1-year-old Vallonia girl battles kidney cancer; benefit event set

There’s not much that keeps 1-year-old Kinley Lynn Tormoehlen down — not even cancer.

Although she has undergone surgery to remove a softball-sized tumor that overtook her right kidney, a month of daily radiation treatments and is in the seventh of 34 weeks of chemotherapy, Kinley never seems to lose her smile or the sparkle in her eyes.

Her parents, Shane and Katie Tormoehlen of Vallonia, are amazed daily by their daughter’s strength and resiliency. It allows them to stay strong during a very difficult time and hope for a full recovery.

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“At her age, she just doesn’t know how to be sick,” Shane said.

“She’s a trouper,” Katie added.

It all began April 28 when Kinley wasn’t quite a year old.

“It started off as an ordinary day and ended in concern and a lot of tears,” Katie said.

While changing Kinley’s diaper, Katie and Shane noticed a large knot on her right side, and there was blood in her diaper. They immediately took her to see pediatrician Courtney Kleber of Seymour Pediatrics, who advised them to take Kinley to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.

An ultrasound was taken of Kinley’s abdomen, and it was evident there was a large mass growing on her right kidney. The family soon was on their way to Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis.

“They sent us up to Riley right away, so we knew it wasn’t good,” Shane said. “We were scared.”

After lots of tests, doctors diagnosed Kinley with Wilms tumor, or nephroblastoma, a rare kidney cancer that primarily affects children when they are 3 to 4 years old.

“We spent the whole weekend going through tests and scans for Kinley in order for the doctors to get a better understanding of where the tumor was, if it had spread and how big it was,” Katie said.

“It was rough,” Shane added. “She didn’t want to lay down and stay still, so we just had to hold her and do the best we could.”

They learned the tumor was a little larger than a softball, had completely overtaken Kinley’s tiny kidney and had spread to her lungs.

At 11 months, Kinley was unusually young to have developed such a large tumor so quickly, doctors told the Tormoehlens.

“She was a special case,” Shane said.

On May 1, just three days after her symptoms began, Kinley underwent a nearly five-hour surgery where doctors removed the mass and her right kidney.

“The doctors think for now, it’s best to not try to remove the cancer spots on her lungs and to try the chemo and radiation to see if it will kill the cancer cells,” Katie said.

On May 9, Kinley started weekly chemo treatments, and the family learned from a biopsy of the removed tumor that Kinley’s cancer was Stage 4 and also had spread to her lymph nodes.

Ten days later, on May 19, Kinley began daily radiation at the IU Cancer Center and just finished that treatment Monday. But she still has more than 30 weeks of chemo to go, Katie said.

The whole experience has been a shock for the Tormoehlens, who have no history of cancer in their families, Shane said.

Once all of the treatments are done, doctors have said Kinley has a favorable outlook, he added.

Since she’s so young, Kinley won’t remember having cancer and will have only a scar across her abdomen as a reminder.

To be able to take care of her baby girl, Katie has closed her at-home daycare so she can stay with Kinley and their son, Bryce, 3, full time. Shane continues to work when he can at All Phase Electric in Seymour.

Family and friends have organized several fundraisers already, including sales of rubber arm bracelets, T-shirts and a bake sale. A local photography studio run by friend Ambrose Schneider also has donated the profits from some of her photo sessions.

A benefit rummage sale will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department in Cortland with a half-price sale from 1 to 3 p.m. to raise money for the Tormoehlens.

Also, an all-terrain vehicle benefit ride for Kinley will be July 15, and a GoFundMe account has been set up for the family. So far, nearly $6,000 has been donated through the site.

Shane said he can’t believe the amount of support his family has received from the community.

“It has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “You see all the bad things in the world, and then something like this happens, and you see all the good in people.”

If you go

What: All-terrain vehicle benefit ride for Kinley Lynn Tormoehlen

When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 15

Where: Will start and end at the Grassy Fork Volunteer Fire Department, 5384 S. County Road 450E, Tampico

All proceeds from both events will benefit 1-year-old Kinley Lynn Tormoehlen of Vallonia and her family. Kinley was diagnosed with kidney cancer earlier this year and currently is undergoing chemotherapy treatment.

On the Web

To make an online donation to help support Kinley Lynn Tormoehlen and her family, visit gofundme.com/r9yva-kinley?r=23416.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.