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Denver teen fighting rare form of cancer, only 200 cases in the world

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McKenna Wilburn is a 15-year-old girl fighting a rare form of cancer -- renal medullary carcinoma.

DENVER — McKenna Wilburn is a smart, courageous 15-year-old coping with more than most people can imagine. She is being treated at Children’s Hospital Colorado for a rare form of kidney cancer called renal medullary carcinoma.

Her warm smile provides the medicine for those around her though, as her amazing positivity lights up the room.

“Being sad isn’t going to change the fact that I have cancer, but (being) happy will still make me feel good and help me get through it,” McKenna says.

McKenna’s mother Robin Mares says her world has changed very fast since her daughter noticed she had swollen lymph nodes, a sign of cancer, months ago.

“You just never think that something like this will happen to your kid… I follow her lead always, she is an angel she’s amazing,” Robin says.

Chemotherapy treatments have caused McKenna to lose her hair, but she remains strikingly beautiful. While McKenna is surrounded by the support of her two siblings and many friends, she still has moments when she feels she is treated differently.

“It’s hard for her when she goes out in public and people stare. Kids are very cruel and she’s very nervous about starting a new school,” Robin says.

“The hardest part has to be strangers and them not knowing how I am as a person,” McKenna says.

This type of cancer is considered a mystery to medical experts. There have only been 200 diagnosed cases in the world, but doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado are making progress.

“It is a long hard road, so she’s aware of that, but she really, really wants to fight,” Dr. Tim Garrington says.

There is another battle though, the fight to survive financially. Robin, a single mother of three, is on short term disability and will lose her health insurance because she does not qualify for Medicaid. The co-pay alone on the most recent medical bill is 12-thousand dollars.

Family and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help McKenna and her family.

It’s a start and could ease the journey that is so much for this daughter and mother to bear. If you would like to help, click here.

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