Hunter Kelley cancer free for more than year

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
07/23/2012 09:12 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Hunter Kelley holds a watermelon that he helped to grow at his family’s home garden in Chelsea, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Hunter Kelley and his mother, Kimberly, work in the family’s home garden in Chelsea, Okla. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CHELSEA, Okla. – In January, Cherokee Nation citizen Hunter Kelley and his family were told that his cancer was gone. He suffered from a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma that is mostly found in children.

At age 17-months-old, he was diagnosed with the disease, his mother Kimberly said in a July 2010 Cherokee Phoenix article.

“His right eye looked kind of like a lazy eye does. It just kept getting worse throughout the year,” she said. “… we were actually at the park and he started walking toward one of the tables and hit it on his right side like he couldn’t see it. At that point it was turning out a lot more and it was just going in its own direction several times a day.”

After four chemotherapy treatments, 25 radiation treatments, laser therapy as well as two surgeries to remove his eyes, Hunter has gone more than a year cancer free.

“Since then, he hasn’t hardly had any problems. He’s perfectly healthy,” Kimberly said. “I think we’ve had one sinus infection and that was treated and taken care of within a week…now he’s back to being a normal healthy playful Hunter.”

Despite dealing with retinoblastoma, Kimberly said there is a bright side to what her family has gone through.

“It’s helped me realize that you can’t take advantage of things. You can’t take things for granted. Before Hunter was diagnosed, whenever I was working, I missed a lot of things that I didn’t realize I had missed. Now I cherish the time with him a lot more and we’ve both grown,” she said.
She added that he gets great marks in school and throughout the ordeal he’s done things “that have blown everybody away.”

“With everything he has been through and his personal life…his abilities and stuff…he’s been able to grow and it’s helped me to realize where I want to be in life and what I want to do and what I will deal with and what I won’t deal with,” she said. “And who I’m going to bring into mine and Hunter’s lives.”

Kimberly said her son enjoys sports and music, and in the future she hopes to get him more involved with extracurricular activities.

“Next season I think I’m going to take him to a (Oklahoma City) Thunder’s game. He loves sports so we’re just going to have fun,” she said.

Kimberly and Hunter live in Chelsea with her parents, but in five years she plans to have a home of their own as well as have a teaching degree to use at the Oklahoma School For The Blind, which Hunter attends in Muskogee.

“We’re going be fine, no matter where we end up, what we do. We’re going be fine. I know that for a fact,” Kimberly said. “We’re taking it day by day. We’re just going have fun.”

Hunter now has two prosthesis that match the color of his eyes. Kimberly said he would not have to change out or size up his prosthesis for another few years.

“He only goes back to Memphis every 6 months now. Although his chance of a cancer recurrence are increased, we keep a positive mind and so far that has proven a great thing,” she said.

Kimberly said in a previous story that she wished she would have taken Hunter to an eye doctor, but now she says the doctors tell her he would most likely have had the same result.

“Parents should always take their children, even young children, to an eye doctor for checkups because an ophthalmologist can see something a pediatrician cannot,” she said.

According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 90 percent of children with retinoblastoma can be cured, although chances diminish if the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

jami-custer@cherokee.org


918-453-5560

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