PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Cheyannah Palmer Ortner will turn 4 on September 18. She has rather unusual plans for her birthday.
Cheyannah will have surgery to remove a tumor and her kidney.
Like many girls her age, her favorite princess is Rapunzel. She loved her long hair. But a week ago — after losing some hair during chemotherapy — she shaved her head, and her dad shaved his, too.
“It’s been surreal,” her mother, Amber, told KOIN 6 News. Her daughter went to the hospital July 25 after complaining of severe stomach pain.
“She came and said, ‘Mommy, my tummy, my tummy.’ It was, like, 5 in the morning. She was screaming.”
Cheyannah’s left kidney is engulfed with a tumor the size of a small watermelon, Amber said. The tumor, a Wilms Tumor (in the nephroblastoma family) requires surgery.
Wilms Tumor is the most common form of kidney cancer in children, and becomes much less common after age 5.
Amber said Cheyannah was a miracle baby. All during her pregnancy, Amber had health issues. “For 9 months I carried this child, not knowing if she was going to be born alive or with defects,” she said.
When the news about the cancer came, Amber, her husband Bryan Palmer, friends, family and the community seemed to all come together.
“We have a great team behind her but that doesn’t take away the feelings of, ‘Is my daughter going to make it?'”
“You always think the best for your kids. You think they’re gonna make it and do things at certain ages and go to school and all this, and now there’s all this uncertainty if my daughter is going to make it through this next year of her life.”
The one person who seems strongest is Cheyannah herself.
“When this child is telling me, ‘I’m fine’ and ‘No, I’ll be OK’ and stuff, I tear up because I still see her going through chemotherapy,” Amber said. “She’ll tell me sometimes, ‘Its going to be OK’ or ‘I’ll be fine.'”
They’ve taken to social media to get the word out, both for support and help and to spread awareness of childhood cancers.
A kickball fundraiser at Gradin Community Sports Park is set for Saturday, October 1. Cost for teams is $30, cost for spectators is $10. Sign up: KickinCancerPDX@gmail.com
“We wanted the story to be known,” she said. “We didn’t want to sit at home in the dark and say, ‘Our kid has cancer, boo hoo.’ We wanted to go out there and say, ‘Our child has cancer, this is what we’re doing to save her life and we want everyone who wants to be involved to be involved.'”
Amber, who said she routinely worked 60-hour weeks, has taken a leave of absence to be with Cheyannah during this time. Various fundraisers have been held and more are planned.
“Just the help and support, it’s taken us to where we can relax a little bit versus being scared all the time,” Amber said.