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Local communities rally around girl

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Nov 22nd, 2013
Posted in Rushford Features

Alysta King with her mom and sister. Alysta is fighting for her life due to a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Photo submitted

Alysta King is, by essence, a joy to be around. The Rushford 10-year old and 4th-grader at Houston Elementary is known for her big smile and bubbly attitude, so it’s no wonder that she’s often surrounded by family and friends. “She has been an active, outgoing, fun girl,” says her parents, Eric and Tara. That changed abruptly four weeks ago.

Hindered by a mysterious, severe pain in her hip, Alysta’s family brought her to Gunderson, in LaCrosse, Wis. on October 27. After initial testing, the family was sent home. They returned to Gunderson’s Emergency Room one week later and doctors suspected appendicitis. This was soon ruled out. Further testing revealed two tumors and doctors soon realized the pain was something far worse. On November 4, the family received word that the lively youngster was suffering from Burkitts, a form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Of Non-Hodgkin’s, the third most common childhood cancer, Burkitt’s has notably the fastest growing human tumor. Typically identified among the children of Africa, it is uncommon outside of the continent. In the U.S., according to statistical data, roughly 1,200 people are diagnosed annually with the majority over age 40 and the disease is most often seen in males. However, it accounts for an estimated 40 percent of pediatric lymphoma cases. Essentially, Alysta’s case is rare.

Reeling from the news, the family wasted no time in making plans to tackle the disease head on with extensive chemotherapy. After several tests, scans, a spinal tap, and surgery to install a double port for chemo, Alysta began treatments November 11, just seven days after diagnosis. Three days later, the family was told that treatments were going well. The good news continued November 18, following further tests and examination.

“Dr. ‘Bob’ came to check her out, and said everything was going in the right direction. He felt for her tumors and is pretty sure they have shrunk. She also gained one pound, which is good,” noted mom Tara. An allergic reaction to a new chemo medication threatened to derail the progress, but Aylsta started back on the medication in slower doses with little problem. CT-scan results November 19 showed the problem has significantly decreased and organ function was normal. “Basically what it’s saying is the tumors have drastically decreased. Dr. ‘Bob’ said it was amazing and couldn’t believe how great she is doing,” she enthused.

Alysta will be spending an unknown amount of time in the hospital as she continues with treatment. Because of this, her mother is unable to work her job at TRW in Winona until further evaluation. A benefit to help with expenses facing the King family has been planned for Saturday, November 30, at the Rushford American Legion.

Slated for 4-9 p.m., the event includes a chili/soup supper and a silent auction with live auction beginning at 7 p.m. Also planned for the evening are a bake sale, kids face painting, balloon art, and massages. The committee setup for the benefit has been accepting donations for the auction, but due to an overwhelming response, they are currently focusing all their attention on getting the word out about the benefit.

Bracelets and tee-shirts have also been bringing in donations for the family. The bracelets, which read, “Alysta Lyn – I support her” are available at Rushford Foods for $3. Tee-shirts will be available in a few weeks and will also be available at Rushford Foods or by contacting Sandy Gowin at 450-6268.

“Thanks again for everyone’s generous donations,” notes Gowin, one of the benefit organizers. “The family greatly appreciates the kindness and thoughtfulness.”

A Facebook page has been setup for the benefit at:

To date, more than 225 people have responded that they will be there to support Alysta and countless more are expected to attend.

A Caring Bridge page has also been set up at:

“I know the days ahead are probably gonna get a little rougher,” adds Tara King. “But if she can keep staying strong, we will get through this. I still ask everyone to continuing praying for Alysta. We truly do appreciate it.”

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Studio A Photography