When 6-year-old David Kanke (Lil’ D) visited Oklahoma State University’s baseball players last April, he became a team favorite, particularly with Centerfield senior Saulyer Saxton and Right Fielder junior Zack Fish. His visit was made possible through OSU’s Coaches vs. Cancer program which began in 1993.
When Saxton and Fish learned Lil’ D’s cancer had resurfaced, they decided to pay a visit to their little buddy last Tuesday.
“These two guys are David’s favorite players. When he first met them in April, it was an instant connection. David got to apply eye black on all the team’s faces and ended up nicknaming Fish, ‘Whiskers.’ All the team signed David’s hat; but, Saulyer and Fish asked David to sign their hats,” Lil’ D’s mom, Kelly Kanke, said.
Kelly Kanke said David was pretty down after learning about the return of his cancer. Hanging out with his OSU buddies really lifted his spirits, especially after playing several rounds of catch and sharing root beer floats with them. They were joined by neighbor Austin and brothers, Trevor and James.
Several members of the Osage County Sheriff’s Office also visited Lil’ D this past week as a show of support. These included Deputies John Ferguson, Frank Chessman and Gary Blake. On Saturday, OCSO Deputy Kevin Young dropped by with a special gift — a 10-year collection of law enforcement patches. There were so many that Kelly Kanke and grandmother Ginger Beaver plan to make David a special quilt out of them.
On August 25, the Kanke family will make its second trek to Maine for Camp Sunshine, a week-long camp for families and children afflicted with cancer.
“For a week, this camp lets children forget about having cancer. Siblings 18 and under are invited which gives them a chance to interact with other siblings, to share experiences and talk with one another one-on-one. More importantly, adults get to be in counseling all week. We get to talk to other parents and bounce ideas off them. No one knows what we are going through unless they have a child with cancer. We have met a lot of parents whose children have the same type of cancer as David. We received a lot of information last year and made — I won’t say friends — but rather we expanded our family last year. It’s a wonderful place,” Kelly Kanke said.
Kelly Kanke said David’s attitude is still pretty upbeat, especially following visits from his friends.
When another child asked David why he had cancer, David responded by saying, “God gave me the faith to know I can beat this.”
David is not the only one affected by this insidious disease. Kelly Kanke said, “15-year old Trevor and 12-year old James seem to be holding it all in. My boys are worried about me and how I am coping with all this that they are trying to mask their own feelings. My oldest son, Todd, recently returned from a military stint overseas and said his six-year-old brother is his real hero. I think that is the most profound thing I have ever heard.”
For updates, visit Lil’ D’s Facebook page at Prayer-chain-for-Lil-d-David-Kanke. Cards of encouragement may be sent to Lil’ D Kanke, PO Box 445, Wynona, Ok, 74084.