Going through the process of watching your husband and father of your children waiting to receive a liver to save his life, would take its toll on anyone, and Missy and the rest of the family were so thankful that Kevin had received his liver from a wonderful donor and was on the road to recovery. However, the trials and tribulations for the Kennedy family were not over.
In October, not six months after Kevin receive his liver, Missy said she starting not feeling well and had some cysts on her ovaries. The Doctor told her to go on a certain diet and she lost a bunch of weight, but during the whole time she still had a cough, they never thought much about. She was going to have her tubes tied and the cysts removed, but first, she needed to have an x-ray.
Missy said after she had the x-ray, “Dr. Adams called and said, ‘Hey Boss,’ that’s what he called me and I said what is it and he said the radiologist found something on your x-ray. I said now, after everything I’ve been through with my husband, just tell me and he said, ‘it’s kinda like a mass’,” Missy said. “I said like something small and he said, ‘it’s a pretty good size,’ I said like golf ball size and he said it was bigger than a softball. I said I bet I’ve got pneumonia and he then told me that he wished it was. They wanted to do a cat scan right then, Kevin and my mom were with me and Dr. Adams and the radiologist came out and said that it is a mass, it is a tumor, ‘we need to do a biopsy right away’.
“We had the biopsy and when they take the needle, there is this sound of air called pleurisy and I get the sudden pain and I said I’m hurting,” she said. “I’m sure it messes with your head and now I’m in pain, plus I still have the cough. Then, the biopsy comes back inconclusive.”
Missy went on to tell more of her journey. “This was the first part of January and within two weeks, we’d seen the surgeon, had the pet scan and the doctor had the ball rolling. On January 15th, I had my surgery. They went in and made two little incisions in my back and got a big piece of that tumor and by the 18th, I was in the James Cancer Center in Columbus, and we knew what it was, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, at stage 4, because of the size of it,” Missy said. “When we first found it, it was 10.5 centimeters, by the time I had my pet scan, it had already grown 2 more centimeters. Starting my chemo, it was a 12.5 mass. They then told us the insurance would not cover it all in Columbus and I needed to go to Portsmouth to have my chemo. Kara Jo Borland, who works at the cancer center, began to be my angel, she got me into Portsmouth, and I started my first chemo.”
Missy told of this time, of how she got really really sick would stay nauseated the whole time. She added they give you the anti-nausea medicine and steroid before you even start chemo, but she stayed nauseated the whole time.
It was during this time that Missy would go Wednesdays for a shot, and on Fridays for a bag of fluids, and Chemo took about five hours. She said by the next week she kinda felt like doing something, but then the following week, it would start all over. She finished her chemo on July 12th, barely a year, since Kevin had had his liver transplant.
During the time of Missy’s sickness with chemo, their son, Kody was a senior and she was missing so much, like his prom, he and his date wore their tuxedo and prom dress to the hospital. Missy’s sister face-timed the whole grand march for her to see everything. Then at graduation time, Mr. Pica, Minford High School’s principal came to Kody’s graduation party and told the family that if they needed anything for graduation, he could hold seats for them and Kevin said, “if you don’t care.” Pica said, “I can do whatever.”
Missy did great at the party, but come graduation morning, she was as Kevin said, ‘sick as a dog.’ Kevin went to church that morning and asked if they could pray that Missy could be okay for just three hours, long enough to go to graduation. They were taking photos and talking to people after, but when they got in the car to come home, she got deathly ill and they had to go to the emergency room. She had had her three hours, “the Lord took care of it,” Kevin said.
Both Kevin and Missy told the worst part of what they had to do when each was sick. Kevin said his, was having to shave her head. She’d lost most of her hair and had it cut really short, and it looked kinda cute, but after about three weeks, she would start finding hair on her pillow every morning. And she said to Kevin, “Can you shave my head?” He said that was one of the roughest things he’d ever done, keep in mind all he had been through and this was one of the roughest. They both said it is just like in the movies, where you see the girl with long hair in the shower and her hair comes out in handfuls. She’d brush it and it would come out in the brush. This did not include losing eyebrows and eyelashes, nothing on her legs and arms, that is just what chemo does. Missy told him that watching him go down that corridor to get his liver transplant was the hardest thing she ever did.
After ten treatments, Missy’s esophagus was burned from the radiation and it even hurt to drink water. They were back to her not eating and losing weight, but with determination, she continued the treatments and completed the seven that were left, even though it was burning her esophagus, she persevered. It will be three years this July.
On September 7th, she received her final treatment. Kevin stopped and got some coffee and he asked her if she wanted anything, because, at this time, she was only taking french fries and breaking them in little pieces and kind of nibbling them. Kevin ordered a coffee and apple pie and he got her iced tea and he said, “you want to try a pie?” He said he’d never seen such joy in someone’s face as when she took a bite of the apple pie and she ate it. “Oh, that don’t hurt.” As time went on, it became a family joke when they were out, ‘do you want an apple pie’?
Kevin and Missy’s children will need to get blood tests for Alpha One and blood tests, about every five years, because what Kevin had is hereditary. Missy gets checked every six months, Kevin sees the transplant doctor once a year, he has a chance of getting skin cancer and for his whole life, he has a chance of rejection and Missy can have recurrence at any time.
“Do you let this get in your way or do we put it away and let the Lord take care of us. We both came through these terrible things, but at the end of it, we both bought motorcycles,” Missy laughed. “You have a different perspective in life, the small things matter,” Kevin said, “like now if you’re at a picnic and you see a fly flying around, you think wow, because of everything you have been through, you are grateful that you didn’t think you’d get to see a fly, fly around. Things that aggravated you before, now you cherish the small things because you were so close to not seeing those again.”
When asked how the children feel about them riding motorcycles, they said sometimes they are like, “you’re gonna be gone all day?” Missy added you try to enjoy life more, just like the wind blowing in your face. “When we’re out on the motorcycles, I start talking to people and always try to let them know why we got the motorcycle, to show God’s faith, and a lot of people are intrigued by motorcycles, it opens up the door for us to witness.”
What their children went through, almost losing both parents while they were in Jr. High and High School, would have to have been trying. “I felt really pumped up when I thought dad was getting a liver, then to find he wasn’t, it’s kinda frustrating in a way, but being a Christian, I knew God had a plan and the time would come when he was supposed to have it,” Kody said. “God gave him the second chance for life, that’s what I tell people. He could have died, but ultimately it’s God’s plan, he’s supposed to live and go through and testify about what God did in his life through Christ in his story.
“Then when you find out that mom was really sick and your family had already been through so much. Mom felt so bad and it kinda worried me. I ultimately knew God had a plan, whether cancer would win or mom would win, God would be glorified in it and He’d get the victory,” he said. “She actually beat cancer before my first year of college, while I was away at Muskingum playing football.” Kody now attends Shawnee State, in the PT program and is Worship leader at Welcome Home Christian Fellowship.
Their daughter, Mckenzie graduates in May and plans to attend Shawnee State in the early childhood education program. Mckenzie said she didn’t think the transplant would happen, but was so glad when it did. And as her dad began to get better… mom gets sick. She said she did feel a bit like, “this is not fair.”
The Kennedys said Mckenzie is quite different from Kody, as she is quieter, doesn’t say a lot, unless it’s her friends, so she didn’t talk as much about everything. “When your mom and dad are sick, you don’t want to talk to them. Mckenzie would talk to her good Christian friends and her big brother Kody, of course, they became very close during this time,” Missy said. “This closeness will now carry them on through life, it’s a shame it had to happen, but that part is a blessing.”
She said with what they went through and could possibly go through again, they know their children have each other and will depend on each other. Both Kevin and Missy said now all of the unimaginable is passed, maybe one more person might be touched with this story.
Both the Kennedys are back to work full time, Kevin is a bridge & culvert inspector for O.D.O.T and Missy works at the SOMC Cancer Center and says she feel blessed every day to work and give encouragement and inspiration to others going through this journey.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins (740)353-3101 ext. 1928
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