Tahoe-Truckee locals get #KylaStrong to help local girl fight leukemia | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee locals get #KylaStrong to help local girl fight leukemia

Kyla, the 2-year-old daughter of Incline Village residents Scott and Shelby Yorkey, was diagnosed with cancer in December.
Courtesy Shelby Yorkey |

How to donate

Visit gofundme.com/kylastrong and join the #KylaStrong effort and donate to the family.

Or, make a direct deposit into Scott and Sbelby’s Wells Fargo account (6596638483) that was set up for Kyla.

Note: GoFundMe takes a small portion of donations raised through the crowdfunding site.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — This must be a mistake. This can’t be true.

That was what Incline Village residents Scott and Shelby Yorkey immediately thought upon hearing their daughter, Kyla, may have cancer back in early December.

“When we first heard that, I thought, ‘Gosh, why would the doctor go to the extreme like that?’” Scott said in an interview last week. “We took her in for a cold, a cough, and now they are telling us that it’s possible that she has leukemia.

“This must be some kind of mistake.”

“You have to think the best. She’ll get better. She’ll get through this. There’s no other option.”Shelby Yorkey

Shortly after being around family members who had colds during the Thanksgiving holiday, Kyla — then almost 2 and a half years old — developed a persistent cough and became lethargic, achy and pale, her parents said.

Despite not being particularly concerned, as those symptoms are associated with the common cold, Shelby brought Kyla to a pediatrician on Dec. 8, 2015, getting news that she never expected.

“I think you are in shock as a parent, and for me, I just had a hard time breathing and was just really shaky,” Shelby recalled. “I just held her the whole time in my arms, thinking, ‘This can’t be true. This can’t be true.’ We didn’t know for sure that was the diagnosis at that point, but just the thought that was a possibility was overwhelming — emotionally overwhelming.

“It was a really scary thought.”


Following the pediatrician’s advice, Shelby, Kyla and Scott — who was called while at Jake’s on the Lake in Tahoe City, where he works as executive chef — went to Tahoe Forest Hospital to get a complete blood count test done for Kyla.

The results were concerning.

By that evening, the family found themselves about 100 miles away from Truckee in Sacramento at UC Davis Children’s Hospital where Kyla had a room lined up for her.

Another blood test was performed at UC Davis, with the results coming back slightly better, indicating Kyla may have bad virus rather than cancer.

“To hear that our daughter (might) had a horrible virus, if you could ever image that being a positive, was what we were thinking at that time,” Scott said, chuckling.

Unfortunately, that was not the outcome the Yorkeys were dealt. Results from bone marrow biopsy confirmed Kyla — Scott and Shelby’s outgoing and energetic daughter — had leukemia.

Further test results diagnosed Kyla with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of cancer in which the bone marrow procuces too many immature lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell.

ALL is the most common children’s cancer, with about 2,900 new cases of ALL diagnosed in children and adolescents in the United States each year, according to the Children’s Oncology Group.

“You have to think the best,” Shelby said. “She’ll get better. She’ll get through this. There’s no other option. You can’t even go down that (other) road … Luckily, the outcome for ALL is very positive.”

A 2012 study referenced by the American Cancer Society found that children with ALL have a survival rate of more than 90 percent.

“The doctors are all very optimistic,” Scott added. “There’s a very high success rate with treatments.”

Kyla is currently undergoing chemotherapy — but it comes at a cost.

Community contributions

While the Yorkeys have medical insurance, it doesn’t cover all the costs associated with Kyla’s treatment such as travel expenses to and from Sacramento, overnight lodging if the family needs to stay there, and the entire cost of some of Kyla’s medications.

On top of that, the family has its regular expenses to cover such as mortgage payments, groceries and utilities.

In an effort to aid the Yorkeys through this difficult period, family, friends and community members have already donated tens of thousands of dollars.

“It’s just a huge relief because it’s just a massive stress that has been taken off of us,” Scott said. “Do we buy groceries or do we pay this bill? Do we have gas to get (to UC Davis)? We haven’t had to worry about that because there has been so much support.”

One of Shelby’s friends since childhood, Kali Smith, launched a GoFundMe page on Jan. 6, and as of Tuesday morning, it has raised $53,148 through 348 backers.

“Honestly, every day I look at it, it gives me goosebumps knowing that so many people are willing to help out,” Smith said. “It’s just inspiring.”

Since Kyla’s treatment will take about two and a half years to complete — and she is only three months in — there is no donation deadline listed on the GoFundMe page.

It lists a fundraising goal of $100,000, citing that the cost for childhood ALL treatment ranges from about $55,000 to $160,000 in the United States.

“I really wanted to take some of the burden off of them just knowing how expensive this would be,” Smith said, referring to her motivation to start the page. “I wanted to take one thing off their plate, so they could focus more on Kyla and her treatment.”

Meanwhile, Scott’s co-workers at Jake’s on the Lake organized a benefit for the family on Feb. 28 at the restaurant. In all, 350 people attended, and roughly $33,000 was raised.

“Our community, and you think North Shore, but there were people (at the benefit) from the whole entire lake — South Shore, Incline, Tahoe City, Truckee,” Scott said. “… There were a couple of times that I just stepped back and looked, and it literally brought tears to my eyes that there was that many people thinking of us.”

Another fundraiser in which some proceeds will be donated to the family is the Ladies Bunco Bash, a 2016 SnowFest! event scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the North Tahoe Event Center in Kings Beach.

“(I hope the funds) help them with additional expenses,” said Carol King, event chair. “We know that insurance doesn’t cover everything. There was always incidentals that add up.”

Commenting on the amount of community support the family has recently received, Shelby said: “It makes you love and appreciate living here that much more. I didn’t think I could appreciate this place any more.”

‘Our new normal’

These monetary donations are especially important considering Shelby had to leave her job as an account specialist with Clear Capital — this shortly after returning from maternity leave after having her and Scott’s other daughter, Kenzie — in order to take care of Kyla.

“Hopefully, one day I will be able to work there again because I love working there, but right now, it’s just too much,” Shelby said. “There is no way I could do it because I can’t leave the house. I can’t get a babysitter for her because (what if the sitter is) sick, was with other kids?”

The treatment Kyla is receiving greatly weakens her immune system, so in order to stave off illness, others can’t come over to the Yorkeys’ house — and if they do, they have to sanitize.

Also, Shelby and Scott can’t bring Kyla out on errands such as grocery shopping, and they, too, have to limit their public outings so they don’t pick up a bug.

They describe it as living in a bubble.

Meanwhile, Scott has continued to work at Jake’s — where he has been employed since 2005 — but his schedule is at the mercy of Kyla’s medical appointments and overall health.

“All of these schedules that the doctors give us are all very fluid … so you get this schedule and you try to schedule work, and that can change at any moment,” Scott said. “We’re just grateful that Jake’s has been so flexible.

“…We don’t know what next week will bring, so when I’ve got the time to work and have a paycheck coming in, I’m trying to do it.”

Right before Kyla’s cancer diagnosis was confirmed, Shelby said she wondered how the parents of children with cancer do it — get through such a difficult, trying time.

Now she knows.

“You just do,” she said. “You have no choice. You just have to do it. … This is our new normal, it’s like ‘K, going down to Sac, going down to UC Davis.’ That’s just what we’ve got to do.

“Life changed (snaps fingers) like that. I had to stop working, Scott has been taking a lot of time off work to help, but it’s our new normal. We’re trying to make it work. It’s all for her.”

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