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Young girl, family look to bright future

The St. Paul Children's Hospital staff gave Julia a trophy for her bravery after her final scans on July 6 when the family got the news Julia was cancer-free. The hospital also had a medal for Julia's little brother Finn.

On Oct. 24, 2010, Amanda and Torey Kauth took their 6-year-old daughter Julia to the walk-in clinic at the River Falls Area Hospital with a bad stomach ache.

Soon, she was having a CT scan, and Amanda and Torey were being told their daughter had a "growth" on her kidney.

"It was scary because we didn't know what was going on," said Amanda. "We thought maybe appendicitis, worst case."

But what Julia had wasn't appendicitis. It was cancer. Julia had a Wilms' tumor.

According to the Mayo Clinic's website, Wilms' tumors are kidney masses that occur in children, usually between the ages of three to four, and rarely in children over six.

Julia was rushed to the St. Paul Children's Hospital Emergency Room.

A drainage tube was put into Julia's kidney, but when the growth hadn't gotten any smaller a week later, the doctors removed the growth, and performed a biopsy at the same time.

This was when the Kauth family found out the "bad tummy ache" was a Wilms' tumor.

Julia began radiation and chemotherapy in November, and so began what Amanda said was the hardest time of her life.

The lowest point for Amanda was when the family received the news that Julia's tumor's DNA contained a factor that made it resistant to chemo therapy, and she had to start having more extensive chemotherapy done.

"That was really hard," said Amanda. "Because the treatments were harsher on her, it made her sicker. Especially, she said, as she and Torey had finally come to terms with their daughter's cancer.

Amanda said she and Torey tried to keep life as normal as possible for their family.

Amanda kept attending her once-a-month book club. Julia attended her dance classes with local dance instructor Jennifer McCoy as much as possible.

"You just keep going because you have to," Amanda said. "There's not really a choice." said Amanda.

The Kauths also learned to acknowledge there were certain things they could not control, said Amanda, and controlled what they could.

Amanda and Torey also made sure to explain to Julia what was going on. Amanda said the hardest part as a parent was trying not to let Julia see her fear, because there was a chance Julia could have died.

"And Julia knew that," said Amanda. "We thought it was really important to talk about it with her in real terminology... so she knew what was happening, and knew why she had to have blood drawn a couple of times a week to have her blood counts checked."

Amanda said seeing Julia's classmates at Westside Elementary School treating her "normally" helped the Kauths cope with the emotional stress. It also made Julia feel more comfortable.

"I like that," said Julia.

The Kauths also had help from their friends and the school.

Julia's teacher came to the house to work with her.

"She's just like any other kid," Amanda said. "When she was out of school, she still had to do her school work and keep up with everything." Julia's best friend came to visit her in the hospital.

"She brought some things like from when I was gone that we got from school," said Julia.

She also brought cards from Julia's classmates and pictures.

Julia showed her friend the hospital's playroom, where she often played while she was in the hospital.

The hospital put on different activities for the children in that playroom. There was dancing one day, and another day the children made shadow puppets.

"Like the puppy that I made that's sitting down and its tail wags," said Julia.

Since the chemotherapy caused baldness, Julia gained a huge collection of hats. Her grandmother made many for her, and donated some to the hospital.

Friends and relatives gave her so many hats she has a box overflowing with them in her closet.

"People just find cute ones or cute headbands and stuff like that for her to wear, and she changes them frequently during the day," said Amanda.

Some Kauth family friends made Walk for Julia T-Shirts and wore and sold them at the River Falls High School Relay for Life. They also gave shirts to the Kauths.

"That was really neat to hear about that and see that," said Amanda.

Many people helped the Kauths clean, or brought meals to them, or prayed for them, and reminded them they were thinking about them.

"Those are the things that meant the most to us along the way," said Amanda.

People who treated them the same way as they did before were the most supportive, Amanda said.

Amanda said fining out Julia's cancer was gone was the best news the Kauth family had gotten since Julia was born.

"I haven't been able to wipe the smile off my face in probably a week and a half since we found out that she was cancer-free," said Amanda.

Julia still has to have tests taken at the hospital every three months for three years. She will have physical therapy to build back the muscle tone she lost due to the chemotherapy.

The Kauths are inviting anyone who supported them or wants to congratulate Julia on being cancer free to a party, "Julia's Cancer-Free Jubilee" from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, July 23, at the Glen Park shelter.

For more on the Kauths' story visit their blog

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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