Pediatric cancer is the second most common killer of children, affecting between 12,000 and 13,000 kids in the United States every year. September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, making it the perfect time to introduce you to a little girl from Mayfield Heights who has a big heart and a powerful message.
“I want to get my message out there,” said Kayla Hoover. “Don't judge a book by its cover.”
Five years ago, Hoover's life changed forever.
“All of a sudden an ambulance is taking me to the hospital and the next day, they're doing major emergency brain surgery on me,” she recalled.
What started out as headaches and dizziness turned into a terrifying diagnosis: Brain cancer. She was just ten years old. The tumor was removed and Hoover went through treatment but three years later, the cancer came back. She has been fighting ever since.
“I don't know how she does it every day sometimes,” remarked her mother, Jennifer Radicella.
But what makes Hoover so remarkable is her bright, determined spirit through it all.
“I'm a small person and you don't think I can do half the stuff I can do but I want to prove that I can do that,” she said. “You don't judge anyone by how they look or how they act or whatever.”
“She's amazing,” said Radicella. “She really is. She's such a strong girl. She's touched a lot of people.”
That includes her doctors.
“She is very insightful,” noted Dr. Tanya Tekautz, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Cleveland Clinic. “She has a good understanding of what's going on, that she needs to continue her treatment, that she's sick, that things can change. But she's also very focused on living her life and going to school, doing things for other people.”
As a way to take her mind off of her disease, Hoover developed a love for knitting.
“I can also crochet. But right now I'm knitting,” she showed us.
That discovery turned into a project to spread hope and love to fellow pediatric cancer patients by making hats for kids at Cleveland Clinic Children's.
“I've been through it and I know when you're stuck in a hospital, it's not fun,” Hoover said.
Those who have met her say Hoover’s strength is nothing short of inspirational. And at just 15 years old, she is teaching wisdom even to those much older than her.
“I was always told find the positive in the negative,” she said. “Find the positive and turn it around and make the best. Like some things, you can't but look at the good inside of it.”
Hoover also sells her hats on Etsy and donates the money to help children with cancer.
She says there is a lot she wants to be when she grows up, including a chef, an artist and an MRI tech. A local restaurant is giving her cooking lessons and she will be testing those skills out soon by cooking a big meal for her entire family.