Relay For Life honors child survivor

“Pains in my stomach,” is what she told her mother, but the doctor saw no problems. More pains in the stomach spawned another doctor visit. It was then that 4-year-old KeAirra Richardson was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor, the most common type of kidney cancer in children.

Immediately, KeAirra’s mother thought that she had already lost her daughter, but her sister had faith – cancer was not going to take her niece.

“I said ‘don’t cry it will be all right. God’s gonna heal her,’ and we began to pack,” said Yolando Westberry, aunt and guardian of KeAirra.

The next step was making it to Gainesville in the next 24 hours for a surgery that would end up taking 46 hours.

“My sister was getting nervous because nobody came back to tell her anything,” Westberry said. “They eventually came out and told us everything went real well and (KeAirra) went into intensive care.”

KeAirra survived the surgery, but her mother was not as fortunate to beat the disease. KeAirra’s mother died Aug. 1, 2000 from vaginal cancer, which was almost 5 months after KeAirra was diagnosed with cancer on March 15 of the same year.

“She told us that she had cancer,” Westberry said. “We told her to get the treatment. She wasn’t thinking about herself, she was thinking about her daughter.”

Westberry explained how she does her best to be a guardian for KeAirra.

“As an auntie I could never replace her mother,” Westberry said. “I am just filling in and teaching her in the way and giving her the life her mother would want her to have.”

KeAirra was lucky enough to survive the cancer, but beating cancer took more than the 46-hour surgery she had to endure.

KeAirra was hospitalized for two to three weeks and had to go through chemotherapy, a type of treatment for cancer, for a year. She was told to eat a lot of vegetables and not to drink any sodas with dye.

Not only were KeAirra’s eating habits changed, she also had trouble being a regular child even after the cancer was gone.

“It made her weak,” Westberry explained. “We just hated to see her weak and she couldn’t play from the ages 4 to 6. She missed out on a lot because she was tired and exhausted from chemo treatments.”

Despite the odds, KeAirra, now 9, lives as a strong child and was adopted by the Survivorship committee as the first Honorary Child Chair of the FAMU’s Relay For Life.

Relay For Life is a community developed organization to fight cancer based on volunteer membership.

According to facts from the Relay For Life committee, the organization is the single largest non-profit fund-raising event in the world.

The event has more than 2.75 million people participating with 550,000 cancer survivors. The event allows families, clubs, schools, businesses, churches and friends to form teams to pay a registration fee to participate.

Before the event, team members must raise a minimum of $100 each. The money raised from Relay For Life is used for information seeking, helping cancer patients, research and cancer prevention as well as early detection.

Westberry explained what it meant to her niece to be an honorary chairperson of the annual event.

“I feel it was a great honor to her,” Westberry said.

“She is very excited about being honored as a queen. She is a happy and outgoing young lady and she wants everyone to know if you fight, you can survive and beat cancer. Don’t give up”

Westberry also offered what she believes other family members of cancer survivors should be doing about the devastating disease.

“We need to support,” Westberry said. “We need to support the cancer society with the festivities and fund-raiser so they can keep researching and get the right medical supplies to continue to fight for the cure for cancer because it can happen to any one in anyone’s family.”

Westberry also had advice for how cancer carriers should deal with their situation.

“Don’t give up,” Westberry said.

“Look up and live. That’s the only way to survive cancer. She looked up and lived and fought with what she had to deal with.”

Having gone through so much ,KeAirra is happy for the attention she is receiving.

“It feels good,” she said.

The 9-year-old survivor enjoys playing basketball and likes to shop. She said what she liked most about Relay For Life was the games.

Contact Royce Wynn at