Childhood cancer programs help young Wilms’ tumor survivor thrive
Kinsley Curley was only 3 years old when she was diagnosed with a stage IV Wilms’ tumor, one of the most common types of kidney cancer found in children. While giving Kinsley a bath in April 2017, her parents noticed a large bulge on the left side of her abdomen.
“She wasn’t in any pain, and she’d been acting fine and dancing around the house all evening. But her belly was really protruding, so we wanted to get it checked out,” explains Erica Curley, Kinsley’s mother.
Erica and her husband, John, took Kinsley to a Houston urgent care clinic. A scan there revealed a large tumor on their daughter’s left kidney. Doctors quickly sent the family to a hospital, which referred them to its nearby children’s facility. At the time, that hospital didn’t treat kidney cancers in children, so its doctors reached out to oncologists at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.
“Everything happened so fast after that, we didn’t really have time to process it,” Erica says. “Wilms’ tumors can double in size roughly every two weeks, and this one already took up most of the left side of Kinsley’s abdomen. It was compressing all of her other organs. If we didn’t get it out quickly, it might burst. So, it wasn’t one of those things we could really wait on.”
A stage IV Wilms’ tumor diagnosis
Within 48 hours of Kinsley’s fateful bath, she’d been diagnosed with a stage IV Wilms’ tumor and was undergoing surgery to remove both the grapefruit-sized tumor and her left kidney.
“On the one hand, we knew it would probably be OK, because she had two kidneys,” Erica says. “But on the other, we were both kind of sitting there, thinking, ‘Wow. What just happened?’ Because we’d been wearing the same clothes for two days, we hadn’t slept at all, and our 3-year-old daughter was about to have an organ surgically removed.”
The Curleys drew courage from the fact that Kinsley’s doctors thought she’d be cancer-free after the procedure — and that she was likely to live a long and full life.
“With only one kidney, Kinsley is never going to be a bull rider or play tackle football, but that was never really in the cards to begin with,” Erica says. “We’re just grateful that she’s doing so well now. Once the surgeons removed Kinsley’s tumor and diseased kidney, she only had a few small nodules left in her lungs. Her doctors continue to keep an eye on those today, but they haven’t shown any changes.”
Flexibility and fun make child’s Wilms’ tumor treatment less daunting
To prevent the cancer from returning, Kinsley needed 32 weeks of chemotherapy, and eight days of radiation therapy. That meant spending a lot of time at MD Anderson. But one thing that made Kinsley’s treatments a bit easier was her care team’s flexibility in scheduling them.
“Kinsley was supposed to start chemo in early May,” notes Erica. “But her first-ever dance recital was taking place that weekend. Her doctors said the treatment could wait a few days, so they bumped it back until afterward. We really appreciated that.”
“She really got into some of the art projects,” says Erica. “And she’s become quite the little artist as a result. But I think the camps were probably the best part.”
In fact, Kinsley was so excited by the prospect of camp activities a couple of years ago, that she asked her mother to adjust her appointments so she could participate.
“I was hoping we’d in and out of there in a couple of hours, but she made me stay in The Park at MD Anderson and read a book so she could play,” laughs Erica. “We went earlier in the morning to do all her tests and labs, and then met with her doctors later in the afternoon.”
Supporting programs that help kids heal — and be kids
Programs like those Kinsley enjoyed are among those supported by 7-Eleven and Stripes® Convenience Stores’ annual fundraising campaign. Since 2014, 7-Eleven and Stripes® have raised more than $5.8 million for MD Anderson through the campaign.
Funds raised benefit research and new therapies at MD Anderson. They also support the Pediatric Education and Creative Arts Program, which supports fun and educational activities for childhood cancer patients like Kinsley and their families during treatment.
“Kinsley is naturally so full of spunk that she never really acted sick, except for a few days after her surgery,” notes Erica. “But she’s doing great now, and she has really thrived, thanks to the camps and other activities. We’re so grateful for all of the children’s programs offered by MD Anderson — and the many generous people who support them.”
As an ambassador for this year’s campaign, Kinsley is featured on in-store paper pin-ups in more than 575 7-Eleven and Stripes® stores across Texas. During the month of September, customers can make donations at the register by purchasing paper pin-ups for $1 each.