LSU freshman refuses to let cancer keep him out of school
BATON ROUGE - An LSU freshman is living out his dream of being an Tiger.
Kayne Finley was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer late last year, but it hasn't stopped him from going to school. While he says some days are harder than others, he's trying to do as much as he can to spread awareness.
The last few months have been quite an adjustment for Kayne, who celebrated his 18th birthday last Saturday. He's always been the one to help others.
"Asking for help has never been my thing," he said.
For the past few weeks, Kayne has been getting around campus by a motorized chair. His English mastiff named Moose is by his side as he wheels to class.
Around Thanksgiving, Kayne was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG). It's a brain tumor found in part of the brain stem called the pons, which controls everyday bodily functions like breathing. It also affects muscles used to walk, talk, see, and hear. The number of cases averages 300 per year and mainly affects young children between the ages of six and 11.
Prior to his diagnosis, he lost hearing in his left ear. Bell's palsy set in on the left side of his face and he became fatigued and lost appetite.
At first, Kayne brushed off the diagnosis but reality set in quickly. Radiation halted the tumor's growth for a few months, but it began to grow once again and spread.
"And it kind of progressively gets worse," he said.
His balance is off, that's why he uses the motorized chair. He realizes his prognosis isn't great, but it's changed his outlook on life.
"I just live each day," he said.
That's why he's at LSU, his number one choice of school and the first he was accepted to. Three days a week Kayne is attending class, working on a dream to become a doctor of veterinary medicine.
"I've always wanted to come to LSU because of the colors," he said.
Kirsten Finley, Kayne's mom, says her son has always been independent and still is.
"We're letting him do as much as he can on his own," said Kirsten. "He calls me when he runs into problems."
Friday, she had a first-hand look at his trek to class, winding around buildings to find wheelchair access, and packing into a small elevator leading him to the basement for his renewable natural resources class.
He says one of the greatest surprises that came along with LSU has been the generosity of others. His professors, staff and fellow students have made it easy for him to find a home in Louisiana.
"Everyone has been very nice, very caring, compassionate," said Kayne. "LSU has definitely shown a great deal of care."
Kayne is a Tiger and a proud one at that. He's looking forward to his first home football game and will be helping out as Assistant Manager of the swim team. Growing up as a swimmer, it's one of his passions.
It's also how his foundation, Cannonballs for Kayne came about. Soon after his diagnosis, Kayne's swim teammates rallied behind him in a fun way to show support. The swim team filmed themselves doing cannonballs into the pool. It gained traction on Twitter and Facebook, where people would post their cannonball with #cannonballsforKayne.
The foundation raises awareness and funding for research and testing for the prevention and cure of pediatric brain cancers.
Wise beyond his years, Kayne is still helping others.
"I'm trying to do as much as I can," he said.
There is currently no cure for DIPG and surgery is not an option because of where the tumor is located. Right now, Kayne receives symptom and pain management treatment.
He knows that every day is not guaranteed and not every day is a great one.
"But if you look at what good happened in that day you can take away from it and be like, 'you know, even though that happened I'm still good,'" he said.
It's an attitude he's lived with all his life.
Friday afternoon, Kayne was made an honorary member by the veterinary class of 2020 and presented with a blue coat. You can learn more about his foundation on his website www.cannonballsforkayne.org and on his Facebook page.