Focused on Giving Back
Childhood is meant to be a carefree time of life. But for 30-year-old San Antonio native Kyree Kayoshi, a diagnosis of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) when he was just 10 years old became a defining marker of his childhood. “I’m different today because of the experience,” explains Ky. “As hard as it was, I would go through it again because it has taught me to persevere through anything in life.” Ky recalls vividly the day in 5th grade that his life was forever altered by his cancer diagnosis. “I was weak and having trouble walking due the pain in my bones and joints, so the school nurse called my mom to pick me up.” Ky’s mother took him to the ER at St. Luke’s Hospital in San Antonio where he was diagnosed the same day with ALL and transported to Methodist Children’s Hospital for treatment. Under the care of pediatric oncologist Dr. Jaime Estrada, Ky began treatment with chemotherapy, and eventually underwent a stem cell transplant in 2002 because of relapsing after a year of treatment. The transplant required for Ky to undergo whole body radiation and high doses of chemotherapy. “The transplant was a long process that required me to be in the hospital for 100 days,” explains Ky. “I needed rehabilitation afterward to help walk and regain strength. Fortunately, the transplant was successful, and I’ve been in remission ever since.”
Today, Ky is working with his former pediatric oncologist at Methodist Children’s, Dr. Estrada, in mentoring other young cancer patients through the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Support Group, an important part of the AYA Foundation San Antonio, an organization Dr. Estrada founded to provide economic, educational, and psychosocial support to young cancer patients aged 15-39, and their families, who are in active treatment or post-therapy survivorship.
Ky says he still recalls the emotional and physical struggle involved in his battle with cancer and how grateful he was for the support he received from family and hospital staff. “I’m an only child, and my mom is a single parent, so she was a great source of strength for me as well as my extended family,” he says. Ky also remembers the support he received from the child life specialists at the hospital, who helped him learn to manage anxiety with practical suggestions such as deep breathing exercises. “Dr. Estrada and his team were extremely encouraging,” says Ky. “I was fortunate to have a family-oriented medical team that was very supportive.”
Ky says in his role as a mentor, he hopes to help other young cancer patients learn how to readjust to their previous lives when their treatment is completed. “Rejoining life after having cancer is difficult,” he explains. “You’re different from the experience but also others tend to treat you differently. I want to prepare survivors for this as well as educate others to be more understanding and aware that survivors just want to be treated the same.” Ky, who is completing an internship with the Nature Conservancy and pursuing a career in human resources, says his childhood battle with cancer is a major part of who he is today. “For that reason, I wouldn’t change anything about it because it taught me so much about how to fight through obstacles and appreciate life,” he adds. “My calling now is to give back to something greater than myself.”