At the age of 21, Kennedy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called “Ewing Sarcoma”.
Most recent statistics show there are roughly 3000 diagnoses per year and only ½ survive. Kennedy was committed to getting the word out about Sarcoma as well as supporting those who are battling this awful disease.
It was November 30, 2016 when Kennedy started having sharp pains in her lower right jaw from what we thought was an infection caused by the removal of her wisdom teeth earlier that year She was seen by her family dentist who instructed her to come in so he could take a look at her jaw and maybe help with her pain. Once the examination was over and a few x-rays were taken, the dentist felt something was wrong but it was out of his profession. He immediately called Northwestern Memorial hospital and set up an appointment for her the next day to see an oral surgeon.
Once Kennedy arrived at Northwestern she was immediately seen by the oral surgeon. It didn’t take long for him to tell her to go home and get clothes because she would be there for at least the next five days. The surgery was scheduled and took place on Friday, December 2nd, 2016 in which they took pieces of bone and tissue from her jaw for testing. During her stay, a PICC line was placed in her arm so that her antibiotics could be administered by her mom once they got home; A PICC line is a soft long catherter (tube) that’s inserted into the vein of a child/young adult’s arm, leg or neck. The tip of the catherter is positioned in a large vein that carries blood into the heart. It’s used for long-term intravenous (IV) antibiotics, nutrition or medications and for blood draws. NOTE, everyone is still assuming she was fighting an infection.
Once she was released on the following Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 she was told that a nurse would be coming to her home on Wednesday the 7th to provide training on how to administer the medication through the PICC line. That afternoon at 1:15 pm the phone rang and it was the surgeon calling to tell her and her family that the fragments of bone and tissue that were taken from her surgery was tested and it turned out to be Ewing Sarcoma, a cancer that’s normally found in children up to the age of 25. Needless to say, Kennedy had just turned 21 and had no clue of how long the tumor had been sitting in her jaw under her teeth.
One of the most troubling times in the beginning of her journey was, although she was diagnosed with cancer, the doctors didn’t know at the time what type of cancer she was fighting. This meant she couldn’t start chemotherapy or any other processes to help shrink the tumor.
On January 6, 2017, after finding out the exact type of cancer she was fighting, she was able to start chemotherapy. What the doctor’s explained to her was, her treatments would consist of a year’s worth of chemotherapy. It was broken out as, one day of treatment which would last approximately 3-4 hours then she would wait for three weeks and she packed up to stay in the hospital for five straight days. To add salt to a wound, the same day she found out she would be starting chemo, she met with the fertility specialist who gave her three options of preserving her ovaries so she would have the ability to one day have children.
After going over her options and making her decision, she was given a shot to shut down her ovaries to preserve them from being damaged from the chemo. This shot would not only shut down her ovaries but it also meant she would start early menopause which was a horrible process for her at the age of 21. To top off that same day for her, she met with another doctor who was the surgeon that came to explain how he was going to take her jaw apart. He explained that another surgeon would be operating with him who would be removing her fibula bone from her left leg and placing it in her mouth. After numerous visits to the hospital for chemo treatments, Kennedy’s surgery took place April 10, 2017. The surgery was a success and all of the cancer was removed.
After completing a year’s worth of chemotherapy, two surgeries and multiple doctor visits, Kennedy was back up and running and ready to get her life back on track. She soon enrolled at Chicago State University where she was a Marketing and Business major. Here are some of her accomplishments;
Vice President of her name sake Non for-profit organization, Project Kennedy 2019
Member of the National Council of Negro Women in 2019.
Member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., Omicron Chi Chapter, Spring 2020
Kennedy went two years cancer free until October of 2019 when she was re-diagnosed with sarcoma in her left arm and her spine. The cancer not only returned but it came back with a vengeance. Out of respect for her wishes, Kennedy didn’t record or document much that she wanted to share during her second battle, she wanted people to remember her as her authentic self and a smile.
Kennedy fought a good fight and her strength will never be forgotten.