top of page

Kiah Kicks Cancer in the Butt

When little Kiah was diagnosed with cancer, she and her mom Jaya focused on this mantra: “We are going to kick cancer in the butt.” Kiah’s diagnosis was discovered not only during the pandemic but soon after a painful divorce between her mom and dad. First, Jaya had to move Kiah and her older brother Zehn to a one bedroom apartment, where Jaya had to manage remote schooling for both kids. Then Kiah got diagnosed with oral bone cancer as a result of a well visit to the dentist. The concerning finding on the x-ray turned out to be a tumor. “We got very strong and resilient from this experience,” Jaya says. 

What followed were multiple surgeries, month-long stays at the hospital and 17 rounds of high intensity chemo. Kiah was also enrolled in a clinical trial due to lesions found in her lungs. As a family they came up with the idea of having 17 gifts Kiah could look forward to opening after the completion of each brutal chemo cycle.

Kiah had complete jaw reconstruction surgery to remove the tumor. She still has no teeth on the left side, but must wait until after puberty to get dental implants. Though she has trouble eating, as well as severe nausea and smell aversions from the chemo, Kiah loves food so has found ways to compensate. Asian foods—with the flavors of basil, cilantro, garlic and ginger—especially appeal to her changed taste buds. 

Unfortunately, the lesions in Kiah’s lungs have not disappeared, and she is constantly in the hospital for various side effects of the continuing treatment. But on days off her mom and brother try to make life fun for Kiah. They go to movies, the circus, playgrounds, and long walks around NYC with Kiah in the stroller. She lost her hair but often wears fun beanie caps made by her mom or patterned scarves. Kiah loves outdoor activities, arts and crafts, Valentine’s Day, slushies and her big brother Zehn. When she saw him after being in the hospital for a week, she was so happy she literally jumped onto him, almost knocking him down with her excitement despite him towering over her four-foot tall body.

For a while, Jaya couldn’t talk about her experience without getting emotional. Things changed when ECF connected her to other families facing cancer and when ECF caseworker Caitlin came into her life, providing Jaya with emotional support that is helping her get through this ordeal. Caitlin found Jaya a new refridgerator when hers broke during a heat wave, as well as a comfortable, sturdy stroller for the family’s many trips into the city for treatment at Sloan Kettering. ECF also provided grocery gift cards to buy the specialty foods Kiah requires, a big help to single mom Jaya who had lost her teaching job during the first wave of Covid. “Caitlin has been a blessing,” Jaya says. "ECF is our rock, and we wouldn't have gotten this far had it not been for ECF." 

bottom of page