Palatine mom named CureSearch publicity chairman
Edan Gelt of Palatine is a Chicago business consultant and mom of two -- Kennedy, 10, and Maddox 12. She's also the 2017 publicity chairman for the CureSearch Chicago Superheroes Unite! event.
Gelt became involved with CureSearch after her 4-year-old daughter, Kennedy, was diagnosed with leukemia on Feb. 2, 2012.
It all began when Kennedy began exhibiting strange symptoms like coughing, exhaustion, nausea and difficulty urinating over a two-month period. Despite numerous trips to the pediatrician, she remained undiagnosed.
It wasn't until the pediatrician ordered a blood draw, and after checking into Loyola Medical Center in Maywood, that they heard the devastating news -- cancer.
"It was a whirlwind -- the day after she was admitted, they surgically inserted a port and started chemo infusion," says Gelt.
"We met with Dr. Ricarchito Manera, a brilliant and kind doctor, who patiently sat down and gave us a protocol for her first 29 days, called induction. He explained that after induction, she would be put on a randomized study, backed by CureSearch. The study would be based on her risk assessment from a bone marrow test."
After a five-day stay, the family returned the next day because Kennedy had a fever that she couldn't shake. They spent the next month in the hospital, with Kennedy being poked and prodded, swallowing disgusting medication and having several blood transfusions, scans and tests during her stay.
"She was so strong, so resilient, and trusting. She morphed into a tiny superhero, and we called her Princess K," Gelt said.
Edan and husband Gene Khalimsky alternated stays at the hospital, becoming ships passing in the night. Their son Maddox, who was 7 at the time, cried when they told him about his sister -- more so because she got to have a sleepover and he didn't. He also didn't understand what leukemia was.
After two and one half years of chemo treatment backed by CureSearch, Kennedy had her port removed and the chemo ended.
"One of the greatest gifts CureSearch gave Kennedy was the lack of cyclins in her trial. The standard leukemia treatment includes cyclin therapy, which has been known to damage the heart. Because of Kennedy's risk level and the random protocol she received, her long-term effects of the chemo are less severe."
Then, on Feb. 2, 2017, Kennedy celebrated her "cure" date from cancer, and she became Gelt's forever superhero.
While Kennedy was in treatment, Gelt fundraised for the CureSearch Chicago Walk and helped raise awareness for the organization. Not knowing about CureSearch, her friends and family would donate to the American Cancer Society or Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Kennedy's behalf, but the funds weren't going directly to childhood cancer research.
"In fact, only 4 percent of funds go toward childhood cancer research. The problem is that children's cancer can't be treated like adult cancers because most of the treatments can be toxic to a child's body, damaging their organs, mental health and more. To treat childhood cancer, specialized protocols are needed -- like the lack of cyclins in Kennedy's protocol."
Gelt believes in CureSearch, not just because of Kennedy's outcome, but because every dollar donated goes toward funding lifesaving research.
While working on public relations for CureSearch, she personally met and lost superheroes who weren't as fortunate as Kennedy.
"Ana, Julissa, Tyler, Blake and so many others I met at the hospital while volunteering or while Kennedy was in treatment are no longer here to walk with us. It is for these amazing children, and children like them, that we need to continue to walk and fundraise for CureSearch," Gelt said.
The entire community is invited to join the Gelt and Khalimsky family to celebrate Kennedy and all children battling cancer -- true superheroes -- on Sept. 24 at Boomer's Stadium. Register at curesearchsuperheroes.org/Chicago.
CureSearch for Children's Cancer, a national nonprofit organization based in Bethesda, Maryland, works to end childhood cancer by driving targeted and innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time frame.
CureSearch is building a $10 million research pipeline to aggressively drive pediatric research grants and clinical trials that have a higher chance of becoming cures for children's cancer without the toxic side effects that plague current treatment options.
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