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Ducking cancer

Faith Kearns, center, was diagnosed with leukemia in June.

Faith Kearns was diagnosed with Leukemia at 7 1/2 years old. She had been lethargic and sickly for several weeks when her parents took her to the doctor. The doctor ran a blood test and the results were alarming. She was admitted to the University of Minnesota Amplatz Children's Hospital later that day.

"We were thinking mono," said Tom Kearns, Faith's dad.

Shortly after getting settled into their room, an oncology doctor told them the bad news. Faith would have to endure several more tests to precisely diagnose her disease, but she had leukemia.

Since Faith's diagnosis, her family has been on a rollercoaster of emotions. They have had to balance the daily struggles of a family of six while dealing with the reality that one of their own has cancer.

"When a family member has cancer it is the whole family that is fighting. The effects are on everyone," said Kelli Kearns, Faith's mom.


Faith Kearns loves ducks. She has dozens of stuffed ducks. She has a duck hat and duck slippers that she wears daily.

When she's nervous but needs to respond to something, Faith will give a quack. Faith's doctors have learned a quack from Faith is a good thing.

Faith recently celebrated a birthday. She's now 8 years old and hopes for many more in the future.

Although young, Faith has endured a lot in her short time on this planet. She was born at 1 pound 10 ounces. When she was born, Tom said he could fit his wedding ring around her leg. She spent 114 days in the hospital before she finally joined her brother and sisters at home in Rosemount.

When she was a toddler, Faith's parents could tell something wasn't quite right. After bothering the doctors about it, they discovered that Faith was deaf. That diagnosis led to nine surgeries, including bilateral cochlear implants, which help her hear.

To combat the cancer, Faith has undergone five lumbar punctures, six at-home chemo infusions and two chemo infusions with hospital stays. Over the next two years she will continue treatment including at least four more lumbar punctures and more rounds of chemo.

She also had to be held out of school this year because her immune system isn't strong enough to fight off illnesses. Kelli said Faith started homebound services for school last week. She uses Skype to connect with her teacher daily and gets two in-home visits a week.

For her birthday, Faith's class used Skype to sing her happy birthday. Kelli said it was bittersweet because while Faith enjoyed the gesture, it was also a painful reminder that she couldn't be with them.

"Faith just wants to be an 8 year old girl who goes to school and can do everything she has always done," Kelli said.

Despite the difficulties, Faith has much to be grateful for too. She has two older sisters, Savannah, 16 and Jade, 14. She also has a brother, Sawyer, 12.

The Kearns are a loving family and despite the hardships are faithful.

"God is good and we know that. The fact we get to be these four kids parents is a blessing," said Kelli. "


"It's painful because it's cancer and it's scary," said Kelli of her daughter's disease. But she also has hope that Faith will overcome cancer and that her fight might help others in the future.

Faith's cancer is in remission but she will undergo treatment for the next two years. It's difficult, but Kelli said they will continue to fight for Faith.

"The prognosis is good. Her body is doing what it's supposed to do," Kelli said.

Tom added though that there will always be a risk that the disease could come back, which is why the family feels strongly about raising awareness about childhood cancers.

When the Kearns were told Faith had cancer the couple had to decide almost immediately whether to include Faith in a University of Minnesota study. Kelli said it was a difficult, emotional decision but they chose to make her part of the study.

Since making the decision Kelli said they have learned some harrowing facts about childhood cancers.

Kelli said every four hours a child will die from cancer and that funding for pediatric cancer is scarce. Of every dollar raised for cancer research, only one penny is spent on cancers affecting children.

While childhood cancer is rare, Kelli said it's devastating to those who are facing it.

"It does not feel as rare as they tell us it is," said Kelli. "Pediatric cancer funding and research is scarce and this needs to change. We know that the study we have Faith on will not directly help Faith, but hopefully other children in the future."

By raising awareness Kelli said they hope that others might join in the fight.


Over the summer, Kelli said their family has been shown a great amount of love. Many people have done things to help the family through this difficult time. Anonymous people have donated money, meals and a cleaning service to the family. Friends, family and community members also have stepped forward to help including two upcoming events.

"The support has been amazing." said Kelli.

The St. Joseph's Knights of Columbus will host a pancake breakfast from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 16 in the St. Joseph social hall.

Some neighbors and friends have planned a spaghetti dinner and silent auction from 3 to 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Rosemount VFW. Beth Wright said she hopes the community will come out and support one of their own. Wright said they are still collecting silent auction items if any businesses would like to donate.

While it's been a tough summer, both Tom and Kelli said they have been overwhelmed by the generosity people have shown their family.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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