Doctor’s give girl 2 days to live, 12 years later she’s giving back

Kaelyn Adams wants to help other children diagnosed with cancer.
St. Jude Patient Kaelyn Adams celebrates 10 years cancer-free.
St. Jude Patient Kaelyn Adams celebrates 10 years cancer-free.(Cal Adams)
Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 7:45 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2022 at 8:29 AM CDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - You never know how strong you are, until it’s the only option. Kaelyn Adams learned her strength at just 5-years-old. Her father, Cal Adams, said hearing that diagnosis was tough.

“When I took her that last time and he looked at me and said ‘I don’t have anything good to tell you.’ That she’s got a tumor the size of a football in her chest. And he said, she may have two days to live... and these were his direct words, ‘the only hope she has is to get her to St. Jude hospital as fast as you can.’ So, we left his office and stopped by our house and I picked up my wife and we drove on to Memphis that night. They were waiting for us at the door,” he said. In a matter of hours, this family’s life was turned upside down.

Doctors at St. Jude diagnosed Kaelyn with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. It’s aggressive, but so were Kaelyn’s treatments. While at the hospital, Kaelyn had a Child Life Specialist named Cara Sisk who helped the family understand the treatments and she made sure Kaelyn didn’t miss out on her childhood.

Three months later, Kaelyn was able to leave the hospital. Her bills totaled more than $500,000. The Adam’s family didn’t pay a dime. Kaelyn’s father, Cal, kept a briefcase of all the bills as a reminder to himself and others the gift St. Jude gave him. “I can tell people I didn’t pay a bill, but until they see it, that’s why a visual is so important.”

”St. Jude gave me my daughter back,” he said. Kaelyn is off to her first year in college. She’s studying to be a Child Life Specialist at Tennessee Tech. She just found out her professor is Cara Sisk, her CLS when she was a patient at St. Jude. ”It’s like this whole full circle moment,” said Sisk. ”When we were reintroduced, her dad expressed gratitude, which was really special because that meant I made an impact in their life,” she said.

”St. Jude made sure that I didn’t miss out on anything and I want to give that to back to a child going through the same thing,” said Kaelyn.

September 10 is the Knoxville St. Jude Walk/Run. You can join and help raise money for the hospital.