'Just stay strong': Calgarians support teen battling rare cancer
Published Friday, June 21, 2019 4:13PM MDT
Last Updated Friday, June 21, 2019 8:00PM MDT
She may only be 16 years old, but Carolyn Kelter is in the fight of her life.
The Calgary teen should be finishing up her first year of high school and spending time with friends, but instead she spends her days confined to a bed, suffering from an aggressive form of cancer
“It’s been pretty bad, but definitely having the people I have around makes this a lot better,” she says.
In January, Carolyn’s parents took her to the Alberta Children’s Hospital after she woke up with severe abdominal pain.
“At first we thought it was appendicitis,” said Angela Kelter, Carolyn’s mom. “I was really rattled when my husband phoned me and said I should come back down to the Children’s Hospital because doctors had found a mass in her abdomen. Hearing that news was quite scary.”
Carolyn’s father, Tim Kelter, expressed the same shock.
“Through this experience, it’s just like I’m watching my kid drown and I can’t save her, I can’t rescue her from the pool, it’s just really hard.”
Doctors found a 13 cm tumour on her Carolyn’s kidneys. She was diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC), a rare cancer that affects the adrenal glands that sit on top of each kidney.
Carolyn proceeded to undergo two rounds of chemotherapy. The treatments were successful in shrinking the tumour by 27 per cent, but more rounds of chemo failed to yield better results.
It was clear from doctors that the only way for Carolyn to live was to remove the tumour.
Surgeons attempted a removal surgery in late May at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, but massive blood loss on the operating table led to another unsuccessful surgery.
Alberta Health Services says it will continue to do everything it can to support the Kelter family and called Carolyn a very “brave and strong girl.”
Unfortunately, some surgeries like this are more difficult to execute.
“We do perform these types of surgeries however ACC is a very rare form of cancer, and our teams at AHS therefore don’t have significant experience in such surgeries,” AHS said in a statement to CTV News. “Unfortunately, in some cases, our teams will recommend against further intervention.”
Following talks with oncologists, the Kelters determined the best option to save Carolyn’s life was to get the procedure done south of the border, but that comes with a high price tag.
With removal of the tumour as the only option and time against them, the Kelters sought help from the public.
As a result, the Save Carolyn’s Life GoFundMe page was created earlier this month to raise money for the best possible care.
As of Friday morning, the page had raised $139,673 of its $250,000 goal.
“It’s amazing, I didn’t expect that many people that fast,” Carolyn said. “I guess having a lot of people around you supporting you definitely made that explode.”
Still, through the costly consultations from specialists and countless hospital visits, Carolyn is staying optimistic.
In her spare time, Carolyn continues to practice her passions of cosplay and costume design.
The Children’s Wish Foundation has also granted her wish to visit Japan where anime and many of her costume inspirations were invented.
While the family waits for more news, the hope is that Carolyn won’t miss more school and especially precious time spent with her friends.
For now, the Kelters remain positive in finding more answers to save Carolyn’s life.
The 16-year-old’s message is one of positivity.
“Honestly, don’t take pity from others it’s a weak thing to do,” she said. “Just be strong.”
On June 28, the family is hosting a dinner benefit at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Centre where there will be a 50/50 live and silent auction in support of Carolyn's treatment.