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Uinta County Fights Cancer ~ Part 5: ‘Mommy, there’s something hard in my tummy’

Posted: Friday, Jul 26th, 2013

Kyle Barker

EVANSTON — Summers spent at the ball fields or soccer fields are something most Evanston parents have become accustomed to — watching their kids run, play and have fun. And, if you’ve been a parent at the ball fields, you’ve also been the parent who hears “Mom, I can’t find my...” — you fill in the blank. Finding gear, team T-shirts and tennis shoes can sometimes make for a frantic dash to get to the game on time.

The Barker family was having just such a day, getting their then 5-year-old son, Kyle, ready for his tee ball game, when Kyle noticed something a little funny in his stomach.

“Mommy, there’s something hard in my tummy,” Kyle told his mom, Genny. Genny felt his stomach and, instead of heading to the ball fields, they headed to the emergency room.

The “something hard” was a tumor on Kyle’s bladder. Rhabdomyosarcoma — a cancer that makes up only three percent of all childhood cancers — was the official diagnosis. Kyle had gone to his regular “well child” doctors appointment just a few months before, with no sign of his tumor at that point. 

Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City would be almost home to the family over the next few years, as Kyle’s first round of chemotherapy and radiation would only prove to shrink the tumor, not rid him of it. At that point, doctors had to take a more aggressive approach to his cancer, which also was much more difficult for Kyle.

Twenty surgeries, two rounds of chemo and radiation, shots, blood transfusions and lots of medications would be a huge part of Kyle’s — and his family’s — life over the next three years. Doctors had to remove half his bladder to get all of the tumor. Even now, Kyle has another surgery scheduled in August on his foot, trying to repair some nerve damage that he sustained throughout the course of his treatments.

“Sick, being sick. Threw up a lot,” Kyle said of what he remembers of his experience. Fortunately, he remembers only a little of his ordeal. “I liked that if you wanted ice cream, you could get it.”

A dog named Oliver, with his owner, Sherry, regularly visited Kyle in the hospital. Sherry and Oliver volunteer at the hospital to cheer up the kids who are going through their illnesses. Kyle said he and Oliver formed a special bond, and Sherry always made sure to find him when they visited. Sherry also brought Kyle Yankees memorabilia on occasion. 

Other visitors included Kyle’s classmates — who also “Skyped” with him sometimes — friends, family members and some of his parents’ co-workers. One of Kyle’s favorite visitors was his grandpa, who Kyle said always found ways to make him laugh. Through it all, Genny says, Kyle had a can-do, easygoing attitude that all the doctors were impressed with. 

After the Make-A-Wish foundation approached the family, Kyle was torn between his desire to go to a Pittsburgh Steelers football game and his ultimate wish of going to Disneyworld. Disneyworld won out in the end, and the family was able to spend a week there recently.

But, in an amazing twist of events, one of Genny’s co-workers was able to help come up with discounted tickets to the Steelers when they played the Broncos in Denver, making both of Kyle’s wishes come true. That trip may have even been a little more special, as Kyle got some serious “guy” time with his dad, Brian. 

Now 9 years old, Kyle is the youngest of three and the only boy in the family. Sisters Alli and Hailey were there through it all. Both his parents, who are teachers — Brian a fourth grade teacher at Uinta Meadows, and Genny a guidance counselor at the high school — said they were truly touched by how much everyone in the community helped their family. Co-workers would cover classes so they could be with Kyle, fundraisers were thrown and people they didn’t even know showed their support. The family said the doctors and nurses at Primary Children’s and Evanston Regional Hospital were amazing, as well.

“The small things are pretty important,” Brian said. “We go camping more, Kyle rides his bike, plays sports, goes hiking and has fun. The family enjoys spending as much time together as possible.”

Just celebrating one full year being cancer-free in June, the family feels the danger has passed. This year’s Relay for Life theme is a birthday party, celebrating each new milestone. The family plans to join the party and celebrate, especially now that they have so much to be excited about. They plan to pull Kyle in a wagon for the survivors’ lap at this year’s relay, as Kyle will have surgery on his foot the day prior to the event. Brian says he hopes to form a team this year and walk, as well. 

If you are interested in putting a team together, joining a team or just need someone to share your story with, contact this year’s Relay for Life coordinator, Diane Harris, at Compassionate Journey, (307) 789-8316.

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