8-year-old Kennedi Hay of Alexandria selected as a Relay for Life honorary survivor
This year's in-person event is set for Friday, July 9, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.
On Jan. 3, 2017, Kennedi Hay told her mom she had a stomach ache. Never in a million years did her parents – Trevor and Bobbi Hay of Alexandria – expect their daughter would be rushed to the Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis to have emergency surgery to remove a cancerous mass from her kidney .
Nine days after her surgery, on Jan. 12, 2017, Bobbi and Trevor found out their 4-year-old daughter had clear cell sarcoma, an uncommon type of kidney cancer.
Now, four years later, the spunky, happy-go-lucky, freckled-faced 8-year-old will be one of the honorary survivors at this year’s Relay for Life of Douglas County event, which will take place Friday, July 9, at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m.
Kennedi, who will be a third-grader at Lincoln Elementary School this fall, will be attending the event with family and friends, including her parents, and her 16-year-old brother, Zach.
Happy to be a survivor
Bobbi Hay said she was contacted by Sheri Fermoyle, who is on the Relay for Life committee, to ask if Kennedi would like to be one of the honorary survivors. Bobbi said she would have to ask her daughter and that she would get back to her.
At first, Kennedi wasn’t so sure, but after talking it over with her mom, Kennedi decided she would like to be one of the honorary survivors because she said, “It’s a good thing to share my story.”
Kennedi said that she is proud for being able to be one of the survivors because it meant she survived. Her mom said it’s a big deal for their family.
“It’s pretty amazing and we are humbled that people still think about Kennedi and care for her and our family,” said Bobbi. “We are happy for her that she gets to be a survivor.”
Kennedi is now excited to attend because she gets to be there and said she will have her friends and family by her side.
Bobbi said the community has been amazing the last four years and the family is so grateful and appreciative for everything that has been done for Kennedi. Just recently, she said, the family was nominated for a trip to North Carolina through the Healing Hearts Foundation. She added that Helping Hands of Alexandria was instrumental in making sure the family was able to take that vacation.
Kennedi enjoyed the trip thoroughly, noting that her favorite parts were collecting seashells and seeing wild horses on the beach and in the ocean.
Life after cancer
Kennedi has now been “cancer-free” for four years. In fact, two days before the Relay for Life event, on July 7, the family, along with some of Kennedi’s friends, will be celebrating with a picnic and balloon release at Noonan Park in Alexandria. This has now become a tradition for the family.
The balloons are always purple because that's Kennedi’s favorite color and she says it is not because of the Minnesota Vikings.
She loves the color so much that a couple months ago, she had her hair colored purple and may color it again. Kennedi said she gets to do whatever she wants with her hair now because she survived cancer.
“It’s just hair,” she said with a big smile on her face. “It’ll grow back.”
Her mom agreed, saying if her daughter wants purple hair, she can have purple hair because Kennedi is right; “It’s just hair.”
For the most part, Kennedi is now just your normal, typical 8-year-old little girl. She doesn’t have many limitations, although she can't swim in a lake, her mom said. She’s been in dance and was in softball. And she likes hanging out with her friends.
She's now at a point where her checkups at Children’s Hospital are only once a year. She does visit her regular doctor as often as her mom sees fit, which Bobbi said may be a little more than most children as she tends to worry a little more.
“The worry that the cancer is back is always there,” said Bobbi. “It’s that unknown. It’s always going to be there.”