Mighty Blog

True chemistry: how clinical trial combined with a love for science brings Kyla to Children’s Minnesota

Kyla is someone who loves to learn and has an appreciation for science. She graduated college with a degree in chemistry in 2022 and landed a job in a lab. However, her professional career was suddenly put on hold when doctors found an ovarian tumor. But her appreciation for science and research would play a big role in her fight and recovery.

Diagnosis and surgery

Kyla began noticing signs something could be wrong in spring 2022. She was having abdominal issues, pain and trouble eating. A bad case of nausea brought her to the emergency department where they performed a computed tomography (CT) scan. That’s when everything changed, the CT scan revealed a large tumor around her abdomen. Kyla needed to be admitted to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a germ cell tumor on one of her ovaries.

Only a few days later, Kyla had surgery to remove the tumor and one ovary. The tumor itself weighed 10 pounds and was 14 inches long! Fortunately, it had not spread to any other part of her body. But because the tumor was so aggressive, she would still need to undergo chemotherapy.

Clinical trial brings Kyla to Children’s Minnesota

The chemotherapy used to treat Kyla’s type of tumor is strong. It commonly causes severe nausea and vomiting that can last several days after chemo. There’s also a risk of kidney damage. As Kyla was looking at her treatment options, she learned that the cancer and blood disorders program at Children’s Minnesota was participating in an open clinical trial that offered a less aggressive chemo treatment plan.

“I leapt at the chance to come to Children’s Minnesota to sign on to the trial,” remembered Kyla.

For the trial, participants were divided into two groups: experimental or control. Kyla was placed in the control group, which meant she would receive the original aggressive chemo medicine. While she had hoped to receive the less aggressive chemo treatment plan, she was still happy to contribute to cancer research nonetheless.

“Knowing that being part of a trial has the potential help kids, teens and young adults diagnosed with cancer in the future was exciting and made the experience worth it. So much can be learned from this,” said Kyla.

With her love of chemistry, Kyla also enjoyed learning about the science of chemo medicines. “I learned a lot I didn’t know before!”

Caring for kids… and young adults!

Kyla was cared for by the kid experts in the Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer program at Children’s Minnesota. It’s specifically designed to meet the needs of cancer patients between the ages of 15 and 29.

According to National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), teens and young adults with cancer often do better with treatment approaches that are tailored to children rather than those designed for older adults. For Kyla, the expert and compassionate care she received made all the difference.

“From the doctors, to the child life specialists and to the palliative care team who were so willing and excited to make the experience better however they could. The nurses were all fantastic. They always looked out for how they could make the experience more pleasant, tolerable and enjoyable,” described Kyla.

After chemo

Kyla completed her chemo in September 2022. Scans show no evidence of disease at this time and, fortunately, it doesn’t appear like the treatment has had any lasting effects. She is taking a few months of downtime after being diagnosed with cancer and going through chemo. Kyla looks forward to finding a chemistry job soon and getting back to her love of science!

Nick Petersen