MILFORD >> Student athlete and 2015 Foran High School graduate Danielle Kemp, 19, a Division 1 softball player, has learned all too early that life can change in a blink of the eye.
Kemp was playing softball this summer with the Brakettes, and just a few weeks later, she was diagnosed with a rare, inoperable brain tumor.
The diagnosis came just as a rare kidney cancer she was diagnosed with in high school had gone into remission.
Her story is grabbing attention around the globe, as well as in the Milford community, since her uncle Bradley Taylor set up a GoFundMe campaign that already has raised more than $48,000.
Taylor, who has already received more than 1,000 Facebook messages from as far away as India, said the family is also looking for prayers and positive thoughts.
Taylor said his niece is a wonderful person, a fighter and optimist. He shared the following message in part that “Danni” posted for friends and family after her recent diagnosis:
“I just wanted to let everyone know but also ease people’s minds that I am in good spirits. I am a fighter and I have fought before. I recently went into remission with my kidney disease that I was diagnosed with in high school (also rare). I just figured the more prayers and positive thoughts I receive, the better I will be. I am a true believer in that God gives his toughest battles to his toughest soldiers.”
Taylor said that Kemp, daughter of Cliff and Melinda Kemp — Cliff is a football coach at Foran — has insurance, but there will be many expenses such as copays, family travel and lodging expenses during treatment and likely clinical trials not covered by insurance.
His goal is to raise $100,000 and so far said he’s “totally overwhelmed and surprised” by the amount raised in three days. Taylor said through Facebook he’s received donations, well-wishes and prayers for his niece from not only the Milford community where she is so popular, but also from countries around the world.
Kemp was a three-sport athlete at Foran until her diagnosis of a rare form of kidney cancer, after which she remained in softball as a catcher and second baseman. She was on the All-State team in 2015.
Her kidney disease went into remission after undergoing clinical trial treatment that cost $400,000 for four treatment sessions, but in that case, the cost was covered, he said.
Figuring she may need something out of the ordinary to fight the latest battle — such as a clinical trial following the radiation she’s set to begin — Taylor wants the family to be financially prepared.
He said her brain tumor located in the pons region of the brain is so rare, there are only 13 cases on the East Coast. She is currently at Yale-New Haven Hospital and will begin radiation Friday, sooner than expected, he said.
Kemp, who hopes to one day become a physician’s assistant, was a rising sophomore at Stony Brook University in Long Island, there on a softball scholarship, and playing this summer with the Brakettes when the tumor became symptomatic.
As Taylor and the GoFundMe story explains, in early July, Kemp got hit in the helmet by a pitch while at bat. A game or two later, her vision was blurry and she couldn’t see a fly ball from the field. A few weeks into it, she began experiencing balance problems, trouble focusing and dizziness. Doctors thought it was a concussion, as she had all the “classic symptoms,” Taylor said, but an MRI revealed the tumor that could have been there for a while, but they have no way of knowing for sure, Taylor said.
Because of the tumor’s location, surgery is not an option, but she will begin radiation therapy beginning Friday for six weeks.
Doctors are working on a treatment plan for after radiation, but some of that will depend on how much the radiation can do. It is likely she will eventually receive treatment out of state, Taylor said.
“The family is very hopeful for new clinical trials that should be available in the near future,” Taylor wrote in his GoFundMe story. He said because her tumor is so rare, doctors who are experts in it are a close-knit group.
Taylor wrote in his GoFundMe post:
“Danni is the toughest young woman we have all ever met, and is more than ready to fight this. Her strong and indomitable will has already proven to be more than enough to battle and beat a rare kidney disease while she was in high school. This will be a battle but with so many people who know and love Danni and her Family, they’ve got an army behind them.”
He started the page in part because so many people in the Milford community wanted to know how they could help. But the outpouring has also been amazing from those who have never met Danni, Taylor said, noting there was a $1,000 anonymous donation.
He said Danni, her sister, Alyssa, and their parents “will continually need all of the positive thoughts, prayers, support throughout these next few months.”
Taylor asks those who cannot send money to please send “prayers and positive thoughts.”