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Kambria Grenfell

Oftentimes, we hear stories of children battling pediatric brain cancer, that somehow have a connection back to ChadTough. This was the case with 9-year-old Kambria Grenfell of Neenah, Wisconsin. One of our longest-serving and most dedicated volunteers, Ana Barnes, is a family friend of the Grenfells and brought Kam’s story to our attention.

Born on 8/23 at 8:23 pm, Kam has always been special. She loves art and gymnastics, and has participated in the Girls on the Run 5K (an event that encourages the development of self-respect and healthy lifestyles in young girls through running) for the last two years.

“She has always had such a kind heart,” said Kam’s parents, Rachel and Jerry. “She is always thinking of others over herself and finding new ways to bring a smile to our faces.”

But in early December 2020, while most little girls were making their holiday wish lists, Kam started to complain of dizziness. After a visit to her pediatrician that same week, the doctor attributed her symptoms to a slight ear infection and treated her with antibiotics. By the end of the month, her symptoms had worsened.

On Christmas Eve, Kam visited an ENT, a doctor Rachel had grown up with named Leah Curran, to follow up on her ear infection. Leah, having noticed a slight stagger and abnormal eye movement, recommended that Kam get further testing immediately after Christmas.

On Sunday, December 27, Rachel and Jerry took Kambria to Green Bay for an MRI. After waiting for what seemed like ages, a nurse told the family that there was a doctor on the phone who wanted to speak with them. The doctor on the line was Rachel’s friend Leah, who delivered the news that Kam had a mass on her brain. She instructed the family to head to Milwaukee Children’s Hospital immediately.

“My heart sank,” said Rachel. “Jerry and I both cried and set off to the Children’s Hospital right away, stopping at home briefly to gather some of Kam’s things and to hug our other two children.”

By Tuesday, the family was told that the mass on Kam’s brain was cancerous and inoperable. The very next day they were told the unimaginable — that Kam, their oldest child, had DIPG, and with radiation would only live months to a year.

“We both died inside,” said Rachel. “How can the most amazing person we know be slipping away right in front of our eyes? We cried for three straight days, but wouldn’t let Kam see our tears. We knew we needed to be strong for her.”

Kambria began radiation treatment on Wednesday, December 30, and the family currently commutes to the hospital five days a week for her appointments. She’s been responding well to treatment and chooses to remain awake to avoid sedation during the process.

Recently, Kambria experienced minor hair loss around her ears, the first symptom from radiation treatments. When Rachel explained what had happened, Kam simply giggled, rubbed the spot where her hair was, and announced, “I’m bald, but that’s ok. I have other hair to cover it up!”

Kambria has good days and very, very bad days. Her family asks for prayers as they battle to give their precious daughter more of the good days.

“I’m not sure how this journey will end,” said Rachel, “but our family is humbled by the amount of support and love we have been shown. We are praying and just keep believing that we are going to witness a miracle for our little girl.”