Young Cancer Patient, Family Have Special Reason To Give Thanks

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Six-year-old Karis Selk is a powerhouse in pink. Her bracelet, her necklaces, her shirt, the sparkly earrings, some of the beads decorating her hat - all pink.

"It's pretty!" she says simply.

But what Karis has been through in the past year is anything but pretty. Just before Thanksgiving 2012, Karis was plunged into the scary world of brian cancer - medulloblastoma, to be exact.

As only a child could, Karis explains that "it's like bad chocolate."

Really bad. Doctors discovered Karis had three brain tumors and cancer had metasticized to her spine. Her mom, Stephanie remembers the feeling when she and husband Kyle learned the diagnosis.

"We didn't know how to react," she said. "We felt the walls closing in. I know felt hot and cold at the same time. My husband just wanted to run out of the room."

Since then, Karis has been through two rounds of chemo, 30 rounds of radiation to her brain and spine, another six rounds of maintenance chemo and a couple surgeries in between. Photos taken along the way usually capture Karis smiling, even as she lost her hair and the surgeries left scars along her forehead and at the base of her skull.

Dr. Youmna Othman, a pediatric oncologist at Topeka's Stormont-Vail Cancer Center, says brain cancers are among the most difficult cancer to treat in children. Karis was able to receive her final treatments in Topeka under Othman's supervision. It not only was more convenient for her family to avoid the hour-plus drive to Kansas City, Dr. Othman says having the direct support of her parents and two sisters also can improve treatment outcomes.

Othman says children simply function differently than adults, so having as much normalcy as possible is very important.

Last month, Karis finally posed for a photo that shows life really may be returning to normal. In it, she held a sign that pronounced, "I am cancer free."

Stephanie tears up when she speaks about the moment Dr. Othman says should could share the news. As she does, Karis reaches up and brushes aside her mother's tears.

The gesture symbolizes how Karis has fought, comforting others and lifting others up. She says she knew her cancer was gone. How?

"I had faith," she says.

Many others have helped keep that faith. Karis is slowly rejoining her classmates at Randolph Elementary, a community that's rallied around her with fundraisers and other support.

Karis does want to go back to the hospital some day, but by choice. When she grows up, she says she wants to help kids at the hospitals when they are afraid.

Knowing they can move from simply hoping to truly dreaming is reason for this family to give thanks.

They don't know what the future will bring, Stephanie says, but they take it day by day and keep their faith strong, with the continued prayers of family, friends and even strangers.

Inspiring it all is Karis.

"She's my hero," Stephanie says.

You can continue to follow Karis' journey on the Facebook page, Hope for here