Killian’s Story

Treating the whole person

Killian, July 9, 1993 – August 20, 2009

Killian, an artist and musician, was 11 years old when he was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma of the jaw. He began spending long periods of time in the hospital, and like many cancer patients, was anxious and overwhelmed. He loathed the loss of control he felt, being told by doctors what he must go through without, as his mother Barbara says, “even the illusion of choice.”

Then Killian was introduced to Kids Kicking Cancer and other integrative therapies, which are dedicated to treating the whole person ¬– mind, body and spirit. He learned that with the right tools, he could choose to make himself feel better.

“Anxiety is an overwhelming first side effect and sometimes more dominating than even nausea for kids when they first are treated,” says Barbara. “Being able to have a wide range of things like meditation enables kids to not be overwhelmed by anxiety. For Killian, this was one more trick in his pocket, one more thing in his arsenal.”

Killian’s disease shook the whole family, especially his then-5-year-old sister, Cally. She was jealous of the “special treatment” her brother received, and became angry at having to spend so much time at the hospital. Cally began working with Angela, Kids Kicking Cancer’s program director, on venting her anger in a healthy way using breathing exercises.

“Smell the flowers, blow out the candle,” Barbara recalls with a laugh. “That was one of the anger management tools that she used all the time. It was visual imagery. That was very immediate to her 5-year-old self.”

One aspect of Kids Kicking Cancer that most impressed Barbara was the instructors’ flexibility and child-centered approach.

“When they work with children, they’re meeting the child where the child is,” she says. “If the child is shy, I have seen them approach that situation with extreme sensitivity. If they’re angry, they approach with sensitivity. It’s not a rigid program where you either get in the bus or you don’t. They’re very skilled in reaching out and engaging children.”

Before he died at age 16, Killian started the Killian Mansfield Foundation to support integrative therapies. He believed that programs like Kids Kicking Cancer were essential to his quality of life, and were more important to him than the actual medical treatments he was receiving.

“Cancer is just a disease. It doesn’t get to decide who I am or how I deal with being sick. Conventional medicine does what it can to cure cancer and other diseases, but sometimes the cure feels brutal and elusive. Integrative healthcare is important because these practices are safe and available to make people feel better now.” – Killian Mansfield