Published on May 06, 2020

Family hopes to mark end of daughter’s chemotherapy with parade

close up picture of Kaya Mulek smiling

In an ideal world, Kaya Mulek would have a party to look forward to on Friday night.

A party two-plus years in the making.

Mulek, then 3, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Feb. 17, 2018. On Friday, May 8, she will receive her final round of chemotherapy, a milestone befitting a fun-filled and care-free celebration. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and related social-distancing guidelines, however, Mulek’s parents are throwing her a parade instead of a party.

Friday, May 8, from 5-6 p.m., Jimmy and Leighellen Mulek are inviting people to drive by Blackmer Park (8406 Beverly Street) in Duluth’s Morgan Park neighborhood. Honking is optional.

They hope to make it a memorable evening for their 5-year-old daughter, whom Leighellen affectionately calls “Super Kaya.”

“(Friday) signifies that this girl, this amazing girl, who’s had to go through something so horrible that nobody should ever have to go through, that she’s done it,” Leighellen said. “She’s done with this chapter. It’s hard to put into words what it will mean. There are so many emotions.”

Leighellen said Kaya has handled the past two years with uncommon grace. Chemotherapy treatments were weekly at the start, then bi-weekly and eventually monthly. For a time, Leighellen and Jimmy administered at-home injections. Today, Kaya takes chemo orally once per day. There’s also a separate, weekly regimen.

That all ends on Friday.

The first month following her diagnosis was especially hard on Kaya, her mother said. Chemo took its toll. So, too, did steroids, which were part of the treatment; their primary use is to decrease the white blood-cell count. When Kaya started losing her hair, mom and dad said it was her baby hair leaving to make way for big-girl hair. Through it all, Leighellen said, the youngster never felt sorry for herself.

“She always has a smile on her face and never complains. She teaches us how to be happy and thankful, and how to smile,” Leighellen said. “She so strong.

“I’ve really learned what strength is from her.”

Kaya has been in remission since about a month after she was diagnosed. Friday, her chemotherapy journey ends. She likely will mark the occasion by enjoying a couple of her favorite activities — singing and dancing. Kaya also loves to play with makeup and jewelry.

“She’s just a personality,” Leighellen said. “She’s a big personality.”

Kaya was diagnosed and treated at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital in Duluth, where her pediatric oncologist was Dr. Jacquelyn Wiermaa.

  • Kaya’s family is thankful for the community’s support. They also request that people abide by social-distancing guidelines and refrain from approaching them for an interview on Friday. Those requests can be made to Louie St. George at Essentia.
  • The first photo attached is of Kaya. The second photo includes her parents, Leighellen and Jimmy Mulek.

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