Determined patient gets a third chance at life

At 15, Kayla Brown was a normal teenager with normal priorities: friends, high school, and extra-curricular activities, especially soccer. She trained year-round and never let anything get in the way of her athletic performance. So when she started to spend more time on the sidelines recovering from leg pain than playing on the field, her family and friends knew something was off.

After weeks of increasing discomfort, Kayla and her parents visited an orthopedic surgeon, who ultimately revealed the root of her pain: a cancerous tumor. Kayla’s doctor referred her to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where she received treatment in Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic. Though the road was tough, Kayla was constantly amazed by the compassion of her care team.

“The doctors and nurses in the Jimmy Fund Clinic do an amazing job of making you feel like you’re not in a hospital,” said Kayla. “They do their best to get you out and feeling good again.”

Throughout her treatment, Kayla worked hard to catch up to her peers by attending summer school and doubling up on courses, her grit and determination from the soccer field carrying over into her “new normal.” Ultimately, her diligence paid off and life began to go back to normal; she graduated from high school on time and started college. Finally, she was able to restart her life—or so she thought.

Right before turning 22, Kayla had a routine yearly exam at Dana-Farber. While she had no symptoms or obvious red-flags, she received some shocking news: the cancer was back.

Although the information was devastating, Kayla knew what to expect this time, and with the help of her already strong Dana-Farber community, she was confident she could weather the storm.

“I always remained pretty positive and that’s how I got through it,” Kayla said. “It’s what pulled me through the worst of my days.”

Today, at 29, Kayla is living cancer-free and is thankful not only for her doctors and nurses, but for those who contribute to Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund’s mission.

“People would call me a hero a lot when I was sick, but I don’t believe that I am a hero,” she said. “The people who donate the blood, donate their time, and their money, they are the real heroes. They are angels.”

Kayla got married in September 2018 and looks forward to starting a family, moving on with life, and continuing to be a supportive member of the Dana-Farber community. Grateful for the care she received at Dana-Farber, Kayla is truly taking advantage of each and every day.

“I got a third chance at life, so I don’t take it for granted. Every single day I am just happy to be here.”