Meet JaKiah Collins: Cancer

Central Arkansas

When Jason Collins took his daughter for her Pre-K medical check-up in 2012, he wasn’t expecting anything unusual. But that’s when JaKiah's pediatrician noticed her abdomen was a bit swollen.

They assumed it was an infection, but went ahead and set a follow-up visit. Over the next three months, JaKiah’s belly began to swell and harden.

Something was obviously not right. At the follow-up appointment, the pediatrician sent them immediately to the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Emergency Room.

“You don’t want to overreact,” says Crystal. “You don’t want to freak out or freak her out. So I tried to be calm, to take my time about each step.”

JaKiah was diagnosed with stage 4 Wilms tumor, a common form of kidney cancer in children. Doctors did chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor. Then later, they were able to surgically remove it.

Surgery was followed by more chemo and radiation therapy. “We’d never been in a hospital for that long,” says Crystal about JaKiah’s initial nine-day stay. “We were out of our element. Seeing our normally active daughter hooked up to monitors and being in a bed for several days was really hard for us.

“But the people were amazing. You always saw everyone smiling, which made us feel happy even though we felt the weight of everything we were going through.” Six months after diagnosis, JaKiah was cancer free.

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“All I wanted was to hear is her scans are ALL CLEAR! I’m so grateful we did.” Through the process, Crystal says ACH wasn’t only patient-centered, they were family-centered.

“Her brother was worried because he didn’t understand it all. They explained it to him in terms he could understand.”

Crystal says the medical team and support staff made sure she and her family were educated about what to do and not to do with a sick child living in their home and what their financial options were.

“The social worker we had was amazing,” she says. “The whole time we were there we felt like somebody actually cared about what was going on with us. You don’t get that often anywhere in life.”

Today, JaKiah is in remission. She must go back for checkups twice a year. Her mother says she doesn’t mind seeing her “family” in the cancer clinic though. Most kids on her cheerleading and soccer squads have no idea she was ever sick.

The Collins family will never forget though. JaKiah’s scars remain. Her mother kept JaKiah's hair when it fell out from the chemo, as well as the doll doctors used to explain the surgery to her children. “In our case, something went very wrong, but it ended up well,” Crystal says.

She ultimately credits God for her daughter’s healing, but says that God sent them to ACH where doctors are passionate about their craft and doing what’s best for every patient they see.

“We’re part of this hospital,” says Crystal. “Our stories go together. They are here to keep our kids safe and healthy. When a friend says there might be something wrong with their child, I tell them, ‘You better go to Arkansas Children's Hospital.’” 

Now that she is in remission, JaKiah wants to help other kids have a healthier tomorrow. She was selected as the 2017-2018 Children’s Miracle Network Hospital (CMNH) Champion Ambassador for Arkansas. Throughout the year, JaKiah and her family served as local, state and national spokespeople, advocating for the charitable need at children’s hospitals with a focus on Arkansas Children’s.

Donate in honor of Jakiah by visiting her fundraising page here. Together, we are making children better today and healithier tomorrow.

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