Katie Kennedy, 13, middle, sits with her family, Dan, left, Karleen, right, and their dog, Tyson, on Wednesday at their home in Ridgeview. Katie, who was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in June, will receive what should be her final treatment in Denver next week.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Katie Kennedy, 13, middle, sits with her family, Dan, left, Karleen, right, and their dog, Tyson, on Wednesday at their home in Ridgeview. Katie, who was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in June, will receive what should be her final treatment in Denver next week.

Craig resident on path to cancer recovery, preparing for final treatment

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Katie Kennedy, 13, hugs her dog, Hunter, on Wednesday at her home in Ridgeview. Kennedy had surgery June 24 to remove 91 lymph nodes and her thyroid, and spent 17 days recovering at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction.

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Katie Kennedy, 13, holds one of her dogs, Scrappy, on Wednesday at her home in Ridgeview. Kennedy was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in June, but her prognosis is promising.

Craig resident Dan Kennedy used one word to describe his family’s summer.

Tragic.

Dan and his wife, Karleen, who live in Ridgeview, recently experienced a death in the family, and were also faced with news their 13-year-old daughter, Katie, had cancer.

“It has just been one thing after another,” Dan said.

However, since being diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer in June, Katie has recovered from surgery and is feeling much better.

The road to recovery, however, has been anything but easy on Katie and the family, Karleen said. Katie isn’t done with her treatments yet, she said.

Katie and family will head to Denver on Sunday to receive a radioactive iodine treatment. Karleen said they do not know how long the treatment will last, but doctors are optimistic about the outcome and Katie’s future.

“Hopefully it will be the one dose, and we can move on,” Karleen said.

On June 16, Katie underwent biopsy surgery, which confirmed she had cancer. She had surgery June 24 to remove 91 lymph nodes and her thyroid.

Katie developed complications from the surgery and spent 17 days in St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Karleen said.

“It was a tough go of it,” Karleen said. “Typically, those surgeries don’t require that long of a hospital stay. It was initially going to be a three-to five-day stay.”

After returning home from surgery, the Kennedys received a “huge blessing” from the community in the form of fundraisers to help the family get through tough times, Dan said.

Between two benefit dinners at Vallarta’s Mexican Restaurant organized by a friend, a silent auction and a bake sale, the family received about $8,000 in assistance, Karleen said.

“I wasn’t able to work because she needed 24/7 care,” Karleen said. “So, that helped pay the bills and the medical bills, and helped me stay home and give her all that care.”

Since the fundraising events, the family has been preparing for Katie’s treatment in Denver.

Katie started the school year as an eighth-grader at Craig Middle School, but is not in school currently.

“When we had to take her off of her meds to get her ready for treatment, it just wiped her out,” Karleen said.

Being out of school doesn’t keep Katie from enjoying life, however. She said she receives text messages from her friends showing support and asking how she is doing. Katie also keeps busy playing the piano and flute, and tending to the family’s three dogs, Tyson, Hunter and Scrappy.

“I think she is doing fabulous,” Karleen said. “I am very pleased and thankful for all the doctors and the nurses that had a big role in her treatment and follow-up care.

“They are very concerned and call often to check on her. Overall, she is doing great. She is a fighter, so we knew that she would get through it.”

Dan said he is glad the family is on the way to recovery.

“It was just a hard time,” he said. “I’m just thankful for the family and friends that supported us and prayed for us.”

The Kennedys agreed they have become closer as a family because of Katie’s diagnosis and treatment.

“You know, in the end, we have each other and we were each other’s support system,” Karleen said.

Katie’s prognosis is “very promising,” Karleen said.

“They are looking for her to be totally cured,” she said. “By the summer, she’ll be back to doing everything that she used to do. Things should be great, and hopefully just the one treatment.”

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