2020 promised to be an exciting year for Cami Bergman, Seth Holcomb and their family: A new home in Arcadia, NE; a baby (Kyzer) on the way; and new schools for Keaton (14), Kira (11), Keely (3) and Cami herself, as a special education teacher in the neighboring town of Ansley.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic threw the entire world for a loop in the spring, it was Keely’s ear infection in October that turned theirs upside-down.
Ten days after first seeing the pediatrician in Grand Island and starting antibiotics, Keely’s earache still hadn’t subsided, bruises were popping up and her skin took on a yellowish hue. They went back for another visit.
“The doctor’s tone was different and when he came back to the exam room that time,” Cami recalled. “With tears in his eyes, he said, ‘An air ambulance is on the way to take Keely to Omaha. The Hematology-Oncology team at Children’s [Hospital & Medical Center] is waiting for you.”
A $75,000 plane ride for Keely, a two-hour drive for Cami and Seth (they couldn’t fly with their daughter because of COVID protocol) and less than 24 hours later, the diagnosis was official: Pre-B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
The first thought going through Cami’s mind was fear that she could lose her baby girl to this cancer, which affects a person’s ability to fight infections. Concern for the rest of her family, her job and the finances closely followed.
“I remember walking into the hallway and letting myself cry for the first time,” Cami said. “And that’s when Karen, the case manager from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, called to see how we were doing and how she could help. I was worried about how to pay for everything, but she reassured me it would be okay.”
Fortunately, Cami had met her deductible after giving birth to Kyzer in February, and Ansley Public School officials were understanding and generously provided administrative leave and continued benefits for as long as she needed.
Cami and Keely made the 178-mile trek from their house to Children’s Hospital & Medical Center many times over the next year for treatments. They learned a lot along the way about cancer and the power of community – with other patients and parents, medical staff and kind neighbors. Keely lost her hair and, on occasion, her spunk and strength to walk; but they never lost hope.
In June 2021, 4-year-old Keely joyfully entered “maintenance” and is on track to conclude treatment by the end of 2022! She started pre-K this fall and Cami is back to teaching in Ansley.
See more of Keely’s story below:
Cami and Keely’s story is just one of many. What’s yours? You’re invited to share at NebraskaBlue.com/YourStory.