Jenna Kroon - Rhabdomyosarcoma survivor

When she was only eight months old, Jenna Kroon was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a highly malignant, soft-tissue form of cancer found usually in children and young teens. After a year of treatment and additional follow-up care at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, Jenna was declared free of cancer. But the Kroons knew they had only just started on the road to recovery.

“It took four to five years for her body to return to normal after the chemotherapy,” says Jenna’s father, Norman Kroon. “She took diet supplements and practiced healthy eating habits. Now that she is older, it’s a little different.”

Although her treatment has ended, Jenna continues her annual screenings and now understands the importance of these follow-up visits.

“The hardest part was seeing so many doctors,” Jenna says, remembering her countless follow-up visits. “But it took the pressure off because I knew that I was getting better and that it wasn’t coming back.”

Jenna’s mother, Maryanne, has spent countless hours at her daughter’s side through treatment and now for appointments at the hospital’s Childhood Cancer Survivors Clinic.

“We have stayed at MD Anderson because I believe in finishing what you started, and it has been the best way to keep track of Jenna’s records and schedule,” says Maryanne. “A lot of people don’t understand how important the follow-up is. You have to finish it — it’s the whole purpose; the follow-up is as important as the treatment.”

Facing survivorship and its challenges

During finals week in December 2010, Jenna, then a senior in high school, realized something was wrong.

“I felt tremendous pain for a few days. It was like my bladder was pressing against my stomach. One night, I really couldn’t sleep so we went to the emergency room,” Jenna says. “At first they said it wasn’t serious, but I knew it was more than that.”

Eventually, Jenna underwent a five and a half hour surgery to remove a benign desmoid tumor in her abdomen. Then in June 2011, she had surgery to remove her gallbladder.

Giving back

Today, Jenna is enrolled at Lone Star College in Houston and has a strong passion to become a surgeon.

“As I got older, I began to understand what I had been through,” Jenna says. “Since my doctors were able to help me, I want to help them back. I love helping people.”

While Jenna still lives with pain from her latest surgery, she keeps busy with kickboxing, school and her health.

“I take the medications, but I just deal with the pain. I find support through my family,” she says.

The Kroons, like many survivors, are not letting their experience with cancer and its late effects slow them down. They remain active with MD Anderson, continuing their follow-up visits, travel to a variety of countries and keep involved with school and extracurricular activities.