Kendall’s Journey: A Year and A Day
By Christine Speck
After eighteen weeks, fourteen expansions and 155 ml of saline, Kendall’s medical marathon with tissue expansion was coming to an end. Getting ready for her second surgery meant preparing for change, once again.
As excited as we were about having her become nevus-free for the first time, I found myself being nervous about this very change that we had worked so hard to bring about.
It was change that turned my world upside down last fall. The realities of having a child who required medical attention and special care hit me full force, along with my own insecurities and apprehension of what this process would entail.
Our first meeting with Dr. Wood had been on February 10, 2012. And now, one year and one day later, February 11, 2013 became the final surgery date that would begin Kendall’s nevus-free future.
I realized that Kendall’s journey, unique like the journey of many other Gillette families, had little to do with tissue expansion and EVERYTHING to do with looking beyond ourselves and finding joy in the unexpected.
This new perspective, although difficult at first, has resulted in an amazing experience. It’s an unforgettable chapter in Kendall’s storybook of life—one that has inspired us and others to spread love and acceptance when the world tells us otherwise.
Happiness was no longer something that happened, but rather a choice made each day–through every struggle and triumph. When the journey seemed too much to handle, it became an opportunity to look back on the breathtaking view and see how far we had come.
I recognized the importance of focusing on the value of the individual and not letting differences define or misshape my views. And I realized that we all have all have special needs—some just more noticeable than others.
I began to understand the importance of parenting my children to instill values that encourage acceptance and love of those different from them—teaching them to treat others the way they would want to be treated.
And mostly, my heart filled with respect and compassion for other patients and families who faced medical circumstances FAR greater than ours. Their bravery and courage kept me motivated through some of the most challenging aspects of this procedure.
Looking back, there is nothing we would have done differently. We found peace knowing the decisions being made were in Kendall’s best interest and that she was receiving phenomenal care at Gillette. As a parent, there was no greater sense of relief.
When the morning of February 11th arrived, we made our way to Gillette for an early surgery. Kendall did great–she was walking the pre-op halls, saying hi to everyone and making people smile as she rocked her hospital gown in true baby girl fashion.
During the first hour, a stream of nurses and doctors came in to talk with us, including Dr. Wood.
As long as I had dreamed and waited for this day, I couldn’t believe that we were actually here and this was finally happening–it almost seemed surreal.
Our minister said a prayer over Kendall before anesthesiology took her back to the operating room.
Then we waited.
Over an hour went by before surgery was completed and Dr. Wood came in our room to speak with us. He told us that everything went well–that he was able to remove the entire nevus and all that was left was a U-shaped scar on her scalp. We were thrilled to hear that things went smoothly and relieved to know that Kendall was nevus-free for the first time in her life.
It wasn’t until she was moved to post-op that the nerves started getting to me. When the time came for us to be with her, I let my husband lead the way. I was literally shuffling my feet so slowly that the nurses were telling me it’s okay, she’s great, it’s okay, come on…
As we entered the post-op room, I put my hands over my mouth and started crying–but this time they were tears of pure JOY. Kendall was all bandaged up, but she looked amazing!
As one nurse handed her to my husband, the other nurse smiled and told me to sit down in the wheelchair–she told me this time I didn’t have to walk her up to the 4th floor.
This made me cry again.
I couldn’t believe the transformation. I felt that all the stress, all the weekly hospital visits and expansions, all the extra care and medical attention that she had required—everything led us to this exact moment in time.
It felt good.
When this process began, a year and a day ago, I was wallowing in self-pity, finding her circumstance to be unfortunate for all of us. But her journey turned into an incredible experience—transforming our entire family on multiple levels.
Kendall’s last surgery became less about marking the end of her medical marathon and more about celebrating a new beginning—going forward with a new perspective, a new attitude and confidence that has made us stronger and better for having accomplished it.
We’re looking forward to the journey ahead.