Our Warriors

Jessica Meyer – Age 15

Jessica was born in Gallatin, Tennessee. Having battled childhood cancer herself she continues to spread hope and positivity to those around her. Jessica is the epitome of hope.
Jessica Meyer is an ambassador for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Make-A-Wish Middle TN, and Rally for Kids. She is also the 2015-2016 Tennessee Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion Ambassador.  Through Jessica’s ambassadorship she has been featured in national fundraising campaigns such as the “Put Your Money Where the Miracles Are,” “Band Together,” and as Cancer Crusher, an 18-episode Superhero-themed Public Service Announcement for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. You may also have seen Jessica in a 3-part series called “Candid Convos” featuring her interviewing Maria Osmond, Nick Cannon, and Ali Simpson. Jessica has a passion for public speaking and is a showcased public speaker at many events. Recently Jessica was the closing plenary speaker for the American Academy of Pediatrics Hospital Medicine’s annual convention in Chicago.  Along with Jessica’s love of public speaking she has also had her story featured in Hope Magazine, Look Book, and Nashville Lifestyles. Jessica has been trying her hand at writing, she is a monthly contributing writer to NOU, an online magazine that celebrates survivorship. Most recently Jessica has been appearing as a cast member with the “My 2nd Act Survivor Stories from the Stage”,a traveling stage production that brings the inspiring stories of cancer survivorship to major cities around the United States.  Jessica is on a mission to support organizations that help children fight pediatric cancer and raise funding for life saving research with a goal to educate and inspire others to find cure for pediatric cancer.  We are so excited to have her speaking this year. She is truly an amazing young lady.



Rylan Crouch

n November of 2017, Rylan became sick. He had several different doctor trips, labs, tests, and x-rays over the course of 6 days that gave us no definitive answer. Each day I would think he would surely wake up and feel better, but he didn’t. In fact, he kept feeling worse. After 3 days of nothing to eat, night sweats, and excruciating pain, I took him to the ER. He screamed in pain the entire ride to the hospital. Nurses, the Nurse Practitioner, and the Physician all suspected appendicitis. The Physician came in to examine him and explained to me that he would need a CT scan to confirm appendicitis, then they would plan to remove his appendix shortly after. Not long after the CT was complete, the Nurse Practitioner came in to tell us that Rylan’s lung had collapsed and immediately started him on oxygen. A few minutes later, the Physician came to the door and asked me to come with him Still not realizing that our world was going to be turned upside down just a few minutes later, I followed him as he sat me down. He explained that the CT scan revealed masses throughout his little body, with the main, biggest mass in his chest wall and near his heart. He explained that Rylan had to be transferred and he had to be transferred “ASAP”. Before I knew it, that tiny ER room was full of our closest friends and family…and the flight team. Rylan was air-lifted to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where he was diagnosed with Stage IV Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Though Rylan faced many complications, he completed his treatment plan and was declared in remission in February of 2018. 

Rylan loves the outdoors. He enjoys playing golf and is a straight-A student He finds rocks, gems, and fossils interesting and wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up. 

Kendall James – Age 6

Kendall James was five-years-old and diagnosed with stage III embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma cancer on New Years Day, 2017.  Kendall started chemotherapy on 1/13/2017. Then in April 2017, she underwent surgery. After surgery, Kendall began radiation with chemotherapy. Kendall turned six-years-old on August 8th, 2017. Again, we think a birthday is something to celebrate! Most children having a birthday and turning six would want presents for themselves, not Kendall. You see she is extraordinary, too. Kendall asked for people to give her gifts to take to the Ronald McDonald House in Nashville, TN  for the other children she had met while staying there so often. Kendall fought a fight that no child should ever have to undergo. However, she was told on January, 26th, 2018 she is in remission. Kendall was treated at the amazing Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN.  Kendall will continue to get scans every three months and visit her pediatric oncologist at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Kendall loves riding Fred, her horse! Kendall loves people, singing, and playing games. Kendall’s family, mom, Kendra, dad, Shawn, sister Kaydee, and KeAnna James have all been affected by Kendall’s battle.

Daniel Mathis – Age 15

On January 26, 2017, fourteen-year-old Daniel Mathis was diagnosed with a rare form of anaplastic non-Hodgkin large cell lymphoma. Within a couple of weeks, Daniel was told he was in stage III of his cancer battle. Daniel has two sisters and a single mom, Debbie Mathis. The cancer diagnosis for Daniel dramatically affected his family, due to his mom had other children to care for and could not work. Just Imagine®!  Daniel would have started 8th grade at Lone Oak Middle School in McCracken County in 2017 but unfortunately, he was staying in Nashville, TN receiving chemotherapy at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Daniel fought a hard battle! However, in January 2018, Daniel received the news he was in remission! Now, Daniel is regaining his strength and will be starting back to school soon for a couple hours daily until he is able to get back to a normal schedule.  Daniel will continue to have scans and doctor visits every 3 months at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, or as needed. Daniel turned fifteen-years-old on January 21, 2018. We happen to think birthdays are a pretty big deal! Daniel may become a famous artist one day or a public speaker as well as a writer.

Ariel Barton – Age 5

Ariel Barton was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in June 2016 at the age of three-years-old. Ariel is being treated at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN where she has had chemotherapy every week for one year. Ariel is five- years- old at this time and is still receiving chemo nightly. She goes to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital once a month for maintenance chemo. Ariel is the only child of a single mom, Skylynn LaRue Fortner.

Ariel likes to read, swim and LOVES Troll Dolls. She has a variety of pets that she adores, including her horses Dolly and Stormy, and three pet chickens: Lady Glitter Sparkles, Hay Hay, and Panda. She also has a cat named Elsa and a dog named Turbo. You can see Ariel loves all animals!

Ariel has a dream to grow up and be a “Kids Cancer Doctor” (her words)! She is an extraordinary little girl with big dreams! You can join in the fight to help Ariel fulfill her dreams.

Jaiden – Age 9

Jaiden Melander is nine-years-old and was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis on
January 16th, 2018. The treatment plan for this disease is one year of  Vinblastine chemotherapy.
Jaiden is being treated at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. Will and Ashley Melander are the parents of Jaiden. He has two younger sisters, Liberty and Jaley. Jaiden has a dog named Molly, a cat named Edith, and enjoys playing video games and watching superhero
movies. Jaiden wants to be an inventor when he grows up, and with your support we hope to help
Jaiden fulfill his dreams.

Tyrielle Caldwell – Age 6

Tyrielle Caldwell was diagnosed in March 2018 with Neuroblastoma at the age of six-years-old. She loves the color pink. Tyrielle’s favorite food is macaroni and cheese. One of her most favorite things is YouTube kids. Will you please help Tyrielle grow up and fulfill her dream of becoming a fashion designer?

Shayla Marie Addison – Age 9

Shayla Marie Addison was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma stage 3 group 3 in October 2018. Shayla was very sick and her family was taking her weekly to the doctor, trying to find out what was causing her illness. The doctors in Southern Illinois could not find out what was wrong. The family made the decision to take Shayla to Cardinal Glennon, in St. Louis, Missouri. By the time they found out what was wrong with their daughter, the tumor had affected her right eye, all of her nasal cavities to her ear, neck and upper jaw on the right side of her face and even went all the way to her skull base. On October 15th, 2018, she started a plan of forty-two weeks of chemotherapy. Shayla continues to be so strong and brave throughout her cancer journey. Also, Shayla has had twenty-eight sessions of radiation. She is such an inspiration to others as they have seen a brave and courageous nine-year-old fight a battle no child should have to fight. Shayla loves riding in Jeeps and on her side by side. She loves playing the online video game Fornite, Sims video game, Roblox game and watching videos on her phone. She loves making experiments as well as arts and crafts. Shayla dreams to grow up to become a scientist!

Katherine Sielbeck – Age 7

Katherine Sielbeck is seven-years-old, and on October 23, 2018, was diagnosed with a rare form of papillary thyroid cancer. Katherine had suffered with terrible leg pain for two- years that made it almost impossible to run and play. The Sielbeck family had been told Katherine had arthritis.In September 2018 a MRI revealed a large tumor on her spinal cord. Two weeks after the MRI, she had a very dangerous surgery to remove the tumor from her spinal cord. The surgery lasted over eight- hours. The neurosurgeon was only able to remove part of the tumor, removing anymore would have left her paralyzed. The pathology of the tumor showed it was papillary thyroid cancer. She had her thyroid removed in January 2019 and is currently going through experimental chemotherapy treatments and making weekly visits to the oncologist at the Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. Katherine also has to have a MRI and PET scan every 3 months to make sure the remaining tumor isn’t getting any bigger or spreading.Katherine is the only child or adult to ever receive this type of cancer diagnosis.
Katherine has an older sister Raelyn who is fourteen-years-old, and a twin brother Michael. Katherine’s twin brother has autism, and Katherine is the biggest autism advocate you can find. When Katherine grows up she wants to be an occupational therapist or an ABA therapist to help other kids with autism like her brother.

Timothy Powell Jr. – Age 9

The little boy in these photos is Timothy Powell Jr. He is a smart, loving, nine- year- old boy who loved playing football, basketball, and running around like a normal kid. In December 2017 all of that changed. His mood changed all the time–he would get annoyed so quickly. He didn’t want to go to school and his smile disappeared. At his school Christmas program, as he was leaving the stage with his class, I noticed him walking down the stairs, holding on to the rail with both hands in an odd way that he would have only done if something was wrong. That day I made him an appointment with the eye doctor. She asked if he’d seen a neurologist before because she noticed his left eye wasn’t moving and he was blinking slowly. Of course, my heart dropped and I was instantly freaking out, but I never, ever thought, “my child has a brain tumor.” That never even came to my mind. We went to a doctor the following day for an MRI, and that night I received news no parent should ever have to hear, “Your son has a mass on the back of his brain; get him to Children’s Hospital.” Our minds were in a fog but we honestly still didn’t even think about the doctors telling us that Timothy had an inoperable, incurable brain tumor, also known as DIPG. The doctor said there was nothing they could do for him and that he had 9-12 months, maybe 18 months to live. My heart and his fathers were completely shattered–torn out, broken. In June of 2018 he was on a clinical trial that was killing him, and the doctors told us he had 2 weeks to a month to live. We came home, put him on hospice, and just loved on him as much as possible. Timothy was always the quiet kid but this quiet kid quickly turned into a fighter. He fought hard that month, and the 3 months after that when he passed 7 kidney stones. Now, here we are 18 months later. He is on another clinical trial that isn’t going to save him, but will hopefully keep the tumor from growing. That’s what we hope for every month. It’s sad; we should be saying that he’s going to take this medication and be cured, but that is not the case. We have never told Timothy he has cancer, and we have never told him he’s going to go to Heaven. His father and I have felt, and still feel strongly about this decision. He’s too young to hear that, so he knows he has a bubble on his brain and we’re doing all this to get it to go away. He has his good days and bad days, but he’s here with us and that is the only thing that matters to us. This is our only baby. He is stronger than both me and his father. The first photo is before DIPG and the second is after steroids from DIPG. –Written by Rachel Jackson, mother of Timothy

Owen Matthews – Age 10

September 19, 2019 was a day our world changed forever. Perhaps it is the day our world came to a stop? Or maybe the day our world got turned upside down? However you look at it, it is definitely a day we did not expect. That was the day our sweet, fun, caring son was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma–Non-Fusion.

Owen, ten years old, complained with stomach pain for a few days before we took him to the emergency room on August 2, 2019. Finally, after a CT scan and meeting with the ER doctor, we were told bowel impaction was the culprit. We were given stool softeners and enemas and told to check in with a primary care doctor if needed. After a couple of weeks Owen was still in pain. He had night sweats so bad it would require the bedding to be changed. He couldn’t sit down because it hurt. He couldn’t lie down because it hurt. Everything hurt. After seeing one ER doctor, a primary care doctor, and a gastroenterologist, we still had no answers.

On the morning of September 19, I knew something was wrong. In a matter of 12 hours Owen went from having normal features to having a very large hard mass protruding from his lower bottom area. We rushed him to a different emergency room and immediately they did a CT and X-rays. The next thing we knew, we were in an ambulance headed to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Owen was diagnosed with Alveolar Rhabdomyosarcoma in the pelvic floor. His tumor is 7”x5”x3”. It is aggressive. It is large. It is not in the most ideal area. In a time span of 24 hours our sweet boy went from having stomach pain to a life-altering cancer. We started treatment immediately at Vanderbilt and at the beginning of 2020 we moved to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to continue chemotherapy and also to start proton radiation treatments.

Owen is ten years old at this time and looks forward to the day he can claim victory against Rhabdomyosarcoma and officially be cancer-free. He is ready to get back to baseball and basketball with his friends. When he grows up he wants to be a policeman and protect everyone.

Written by Jennifer Matthews, mother of Owen

Logan, Sommer, and Xavier – Age 4

To hear the words “Your child has Leukemia,” is probably one of the worst things a parent could ever experience. My name is Shelly Sommer, and on March 6th, 2017, those words shattered our world. You see, I’m a mom to triplets, who at the time were 4 years old, happy, playful, and full of energy, except Xavier. Xavier seemed to be run down and sick all of the time but we could never figure out why–until one fateful trip to the ER when he had a bloody stool. I’ll never forget the doctor at our local ER saying to me, “What hospital do you want to go to?” and the total confusion that I felt with that question. What do you mean what hospital? We are in the hospital. “No,” he said, “you need a children’s hospital. Xavier’s blood counts are extremely high.”So, I packed up my four- year old and we headed to Louisville, two and a half hours from home. We didn’t come home for almost three weeks. Over the next few months things were insane to say the least. There was a lot of travel back and forth to the hospital, more illnesses than I had ever even heard of–from little things like pink eye being major–to life threatening illnesses like orbital cellulitis. But my baby fought, and he fought hard, and two and a half years later things settled down, we were in a routine, and life was back on track. Or so I thought.
Then in July 2019, Xavier’s identical twin brother began having severe leg pain, so off to the ER we went, where the doctors thought he was experiencing muscle spasms and sent us home. The next night it was worse. He was screaming, inconsolable from the pain in his back and legs…back to the ER where he was admitted and put on a morphine pump, and then they started running tests. The next thing I knew they were transferring us to Louisville because there was a bad marker in his bloodwork. The MRI came back with the result of abnormal bone marrow. WAIT, WHAT?! was all I could think. What, what is happening?! Logan was diagnosed with the same B-Cell ALL as Xavier on July 29th, 2019.
So now our fight started over with the endless nights of worrying about fevers and traveling to hotels for treatment at the hospital the next day. The fever watches, the sickness, the hair falling out, the trauma; it all started again.
At this point we were travelling to Louisville A LOT and we monitored our third triplet, Shelby-jae, monthly because although she’s not at any greater risk than any other child, neither was Logan once he turned 6 (January 2019), so we go, we pray, we hope, and we keep our fingers crossed that this nasty, horrific disease doesn’t strike our family a third time.
Xavier’s treatments are coming to an end–June 30, 2020 will be his last one. Logan is finally settling into a groove and will be able to return to school just as the year closes out. And our little family will forever be marked by those nasty words, “Your child has Leukemia.”
Xavier wants to be a doctor that puts in ports when he grows up and Logan wants to be a policeman.

Alexa Veit – Age 14

February 11, 2005 was a cold, blustery day in Livingston, NJ, with 22 inches of snow on the ground. You would think that would keep any new baby from wanting to venture from its mother’s womb, but we aren’t talking about any ordinary baby. We are talking about Alexa Rose Veit! She arrived at 10:30 a.m., all 6 lbs 2 ounces of her, ready to take on the world…and that’s what she has done ever since.

She came to us as a gift from God with an extra little chromosome, which led to the diagnosis of Down Syndrome. It was a scary thing for our family, not knowing what to expect.Some kids with Down Syndrome never speak, walk, or do any of the “normal” things in life that other children do. But again, we are talking about Alexa! She started early intervention activities at 6 months old, had amazing therapists to learn and strengthen her petite little body all along the way, and hit all the “normal” milestones.We moved back to Kentucky in 2006, and she is now 14 years old, an eighth-grader at our Ballard County Middle School. If you ask anyone who knows her they’ll tell you she is a social butterfly, friendly, kind, and has more friends and loved ones than you could ever possibly imagine. She loves to read, listen to music, and laugh with her friends.

Earlier this summer, Alexa hadn’t been feeling well for a few weeks and collapsed in our kitchen the night of July 26th. She was evaluated and stabilized at Lourdes Hospital, then Life-Flighted to Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville. On Monday, July 29th, Alexa was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We, as a family, were terrified, devastated, and along with a million other emotions, were bewildered with no idea what the future held. When I sat down with her and explained what Leukemia was, what treatment would be like, losing her hair to chemo, etc., she understood right away and took a very matter-of-fact attitude, saying, “Well, I have Leukemia and will be bald.” That is the essence of this brave young lady.She may not understand all the details, but she knows what is happening around her and why we have started this Journey of Treatment. And FIGHT is what this heroic girl has done!God blessed her body with remission only 30 days after her diagnosis on August 27th. PRAISE GOD! We transferred to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville to be closer to home where they followed the same treatment path as was used in Louisville which focuses on High-Risk Down Syndrome for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia God has brought Alexa through this, and will sustain her and our family, as He is where our faith lies.

Written by Kim Veit, mother of Alexa

Jimena Calderon Vieyra – Age 16

I felt a lump on my neck and was taken to my pediatrician to be told it was nothing. I got another lump under my armpit. I ignored this lump because I assumed it was like the other one on my neck. Then it happened, I got a lump on my throat and it hurt to the point I had to go to the Emergency Room. While at the ER I had a CT-scan and blood test. The doctor walked in and told my mom and me that he was pretty sure I had Hodgins Lymphoma and to make an appointment with my pediatrician. We made another appointment to the pediatrician to be told it would take two months to get an appointment in Louisville, Kentucky. After a couple of days my boyfriend and his family drove my Mom and me to the Emergency Room at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. It was there I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma of Lymph Nodes of Multiple Sites.
I have never been sick in my life other than slight colds. I have never been in a hospital as a patient. This was the most terrifying experience of my life. To hear I had cancer was beyond frightening. After all I was only sixteen- years old.
I found out what it meant to be a cancer fighter. My entire life was interrupted by cancer. I had lots of emotions get in the way but I have had no other choice than to fight. I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am currently a junior in high school and play clarinet in Mayfield High School Band.I cannot wait to get back to school and get back involved with the band.
One day I aspire to be a nurse. I hope to attend nursing school at the University of Kentucky or other university where I might receive financial assistance.
Written by, Jimena

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