April 6, 2007

Young cancer survivor named ambassador for Iroquois Steeplechase

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James Kay, 13, will serve as the ambassador for this year’s Iroquois Steeplechase. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Young cancer survivor named ambassador for Iroquois Steeplechase

Thirteen-year-old James Kay has been named the ambassador for the 2007 Iroquois Steeplechase, Nashville's premiere annual horseracing event.

Kay is in remission after being treated at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt for Ewing's sarcoma of the kidney.

Ewing's sarcoma is a fairly common form of bone cancer, and there are fewer than 30 cases in medical literature where it is found in the kidney.

“This malignant cancer very, very rarely occurs in the kidney,” said John Kuttesch, M.D., associate professor for Cancer Research in the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Children's Hospital.

Kay's only sign of trouble was having a pain similar to someone suffering from kidney stones. His late grandfather, Earl Ginn, M.D., was a nephrologist, and Kay's mother, Elaine, asked herself, 'What would dad say about this?'”

She asked her son's pediatrician to refer her to Children's Hospital, knowing that her father would have strongly suggested seeing a top specialist.

James Kay's grapefruit-sized tumor was discovered in February 2005. Soon after, John Pope IV, M.D., and Romano Demarco, M.D., both assistant professors of Pediatric Urology, performed surgery on him. During the surgery, it became clear that the tumor was cancerous, and his left kidney was removed.

“The surgeons saved James' life that day,” Elaine Kay said.

After the surgery, James Kay was successfully treated at the Vanderbilt Childhood Cancer Program through a clinical trial sponsored by Childrens Oncology Group that evaluated the use of more intense therapy in the treatment of the Ewing's family of sarcomas.

Elaine Kay said her son didn't fear the possibility of death — he feared losing his hair and not being able to play sports.

James Kay was stringent about his diet and made sure to eat, and was even able to play some baseball in the midst of radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“James is a great choice to be selected as an ambassador to the Iroquois Steeplechase. James was and is a 'fighter,'” Kuttesch said. “After all the surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and all the hospitalizations, James never wavered from his personal goal to get back to playing sports and hanging out with his friends.”

The seventh grader at Montgomery Bell Academy plays on the baseball and football teams and wears a protective covering over his remaining kidney while playing sports to ward off any potential injury.

James completed his treatment last October, and recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of when his cancer journey began.

“It's so nice to be on this end of treatment,” Elaine Kay said. “There is life after chemotherapy, life after hard health problems.”

Added Kuttesch, “Children like James benefit greatly from the funds raised through the Iroquois Steeplechase for the medical technology to support their care and the research support in understanding these devastating diseases of children.”

The 66th Annual Iroquois Steeplechase, presented by Bank of America and benefiting Children's Hospital, will be held Saturday, May 12, at Nashville's Percy Warner Park.