ConKerr Kid - Carly Stephens

In late June of 2010, our 15 year old daughter, Carly, told us that she was experiencing a sore throat. Not one to complain, she continued to enjoy being out of school and relaxing with the start of summer.

After 3 trips to the pediatrician over the next 2 weeks we received the phone call that would change our lives forever. Carly had leukemia. Our world came tumbling down and our lives as we knew it would never be the same. We were told to pack our bags like we were going to stay a while and get to CHOP as soon as we could.

We “moved” into CHOP from July 15, 2010 – March 21, 2011 where Carly received the most intensive chemotherapy that is given. She was diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) which is a leukemia diagnosed more in adults than children. She began chemotherapy July 16th. Her chemotherapy required her to stay in the hospital for 30-40+ days straight, return home for a week or two and then back to CHOP again for 30-40+ days again, repeating the same schedule for the next 9 months. Her diagnosis and therapy also required her to stay in her room throughout her entire stay. Carly never complained or felt sorry for herself throughout her lengthy battle with “Leuk.” Instead she faced each day with a smile, grace, and courage and was a positive force for fellow patients!

We will never forget the trip from clinic straight to the oncology floor on July 15th. It was all so foreign and frightening to all of us, a place I refer to as the cancer planet. The one comforting thing that we remember was that as soon as Carly was brought to her room, the friendly and warm nurses came in with individually wrapped pillow cases and let her pick which ones that she would want. As an adult, this put a smile on my face because as a mom, you are always looking for the smallest thing to comfort your child when they are sick…… matter how old they are! What a fabulous idea! Carly enjoyed them because the patterns were fun and colorful. We immediately asked where they were from and were told that a wonderful mom named Cindy Kerr began to make them for her own son when he needed to spend a great amount of time at CHOP as well. Since that day, we have had the pleasure of meeting Cindy and Carly has had the pleasure of making pillowcases with her. Carly even made one for another young patient. What a great way to spread a little happiness and have children think of others even when they are feeling so lousy. Carly’s pillowcases would change with the seasons and the holidays. Yes…..we spent most holidays in CHOP. I raved about the pillowcases in our caringbridge blog to friends in our community. Shortly after that, a group of moms from our town got together and began to sew pillow cases to help out the foundation.

Warding/fighting off infections, endless spinal taps, bone marrow aspirates, adverse reactions to the high doses of chemo etc. finally slowed down in May of 2011. We are happy to say that Carly is in remission and back to living her life each day to the fullest.She is still smiling with her big dimples and just celebrated her “Sweet 16” in June. Her extremely positive, mellow, upbeat personality got her through this incredible journey. The rest of us were left with no choice but to follow suit! Our community, friends, and family never left our side for one minute during this challenging journey! We cherish each day and the memories that we make together. Stay positive and fight the fight!!

- Suzanne & Bob Stephens (Carly’s parents)

You can follow Carly’s journey on Caringbridge