I am Larry’s sister Christine and after hearing they had taken Kristy to the hospital, my husband and I met Larry and Becky there. We are a very close family and are always there for each other. They were told Kristy had appendicitis and send her to a Gadsden hospital. After the doctors did more tests, they said she did not have appendicitis and weren’t sure what was going on but knew it wasn’t good. Kristy was sent by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. Becky was allowed ride with Kristy. I know that must have been a terrifying trip for Kristy and Becky who had to have been experiencing a parents’ worst nightmare. Her five- year- old baby so sick and not knowing what is wrong and as her mother not being able to fix it or make it better.
Larry was in no state of mind to be driving so he rode with me and my husband, which was the longest trip we had ever been on. We tried to be positive for Larry but there was nothing anyone could say or do to make things better. He was the dad and husband the protector, the one who fixed everything and made it all better. But he couldn’t fix this or make it go away. He had to be feeling helpless. We did a lot of praying, asking our Lord to take care of this precious baby. After arriving at Children’s Hospital the nightmare continued. More tests finally gave answers you don’t want to ever hear. Kristy had a rare cancer, called Wilms Tumor. One in one- hundred- thousand develop Wilms Tumor. It grows very fast but reacts very well to treatment. But in her case she was in stage four, which was bad news. The doctors give her a fiftypercent chance of surviving. Larry and Becky told the doctors to do what was needed, to give her every chance to fight for her life. The first thing they needed to do was give her a blood transfusion. This little five-year-old went through eighteen months of chemo with four different drugs, six weeks of radiation and surgery.
They removed her right kidney, the lower right lobe of her lung, part of her spleen, part of her pancreas and part of her liver.
I went with Becky and Kristy to most of her treatments. Larry had to work. Even though they had insurance, the medical bills were overwhelming. It was almost just too much for a couple to handle, but most important was their baby surviving and getting healthy. Kristy’s pride and joy was her beautiful long hair. The time came for Larry and Becky to tell Kristy she would lose her beautiful hair. I think that was the hardest thing for Kristy to hear. She cried and cried. They told her they would get her a beautiful long wig and she was kind of okay with that.
Becky started staying at a house near the hospital that was set up for out-oftown family and less expensive. That had to be so hard for Becky being away from her family. I’m sure she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. Little Kristy was so sick and mama and daddy couldn’t make it go away. With Larry being home and working going to see Kristy when he could, I’m sure he was feeling so lost and helpless.
The country band Alabama heard about Kristy and wanted to meet with her, deciding to close their fan club in Fort Payne, Alabama, to do so. Each
Pictured is Kristy Keener with her family. From left, are Kristy Dutton her mom, Becky Butts and her dad, Larry Dutton; her brothers, Mark Dutton and Chuck Dutton.
member of the group talked with Kristy. They were very kind and caring.
Kristy had a lot of healing to do mentally and physically. It took a long time for Kristy to be able to sleep at night, she was afraid she would die in her sleep. She came and stayed with me some at night. We would stay up all night playing, watching television, cooking chicken fingers and her favorite green beans. She would sometimes ask me if she was going to die, that broke my heart. A child should never have those thoughts. I can’t imagine how Larry or Becky made it through those trying times.
The doctors told Larry and Becky that Kristy would most likely never have children. That must have been hard for them, but Kristy was alive which was a blessing. She grew up to be a beautiful young lady. She has been married to Danny for twenty years. The Lord has blessed them with five beautiful children, Dariah, Cierrah, Jonah, Micah and Elijah. The Lord knew she would be a wonderful mother. She made the decision to get her GED. She got a scholarship and a Pell grant to go to nursing school. She graduated from North East College and she was on the Dean’s List making her family very proud.
Kristy went to work at the Collinsville Nursing Home. She had been working about a year went she became pregnant with little E. He is the most handsome, precious little fellow you will ever meet. He has many challenges ahead of him. He has some health issues, but he is a fighter like his mom. The Lord needed a special mom to love and care for this little guy and he has the best. Kristy is the bravest person I know. She struggles everyday with her own health and also with E while being a great mom to her other four children and also a wife. But she never gives up and always has a smile. Not many can say they have the courage that this young lady has. She has endured so much in her short life. She is a hero in my eyes. Life is sometimes hard and seems unfair but at the end of the day I think we can all find something to be thankful for.
Christine Ellison Tipton, a resident of Leesburg, is the author of several short stories who is working on a book.