Faces of Kansas City: 6-year-old still spunky despite leukemia - KCTV5 News

Faces of Kansas City: 6-year-old still spunky despite leukemia

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Tianna in June 2012 Tianna in June 2012
Tianna and Destinee Tianna and Destinee
Tianna in September 2012 Tianna in September 2012

Wednesday night in the oncology ward at Children's Mercy Hospital lays a 6-year-old girl from Lee's Summit who has been through a lot.

The girl is Tianna and she has been very sick with leukemia, but she is a fighter.

KCTV5 viewers first met Tianna back in June when Brad Stephens did a story on a volunteer who works with pint-sized patients at Children's Mercy Hospital. At only 6 years old, this is her second go-round with cancer.

Tianna has a rare form of leukemia.

"Childhood leukemia is basically acute leukemia and that means it comes very aggressive and very fast," said Dr. Mohamed A. Radhi, a blood and marrow transplant physician.

It was only a few weeks ago that Tianna had long, beautiful hair. But several days of massive doses of chemotherapy has taken that from her. It's also taken her appetite. Feeding tubes are now supplying her with much-needed nutrients.

"Basically for the last two years we've been battling her cancer," Gina Hensley, Tianna's mother, said.

That means countless hospital stays and visits to doctors offices, which has forced Hensley to reduce her hours at work.

"My job has been excellent during the past two years, understanding when I need to cut my hours back but, unfortunately, cutting hours means bills can't get paid," Tianna's mother said.

But what the chemo can't rob is her spirit.

"She was singing and dancing and watching TV and if you see her you wouldn't expect she's going through the toughest chemotherapy for a bone marrow transplant," Radhi said.

Vincent Galicia heard about Tianna's fight with cancer and wanted to help and now he and Tianna have become fast friends.

On stage and in the music world, Vincent is known as "VG." The energetic local rapper who dabbles in pop, hip-hop and R&B has already held one benefit concert to support Tianna's family and is planning another. The 6-year-old said, when she feels well enough, her favorite VG song to dance to is one called Good Good.

"Music is a powerful weapon and luckily for me she loves that song. Whatever I can do to put a smile on her face, I'm all for it," VG said.

Tianna isn't just fighting her cancer, she's doing it with attitude. When talking with KCTV5's Stephens and photographer Greg Milota, Milota asked her if she thinks Stephens is old and her response is one fit for Kids Say the Darndest Things.

"Yes. 100," Tianna answered, to which Stephens said, "Well, sometimes I feel like 100."

Tianna is spunky, just ask her doctor.

"She's very spunky. At one point she told me I was her boyfriend, but she dumped me for, what's his name? VG? I told her I'm very patient," Radhi said.

On the night Stephens and Milota visited Tianna, the chemotherapy had drained her energy and appetite as she hadn't eaten in days. Her nourishment was coming from feeding tubes, but that hadn't stopped her from fighting and her spunky attitude from shining through.

"They say she's actually doing pretty good considering what she's going through. We're just waiting for the big day," Hensley said.

The big day Tianna's mom talked about is huge. The little girl is receiving what could be a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

In a rare stroke of luck for Tianna, her 4-year-old sister Destinee is a perfect donor match. To extract her precious stem cells for the transplant, doctors performed a procedure where a needle was inserted into Destinee's back 100 times.

"He (the doctor) made me go to sleep because I was tired. Then put me in the same bedroom as Tianna," Destinee said when Milota asked her what the doctors did when they came to see her.

For Hensley, the girls' mother, it's overwhelming.

"No sleep, so best as I can. It's hard when it's both, you know what I mean," Hensley said when asked how she was doing.

As specialists prepare to begin the procedure, the normally spunky Tianna is worn out and sick from the chemotherapy.

"She's not really talking. I just don't think she's feeling too good," Hensley said.

Compared to the bone marrow extraction, the actual transplant seems fairly routine. A bag of blood contains Destinee's stem cells. Once all the tubes are connected, it will take about two hours before it's all transferred into Tianna's body.

But the procedure isn't a guaranteed cure. There is a chance that Tianna could reject the transplant.

Even as her two youngest daughters lie in a hospital room, Hensley is worried about her three other children who are no doubt worried about their two sisters.

"They're impacted by it because they miss mom being at home, they miss mom cooking dinner for them every night, doing their laundry. I'm not able to do that anymore - it makes it hard," Hensley said.

Their mother said the one thing that makes this painful process a little more bearable are the people who are reaching out to help.

VG has held one benefit concert to help with Hensley's financial situation and will hold another benefit at the end of the month.

"So when people do that it ensures that my kids will still have a home. But everything else has been ripped from us. At least we still have the same home and, when we get out of here, we're going back home," Hensley said as she pauses to hold back tears.

Destinee sees her mom struggle to get the last words out and says, "Mom don't cry. Sorry."

Doctors at Children Mercy Hospital will begin performing tests this weekend to find out if Tianna's body is accepting or rejecting the stem cell transplant.

VG is holding another benefit concert for Tianna and her family and they'd love to see anybody who can make it at the Czar Bar in Kansas City on Saturday, Sept. 29. Everybody is welcome to stop by to help Tianna's family and listen to some great music.

Click here for the previous Faces of Kansas City story that introduced Tianna.

Copyright 2012 KCTV (Meredith Corp.)  All rights reserved.

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