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Robert Eliot Wirt Jr ( alias ) Bob WIRT

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My sister Kristine works with Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley CA and Kevan is her 7 year old grandson:

Grandma Kris and the ACS Castro Valley Relay for Life
Grandson Kevan Mathis and his battle against Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia

From: Kristine Koenig Date: Thursday, July 27, 2006 Subject: GRANDMA'S BRAGGING RIGHTS!

Hi all! I wanted to share with everyone the article in our local paper today that highlighted Kevan, who has been chosen as the Honorary Cancer Survivor at this Saturday's Relay For Life in Castro Valley. Click on the website link below to see the article, we're very proud of him. At the opening ceremony he's going to give a short speech (at 7 years old he's braver than most of the rest of us!), then he'll carry the torch and lead the first lap around, which is the traditional Survivor's Only Lap.

This is the same event that my wonderful family came to last year and BBQ'd lunch for 300 people, and my Rotary Club will be following in your footsteps and doing the honors this year. Anyone who wants to drop by Canyon Middle School to take a leisurely walk around the track or just visit for awhile please know you are more than welcome. The event lasts from 10am Saturday till 10am Sunday, and we are pitching our tent and staying the whole 24-hrs.

Here's the link: Upbeat 7-Year-Old Doesn’t Let Cancer Get Him Down Daily Review July 26, 2006

I had a couple inquiries about donating to the Relay for Life in Kevan's name, if anyone is interested you can go to the following website to donate online: American Cancer Society 2006 Relay For Life of Castro Valley

Go to the Get Involved link: Donate To A Participant; and put in Kris Koenig and it will donate in honor of Kevan.

We were asked to write a short "Kevan's Story" for the relay event, which I'm printing below. Sorry for such a long email, but we can't help but reflect right now on what an incredible journey the last 2 years have been, so I hope you'll indulge me one more time here.

Love to all ... Kris and family


"Kevan's Story"

One day, five year old Kevan was eagerly starting an adventure he had longed for “all his life” as he put it - going to school like his older siblings and joining in all the exciting activities and friendships that awaited him.

The next day, he was whisked to the Pediatric Oncology unit at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland CA after an alert Nurse Practitioner suspected his slight fever and what appeared to be soccer bruises were perhaps an indication of something more.

And so it was that only one month after starting Kindergarden, Kevan and his family were told that he had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, cancer of the blood that only ten years earlier would have spelled a quick death sentence. No one knows why any one person gets picked for one of life’s great challenges, but if the reason was to show us all how to live our lives with strength, humor, acceptance, and hope in the face of adversity then Kevan was an inspired choice.

Visiting Kevan in the hospital, we saw a bewildered child who didn’t understand this strange turn of events. After the first few days the novelty wore off and he became bored and restless, but then we witnessed an amazing quality begin to emerge. As time wore on and he became more familiar with the routine, new roommates would arrive who were like he was during his first days … scared, homesick, bewildered. Family members would step behind the curtain to his side of the room so they could quickly wipe away tears so their child wouldn’t see their pain and fear.

At first Kevan would become very quiet, retreating to his bed with the covers over his ears so he could blot out the memories of his first arrival, his eyes looking far-away in a child’s attempt to cope. But in time he began to reach out to the new arrivals, offering to play videogames, share his books, and just talk. He was the experienced old man, showing the new ones the ropes and giving them comfort. We saw the baby of the family, the one who had always had his every need seen to by doting caregivers, now becoming the caregiver himself.

How can we describe the next year and half of his young life? Isolation, medication, chemotherapy, spinal taps, hair loss, physical changes due to steroids, mood swings, and a life-threatening bout with pneumonia.

But there was also the day the Fremont Fire Department came to his home and let him ride in their truck; the family trip to Orlando thanks to the generosity of Make-a-Wish Foundation; spending a week with other young survivors at Camp Okizu; his new kitten; collecting hats until he no longer felt he needed to hide his baldness; speaking with nursing students in his Auntie Nikkie's class at Chabot College about the proper care of a chest tube; riding on the antique fire truck in the Rowell Ranch parade next to Alameda County Fire Chief McGammon; returning to baseball, soccer and school; and now being named the Honorary Survivor for the Castro Valley Relay for Life!

Kevan is now a normal and active seven year old who has shown his friends and family the beauty of taking what life hands you and dealing with it in a positive, upbeat and accepting manner. He still has another year and half of chemo treatments before he can be declared to be in full remission, but we have no doubt that he will achieve that milestone. It is through the American Cancer Society and the contribution of the many dedicated Relay For Life teams that Kevan has this chance at a normal healthy life.

Kevan has inspired his entire family with his courage, giving us the strength to face the future through his example … he is the youngest among us, and for us he epitomizes the word “HOPE”.

Love to all...Kris and family




KEVAN MATHIS, 7, of Fremont, will lead the opening lap of the Castro Valley Relay for Life on Saturday. Diagnosed with cancer in 2004, he's optimistic, enthusiastic and not given to complaining. (Jane Tyska - Staff)
Inside Bay Area / The Daily Review Online

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, 07/26/2006
© 2006 ANG Newspapers

Upbeat 7-year-old doesn't let cancer get him down
By Karen Holzmeister, STAFF WRITER

CASTRO VALLEY

On Saturday, Kevan Mathis will lead others in laps around a track. He'll camp out overnight with his family and friends.

Game Boy in tow, the 7-year-old Fremont boy — who begins second grade at Patterson Elementary School this fall — won't lack topics to talk about: His love of travel, baseball, soccer and football.

"We went to Meh-he-co and Florida," he enthused about recent vacations during an interview Tuesday. "We hit every park in Florida! Next, I want to go to Ireland and Scotland."

Living life to the fullest, and having fun, is the goal for Kevan and his family since he was diagnosed in October 2004 with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

Kevan's tenacious, positive outlook made him the perfect person to launch the weekend's American Cancer Society fundraiser at the Canyon Middle School track.

His grandmother, Kris Koenig, works at
Eden Medical Center, the event's major sponsor, and brought him to the attention of the Castro Valley Relay for Life committee.

"He acts like he's not sick; he doesn't ask for any special treatment," said his mom, Erin Mathis, as Kevan teased her and his sisters, April, 10, and Athena, 11, at a Union City coffee shop Tuesday. Mathis and her husband, William, also have another son, Wesley, 13.

Right now, Kevan has a round, rosy face full of freckles, some new teeth coming in and moussed hair he wants to trade in for a mohawk.

Nearly two years ago, Erin Mathis, an emergency room nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Hayward, took her son to the doctor, concerned about his weight loss, leg pain and ear infection.

"And then, they said I had cancer," Kevan adds, matter-of-factly, finishing his mother's sentence.

The diagnosis has sent the family on a nonstop course of hospitalizations, doctor visits, chemotherapy treatments at East and West Bay Kaiser hospitals, and daily chemotherapy medications at home.

"These things they tell you to do sound very drastic," said Erin Mathis, noting that her medical background "didn't prepare me for this, but I understood it."

A weakened immune system forced Kevan to be home-tutored in 2005. Swimming is pretty much off limits, for fear of introducing bacteria into an already compromised immune system.

Kevan's goal is to be found cancer-free by 2008.

He said he finds hospital visits "boring." He hates IV equipment, and is frustrated that classmates and playmates inquire about the tube inserted in his chest wall to receive medications and chemotherapy.

"'What do you have in your stomach?'" he mimics. "They ask every day, they always keep asking. It's boring."

"Kevan is so enthusiastic about everything in life," his mother explained. "You would never know that sometimes he is in crisis mode."

Karen Holzmeister covers Castro Valley, the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District, and county government for unincorporated areas. She can be reached at (510) 293-2478 or kholzmeister@dailyreviewonline.com.

© 2006 ANG Newspapers


From: Kristine Koenig Date: October 20, 2004 Subject: Kevan

As many of you know and some of you are just now hearing, my grandson Kevan was hospitalized last Friday and diagnosed with Leukemia. His condition was discovered when he had an ear infection that wasn't healing and an alert doctor ran a blood test on a hunch. This form of cancer infects the blood and can spread to the spinal and cranial fluids, leaving him without immunities to fight even the most mild of infections. Many of you have asked how he is so I wanted to give everyone an update.

He received 2 blood cell tranfusions on Saturday, and a platelet transfusion on Sunday. On Monday he went into surgery for a bone marrow and spinal fluid extraction. The news was good: the type of leukemia he has is the most treatable and has a 90% full remission rate; and the cancer has not spread to the spine or cranial fluids. While he was on the table they gave him the first dose of chemotherapy, direct into the spinal column as a preventive measure to keep it from spreading to that area.

While his prognosis is good, the course of treatment will be difficult. Intense chemo for 4 weeks then a couple of months off and then repeat the treatment, this will go on for about 9 months. During this time he has to remain isolated from crowds and can't go to school. Even though he's just in Kindergarten, the school will send a tutor so he can keep up with his class and join them in 1st grade rather than be left behind. Erin and Bill will be taking Family Leave to care for him round the clock, and Nikki will take over when she is on her 2-week christmas break from school. We are all taking a class on how to administer his treatment in case we ever need to be the one to do it. Who knew when both my girls became Nurses that their skills would be put the test so quickly and so close to home ... and what a blessing it is.

He has had a great attitude through the whole ordeal ... of course at 5-yrs old his understanding is limited, but he has approached the whole hospitalization with a great curiosity and joy at the adventure of it all. He's been hooked up to an IV pole ever since he was admitted and he carts it around with him (he calls it his tail), and he calls his hospital bed his "magic bed" because it goes up and down when he pushes the buttons ... he was full of fun and enjoying himself despite everything and it was inspirational to the adults who were needless to say devastated and in shock. His parents haven't left his side, sleeping in chairs in his room every night since Friday.

Thanks to everyone who sent up prayers for Kevan and his family, I believe with all my heart that this will have a good outcome, not only for Kevan and his health but for the lesson it brings to all of us to cherish the people in our lives, when all is said and done nothing else matters more than the people who we share the journey with. So go give someone a hug and remember that I love you all.

Namaste ... Kris


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