Washington resident overcomes adversity, inspires others

Published 5:41 pm Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In 25 years, she’s overcome more than most people would in a lifetime.

Kayla Hudson was first diagnosed with bone marrow cancer at age 2, but she luckily responded to treatment well. Even after remission, however, she still had to visit the hospital for four days every month, according to mother Juanita Godley.

At age 5, the cancer returned — this time in her spinal fluid. Again, Hudson responded well to treatment, and after beating that bout of the illness, remained cancer free for the next 16 years.

Then, in her early 20s, it came back. Hudson noticed an increased amount of headaches, and the muscles around her mouth began to draw up. Doctors ran tests and found a brain tumor, likely caused by radiation treatments during her childhood, according to Godley.

Doctors performed surgery to remove most of the mass, as well as remove Hudson’s thyroid, which had a mass, although not cancerous. The cancer treatments had more serious side effects: hair loss; hip necrosis, which led to a recent hip replacement; weight gain from the steroid treatment; loss of vision; and a weeklong loss of function on her left side.

In June 2015, Hudson was officially finished treatment, but her fight wasn’t over. Godley said doctors detected another mass in Hudson’s brain in September of last year, and after a biopsy, they learned it was a mass of dead brain tissue caused by the treatments.

“It has a tendency to hide itself sometimes, and it also has a tendency to keep growing,” Godley explained. “She will be never be cancer free.”

ALL SMILES: Kayla Hudson and her mother Juanita Godley found joy in life, despite many trips to the hospital throughout the years.

ALL SMILES: Kayla Hudson and her mother Juanita Godley found joy in life, despite many trips to the hospital throughout the years.

So many cancer battles in such a short time would be enough to break a person, but Hudson said she will not stop fighting.

“I’m not a person to give in or give up. … I see a reason for living for life,” Hudson said. “I feel like life is worth living.”

Her story has inspired many, and both Hudson and Godley are amazed at how people seek hope in that story. This, combined with support and the family’s strong faith in God, has helped Hudson defy the odds.

“Even the doctors would say there’s just no way,” Godley said. “God’s definitely got a purpose for her.”

“It’s awesome. It lets me know that what I’m doing is worth it. I’m not just doing it for myself,” Hudson said of those who are inspired by her story.

Both are grateful for all of the help they’ve received along the way: nonprofit Riley’s Army; Haley Braddy and her mom Kim Hiatt; Dr. Tate Holbrook, with Children’s Health Services in Greenville; Dr. Pamela Lepera, of the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center; Dr. Angie Rhodes, a dentist in Chocowinity; Frank Fuller, with Bath Showdown/Bayview Community Church; Nancy Brickhouse; Aaron Kennedy, with Open Door Church in Winterville; Dads for Daughters; Brothers First Christian Bikers; and Ed Adams, with Eastern Pines Church.

Hudson’s brain mass remains dormant, and she is set to marry fiancé Eric Sawyer on May 6 in New Bern. Inner Banks Wedding Association selected the couple for The Wedding Gift, and is helping provide their dream wedding at no cost.

To say the least, Hudson has a bright future ahead.

“There’s so many people that I’m not ready to leave yet. I’m happy with my life, whether it’s the way it is or another way,” Hudson said.