"Kirstyn's Givin' Cancer the Smackdown" is the theme of one 11-year-old girl's fight against a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. Kirstyn Wilwerding loves school, sports, her friends and family, and today they will be holding a bake sale outside of Bev's Real Kids at 2822 F St. in Eureka from 10 a.m. until they run out of baked goods. Anyone who would like to donate or buy baked goods can drop by any time during the day. For more information on Kirstyn or the event you can check out her Facebook page at TeamKirstyn.
It all began with Kirstyn noticed a lump on her foot. What was supposed to be a quick trip to the doctor to have it removed turned into a phone call from the doctor with devastating news.
The response from her family was immediate. "When I received the call from the doctor, it was devastating," said Kirstyn's father, Mike Wilwerding. "He told me the bad news and that the biopsy came back positive for clear cell sarcoma, cancer of the soft tissue. I fell to my knees."
The family was referred to Lucille Packard Children's Hospital where Mike Wilwerding heard what he described as another crushing blow: "We found out that not only does she have cancer, but she has one of the rarest of all cancers. It is said to be extremely aggressive and must be met head on with extremely aggressive treatment."
As the news sank in, Mike Wilwerding and his wife Sarah, who has been Kirstyn's stepmom since the girl was 1 year old, held tight to each other in shock and wondering how this could happen to their little girl.
The next step was to break the news to Kirstyn. "As expected, Kirstyn responded with powerful and inspiring positivity," Mike Wilwerding said. "Kirstyn is truly an amazing young lady. She is full of positive energy, and throughout the years she has displayed that energy in basketball, softball, cheerleading, soccer, ballet, gymnastics, and swimming. Now she has channeled all that positive energy into fighting, so cancer has picked the wrong little girl!"
Kirstyn had a follow-up appointment on Jan. 24 to make sure she was healing well. It was just before that they received the call that it was cancer. The Wilwerdings describe walking around for about two weeks not being able to wrap their minds around the nightmare and thinking, "This is not really happening to our little girl." They do not deny the flood of tears from all her parents and many others, but they stayed strong and positive stating, "That is the best way to help Kirstyn fight."
This type of cancer usually spreads to the lungs first and cannot be treated with chemotherapy. Tests have shown that it has not spread at this point, and the Wilwerdings say are very pleased.
Kirstyn will have to go back to Lucille Packard every month for a checkup and every three months for a scan to check her lungs and foot. "It is horrific that any child would ever have to go through such a heart-wrenching and difficult situation," said Sarah Wilwerding.
Sarah Wilwerding shares, "Kirstyn has been a rock. She is so thankful for everything that has been done to show her love and support."
Kirstyn has a large and supportive family behind her. "When we first found out it was gut-wrenching devastation," Sarah Wilwerding said.
"My daughter is one of the strongest people I know," Mike Wilwerding said. "If you were to ask Kirstyn about her cancer, you'd get a get a big smile, a joke, and little laughter, and then an 'I'm going to kick its butt!' My daughter's strength has truly been an inspiration."
The family set up a Facebook page for Kirstyn and ask, "Please share your love for Kirstyn and show your support! Kirstyn is an amazing girl with a great soul and is oh so very loved by so many and together she WILL beat this."
Kirstyn has a card drive going through her Facebook page 'Kirstyn's Givin' Cancer the Smackdown' and the family is very excited about this stating, "It keeps a steady flow of positivity coming in."
"It's my belief that it's her strength that has got many of the loved ones around her through this terrible situation," Mike Wilwerding said. "Kirstyn will never stop fighting. She's just amazing like that. If there's one thing I know, it's that cancer is strong, but nowhere near as strong as my little girl!"
Sarah Wilwerding works at Coast Central Credit Union and they have set up an account in the name of Michael Wilwerding under 'Kirstyn Donations'; donations can be made via mail to Wilwerding, P.O. Box 3645, Eureka CA 95502, or via PayPal on Kirstyn's Facebook site.
Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon
Home from Lucille Packard Children's Hospital and ready to fight, Kirstyn covers her crutches with teal zebra print duct tape.