The Langdon-Edmore-Munich volleyball program has had Tami Flink as a coach for almost 20 years. The current team is composed of athletes that have had the dedicated coach teaching them the game since they were in grade school. Now, that team has dedicated their year to Flink’s granddaughter, Kynlee Pengilly, as she faces a tough year of her own.
By Melissa Anderson
“On July 26, while I was combing her hair I noticed this bump on her head. Didn’t really think much of it – she was in a summer play- thought maybe it was something she got there,” Jessica Pengilly, Kynlee’s mother, shared on CaringBridge. “Over about 10 days, it got a little bigger and a little redder. Took her to our local clinic, had an ultrasound done and put on some antibiotics.“
Despite two weeks of treatment with antibiotics, the bump wasn’t getting any smaller or less red. In fact, it had grown and hurt when touched. The Pengillys were referred to dermatology, and on August 28, the dermatologist was set to remove what they thought was a cyst. Once the incision had been made, however, the doctor found something completely different.
A biopsy of tissue was taken and sent to Sanford Pathology for testing. After an excruciating wait for the results, Sanford didn’t really know what it was and would be sending the biopsy to Mayo for molecular testing. The Pengillys were in limbo for the entire month of September wondering what the future held for Kynlee.
“On October 2, our world would change forever. Kynlee was diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma,” Pengilly said.
“After we found Kynlee had cancer, she had been a volleyball buddy,” Flink explained. “We were heading out to the DeLac-Burlington tournament, and we had about five of the girls in our vehicle, and they said ‘hey let’s dedicate our season to Kynlee, and we’ll get some t-shirts and some bracelets’. “
By the time they had reached Rugby, a design had been created for the t-shirts, and Jeff Fisk had been contacted for printing of the shirts. He had offered to do shirts for the volleyball team previously and agreed to not only get the shirts made but also pay for the shirts.
“I said well, you better message him back and say hey we are opening this up to the public and the school kids and whatever. It’s not just going to be the volleyball team. He said no problem, taken care of,” Flink said.
It only took three days for the first order to reach over 850 shirts. With the production costs covered, the Pengillys received the entire profit from that order. The team wanted to celebrate Kynlee and show their support for both Kynlee and their coach at one of their games. A rescheduling of a game with Grafton had a timely date decided upon, November 1, which is Kynlee’s birthday.
“Let’s have a party at the game…Let’s just have the biggest birthday bash ever,” Flink shared of the team’s idea.
The “sweet, bubbly, sassy 2nd grader, who loves school, dance, pink, and unicorns” celebrated her 8th birthday with the entire sports family of Langdon-Edmore-Munich volleyball! The volleyball team also held a cake walk for Kynlee with a special cake just for Kynlee made by her volleyball buddy, Morgan Freije. The special cake made with her favorite animal, a unicorn, along with a special gift of a signed pink volleyball from the team was given to Kynlee at the start of the varsity volleyball game.
Kynlee has started chemo treatment already and has many weeks to go. The first round of chemo will go for 12 weeks before a surgery to remove as much of the cancerous growth from her skull as possible is done. This will then be followed by an additional 22 weeks of treatment.
“Like her whole second grade year,” Flink said.
The side effects of the chemotherapy have begun to hit the little girl hard. The fatigue is making attending school difficult along with her immune system’s ability to fight infection being drastically reduced. The hardest part of the treatment has also begun; she has started losing her hair.
“She is losing it by the day so they did say whatever she wants to do to her hair, do it. It’s like the calm before the storm,” Flink said. “Jess did ask the doctor when this is going to hit her, and they said – well, when she has no hair.”
As a whole, Kynlee’s family has handled the emotional stress as best as they can. Kynlee’s younger brothers stay with grandparents while she is in Fargo with their parents for her treatments. The family is also working to make sure that Kynlee’s education doesn’t suffer and that things stay as normal as possible. Having community support has been incredibly helpful with meals and monetary donations making it a bit easier.
“Everybody has insurance, but there is just so much more that people don’t even realize- going to Fargo every week for 35 weeks, eating, travel, motels,” Flink shared. “A lot of donations have come in to help them out. It’s going to be a long year.”
Kynlee’s family wishes to thank everyone, from businesses to individuals to the school and the volleyball team, for helping when they need it the most. The prognosis for Kynlee is good in terms of the treatment being successful. The only danger that Kynlee faces is if she were to develop an infection due to her weakened immune system.
#KynleesFight t-shirts can still be ordered. With a long road of treatments still ahead of her, Flink asks that writing a card of encouragement to Kynlee be considered.
“Cards would be awesome while she is sitting down in Fargo five days in a row doing the chemo,” Flink said.
Cards or letters can be sent to Kynlee at 1211 11th Street, Langdon, ND 58249.