Marriage can be a challenge for any couple, and the first year in particular can be full of adjustments for newlyweds. But Kayla Gaytan and her U.S. Army sergeant husband, Charles, faced more challenges than most – and what they went through is an incredibly emotional story.
Kayla, a 29-year-old mother of two from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, is a fighter, and that’s likely one of the reasons why Charles fell in love with her. But after the couple married on January 19, 2016, their fairytale wedding was quickly followed by some devastating news.
Yes, Kayla discovered a lump in her neck – and the results of her biopsy came back just a couple of days after the wedding. Doctors then diagnosed her with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is a form of blood cancer. But although the situation was undoubtedly terrifying, the newlyweds faced it with great resilience.
Still, as a result of her diagnosis, Kayla was prescribed intensive chemotherapy: cancer-fighting chemicals were injected straight into her bloodstream via a tap inserted into her chest. Yet while the treatment lasted over four months and was a grueling process, some good news came at the end of it.
Specifically, in May 2016 doctors declared that Kayla was in remission. However, with the heart-warming results came an upsetting catch: the damage caused by the aggressive chemo meant that it was unlikely that Kayla could have any more children. And though they already had two kids, the couple had always planned to have more.
But life can sometimes throw up some unexpected surprises. Less than one month after doctors told her to forget about having more children, in fact, Kayla learned that she was pregnant. And it was during a routine scan that she would receive an even bigger surprise.
While performing the ultrasound, medical technicians discovered not one but four heartbeats. So Kayla was defying the odds not just as a chemo patient, but also in conceiving quads with no fertility treatment or immediate family history of multiple births.
Speaking to CBS News in January 2017, Kayla said, “It was more than a complete shock, but also such a blessing. I can remember in the doctor’s office, seeing the four gestational sacs and just being in awe. There before me [were] four healthy babies with four heartbeats.”
And the good news continued: throughout the pregnancy, the quads were strong, healthy and unaffected by Kayla’s chemo. And while doctors wanted Kayla to carry her quads for 28 to 32 weeks, Kayla, in her typical fighting spirit, aimed for 34 weeks.
In a January 2017 interview with Fox News, Kayla said, “The quads were doing amazing. I didn’t have any high blood pressure, nothing like that, everything was going great.” Sadly, though, it wasn’t to last. Despite all of the medical signs being good, Kayla knew that something wasn’t right.
“I know my body well,” Kayla told Fox News. “And the swelling in my neck told me something was wrong.” That was despite the fact that Kayla’s cancer had been monitored throughout her pregnancy and that each test had come back clear. In November 2016, however, her worst nightmare came true.
A biopsy confirmed Kayla’s suspicion: her Hodgkin’s lymphoma had returned. And due to the aggressive nature of its comeback, doctors determined that she needed more chemo and fast. Meanwhile, the quads were only 28 weeks along.
In January 2017 Kayla told Nashville-based station WKRN of her despair. “You think you’ve beat it the first time,” she said. “When it comes back you’re just wondering why get pregnant with these four babies and then, you know, something like this happens.” Still, doctors needed to act quickly to treat Kayla’s returning cancer.
Under the advice of medical professionals, then, Kayla and Charles decided to have the quads induced at 30 weeks. So on December 30, 2016, two girls – Lillian Kate and Victoria Ann – and two boys – Michael James and Charles Edward – were delivered by cesarian section. They each weighed between two and three pounds.
Yet despite the relatively early birth, the quads only needed a little additional oxygen and were all able to breathe unaided. And while it was thought that the babies would all be in hospital for a month and a half, Victoria went home in early February 2017.
“It’s awesome to see them grow and to see their little bodies fight to stay strong,” Kayla told CBS News. “I definitely admire their strength already as their mom, it makes me proud.” The fight, however, was only just beginning again for Kayla.
Kayla began treatment for a second time in January 2017. It’s believed that she has had a stem cell transplant, which will be followed by 16 months of chemotherapy. But Kayla told Fox News rather honestly, “I’ve been given a 50 percent chance of surviving five years because [the cancer] has come back so quickly.”
Fortunately, the mom has had help covering her medical expenses from donations accrued through a GoFundMe page, which so far has raised more than a million dollars for her. But it’s from her kids that Kayla draws strength. As she told Fox News, “I just know that we can do it. I mean, I have to fight for my kids. Cos I want to see them longer than just five years from now.”
“It happens sometimes; it’s not always rainbows and butterflies,” Kayla added to the network. “I do ask ‘why me?’ a lot… I just have to trust the plan that’s set forth for me and just believe that surely I wouldn’t be given four new babies just to not make it to see them grow up.”
“I’m a very stubborn person. I believe that’s part of what has gotten me this far,” Kayla also explained to CBS News. “My advice to other moms, or anyone really facing cancer or any other challenges in life, is to just have faith. Even when it’s tested, continue to believe that things will work themselves out.”