift that keeps on giving.”
To learn more about Clips for Cancer and donating, please click here.