Life hasn’t been easy for Vandalia’s B.J. Kemry (Robert Kemry III) since he was born 20 years ago.
Kemry entered this world with Shone’s Complex, a rare heart disease that required a transplant due to the four different abornmalities in his heart.
He received a new heart at age 6 and has been taking antirejection medicine so his body wouldn’t reject his new heart ever since.
After his surgery, he didn’t have a heart beat for four days and it took a couple of years until his mom Donna would find joy when she saw him running across the yard one day like a typical, healthy boy.
“He’s been pretty healthy for a long, long time,” said Donna Kemry.
The 2014 Van-Far graduate became a young man and started his working career after high school with True Manufacturing and Stark’s Brothers when his health once again put a roadblock in his life.
As recent as this past Spring, B.J. began vomiting and losing weight.
He was taken to the doctor and an ultrasound looked normal but his vomiting continued.
On Saturday, June 6 Donna Kemry took her son to the hospital for what appeared to be a stomach issue.
With a scope planned for Monday, B.J.’s mom called St. Louis Children’s Hospital, the place where he received his heart transplant, to make sure it was okay for B.J.’s body to receive the scope.
Doctors then looked at results of a procedure on Tuesday, June 9 and knew B.J. had cancer in his lower intestines.
It was labeled as Posttransplant Lymphoproliferative Diseases (PTLD). It is believed that his cancer was a result of taking antirejection medications for so many years.
“They knew Tuesday he had cancer,” Donna Kemry said. “On Friday, they did surgery to do a lymph node to identify the cancer and how to treat it.”
Another surgery followed due to his intestines being so inflamed with tumors.
“It was like tissue paper in there,” Donna Kemry added.
A bone marrow and spinal tap were done and no cancer was reported from those tests before a port was inserted for chemotherapy.
“At this point, he had not eaten in almost three weeks and lost 36 pounds before he even got to the Columbia hospital (on June 6),” Donna Kemry added.
B.J.’s chemotherapy began after a surgery on June 16 and soon went back home.
“He could eat but physically he couldn’t eat,” Donna Kemry added. “The food got caught up through the tumors and he was in so much pain he just couldn’t eat. When he came home, he still had fevers of 103 for about a week.”
A second round of chemotherapy took place on June 25 as B.J. at this point had a lot of stomach pain for several weeks.
“Finally after the second round of chemo, the fever disappeared,” Donna Kemry noted. “They said probably the fever was from the cancer as cancer can cause fever…He started eating and feeling better.”
He’s now had chemotherapy every week for the last six weeks and it will soon happen every 21 days.
B.J. started to put some pounds back on through IV nutrition. He gained eight pounds but unfortunately lost it last week after throwing up.
“It depends on what he eats and how it goes through his system,” Donna Kemry said. “…He’s a tough guy too so it does really make it hard to see him in pain.”
A major challenge of his chemotherapy is that B.J. had to go off his antirejection medicine. He is also having a biopsy done every 21 days to keep doctors updated on his body possibly rejecting his heart.
Last Friday, B.J. had a CT scan, chest x-ray, and more done along with a visit with his oncology doctor.
Donna and her husband Robert had been thankful for the support of the community.
“Our neighbors were really amazing,” Donna Kemry said. “…I just want to thank everybody for all of their support and prayers and for always being there for B.J. He’s 20 years old now and he’s been through so much and most of the community has been with him.”
B.J.’s sister, Kayla Mefford, has set up a gofundme site to raise money to help her brother pay for bills and whatever else is needed to be taken care of.
The site is located at http://www.gofundme.com/wq2t9pw
“We’ve had a little bit of financial support from our neighbors and gofundme but mostly we’re asking for prayers,” Donna Kemry noted.
B.J. is looking forward to taking a positive turn with his health to get back to his Chevy truck, getting to work, and enjoying some hunting and fishing perhaps with his dad.
His former high school teacher, Melissa Deimeke, has set up a Co-ed Softball Tournament on Saturday, October 17 in Laddonia.
The cost is $125 per team with trophies being awarded for the top three places. Concessions will also be available.
Proceeds from the event will go to Kemry and his family.
For more information, call Deimeke at 573-721-5443.