Kayla Sweet

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My name is Kayla Sweet, and I am 21 years old. At the age of 11, I was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor.

I come from a small family of five with two younger brothers. As a child, I was very athletic and participated in many different sports. I was always in the water whether it be the pool, lake or beach. I was always very outgoing and loved to be a part of everything I encountered. I currently live in San Marcos, Texas with my dog Chocolate. I’m a senior at Texas State University where I’m studying to be a Child Life Specialist. After I graduate, I want to work with pediatric oncology patients.

When I was in the 5th grade, I started to get sick in the morning. At first, it would only happen to me on weekdays, so my parents automatically assumed that I was trying to get out of class. As the days progressed, I began to get sick more than the weekdays and not just in the morning. We decided that I needed to see a gastroenterologist. They initially thought I had acid reflux and gave me medicine to treat it. We tried all the tricks for acid reflux, but none of them were working. Then, they thought I might be lactose intolerant. I tried to eliminate all products of dairy from my diet but still no success.

Finally, after expressing our growing concerns, the doctor decided to schedule a CT scan. The next available appointment was an entire month away. My mom decided to take matters into her own hands and called the clinic directly and made the appointment for the following week. During the middle of the scan, there was an abrupt stop, and I was taken to another room. In the room, I was told the tragic news that they had found a tumor in my brain near the stem that was triggering me to vomit every time I would sit up causing morning sickness.

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When I heard the words “you have cancer” I didn’t know what to think as so many things were running through my head. I didn’t know what my life was going to look like from that point on. I couldn’t keep track of the thoughts exploding in my head. Was I going to be okay? I wondered what would happen to my friends, and how they would react when they heard the news. I didn’t want to be judged by anyone. Turns out that none of my worries came true, and they were all just thoughts in my head about the worst-case scenarios. I had gained so much support from the people around me.

One thing that I learned when I was going through treatment is you really find out who your true friends are, and who will be there for you when desperate times come. Most importantly, I came out as a better person after everything. I am now able to look at life with a more positive attitude, and I feel like I have matured a lot for the age that I was. A lot of people say that they know what you are going through or know about the way that you feel when they don’t. The best resource that I had for support was making friends with people who were actually going through what I was going through. 

When asked about an inspiring quote, the first thing that comes to mind is Disney. I am a Disney freak, so I like to go to Disney for inspiration. This is one of my favorite quotes from Winnie the Pooh:

"The things that make me different are the things that make me ME."
—Piglet, Winnie the Pooh

In life, my dream is to give back for what was given to me. I want to pursue a career as a Child Life Specialist and take every opportunity that I can to give back and help others who are going through what I went through.

My mother has always been my inspiration ever since she saved my live by looking out for me when I became sick. She is my rock and has always been there whenever I need her whether it be life problems or just being there to help through this crazy world.

I honestly feel that I have been thoroughly supported throughout my life so far. I do wish the events and opportunities Beautifully Loved holds for patients now were accessible when I was a patient, but I am so thankful that I get to be a part of this amazing experience. Stay strong and know that no matter what, there is always going to be someone there for you!

Rachelle Diaz