Kelsey was life flighted from Blank Children's Emergency Department in Des Moines, IA to St. Mary's Hospital (Mayo Clinic) in Rochester, MN on Saturday June 18, 2011 because of a cancerous brain tumor. She had a biopsy on June 22 and shortly after began having seizures and swelling of the tumor and was not expected to live. She was in the PICU for over two weeks and while there, on July 8, had a VP shunt put in to drain the excess spinal fluid that was accumulating. As a result of the swelling she had left sided weakness that also caused her vision loss on the left side and she had trouble with her short term memory. On July 28 they had to put in a second VP shunt because the first one became plugged. From August 9 to August 20, 2011 she had to have 4 more surgeries all related to shunt issues. The doctors told us that it was very likely she would never walk again. On September 15, 2011 she finished radiation to shrink the tumor and she was able to come home. She began outpatient therapies for her left sided weakness and memory difficulties at Blank Children's Pediatric Therapy. She started chemotherapy 4 weeks after completing radiation. In October, 2011 she had an MRI that showed the tumor was shrinking, however in January 2012 the tumor had started to grow again so on January 13, 2012 she underwent yet another surgery, this time to remove as much of the tumor as possible, approximately 90%. She restarted chemotherapy in February 2012.
Her one true love was dance and prior to her diagnosis she was a competitive dancer. She began taking private dance lessons at her studio in the spring of 2012 and despite the predictions of her doctors the previous summer, Kelsey was able to dance in her studio's recital in June of 2012.
She was doing well and getting stronger until the fall of 2012. In October, a three month check-up at Mayo Clinic showed that the tumor was once again growing despite the current chemotherapy she was on. When she was given this news she said, "I'm afraid this tumor is going to take my life but I'm not worried about where I will go if it does." Her doctors suggested that she be enrolled in a clinical trial for a new experimental drug and she began that chemotherapy in November. Her health noticeably deteriorated during the first month of the clinical trial and an MRI done on December 6, 2012 showed that the tumor was continuing to grow and was in fact bleeding inside itself. The difficult decision was made to stop all treatments and take her home and make her as comfortable as possible for whatever time she had left. Kelsey passed away peacefully at home surrounded by her family and friends on December 10, 2012.
Kelsey was a fighter and through all of this she kept her positive attitude and even continued to have her trademark "million dollar smile." Even though she was battling cancer she still managed to reach out to other people. Her unshakable faith in Jesus Christ was a driving force in her life and an inspiration to those she came into contact with.
To follow Kelsey's journey through media stories view the following:
First Dance: Kelsey's Comeback Continues
Keep Dancing: Remembering Kelsey
Teen's Brave Battle Ends
Services Set: A Young Life Remembered
Team Kelsey: Keeping Teen's Spirit Alive
Honoring Kelsey: Drake Holds Fundraiser
Team Kelsey Foundation