Loved ones of a Gold Star teenager with terminal brain cancer are asking for the public’s help in making her last days special.
Kayla Spangler, a 17-year-old high school senior in Indiana, was diagnosed with glioblastoma in the fall of 2020 after getting into an ATV accident. Two years earlier, her father, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Jacob Spangler, passed away in his sleep. Currently in stage 4 of her cancer diagnosis, doctors say Kayla may not even have another month to live.
“She knows her life is ending at this point, and I think the more support she has right now, the better,” said her mother, Linzy Spangler. “She’s declining pretty quick ― just last week she attended school on Monday and was not able to make it another day of the week.”
It was never supposed to be this way for Kayla, an avid softball player who admires Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — a celebrity she still fervently hopes to meet. She loves dolphins and dreams of one day working with marine life, said Rosalyn Mendez, a family friend who has known the Spanglers since 2009.
“She’s very loving, always a smile on her face, loves her family, loves the outdoors, strong-willed, amazingly resilient,” said Mendez, who worked with Kayla’s father as his Navy Ombudsman. “Kayla has been so brave through all of this ― she’s conquered one hurdle after another, but she keeps pushing forward with a smile.”
Brain surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments helped propel Kayla past the initial six to 12 months’ timeline doctors gave her. But those treatments proved to be only a temporary solution.
In September, clad in a sparkly pink dress and sporting strands of rainbow-hued hair, Kayla was crowned homecoming queen at Franklin County High School. The school is also attempting to throw a graduation ceremony for her in the first week of November, including coordinating with her hospice team to arrange transportation.
It’s all a lot to take in for her mother. Yet Linzy remains focused on one thing: making sure her baby girl ― the one who loves wolves, sushi and hanging out with her mom and siblings ― is happy and comfortable.
“Kayla loves people, and for people to show support would mean a ton to her,” Linzy said.
Trains of love
Part of that support has arrived through a social media campaign to attract the attention of Johnson, Kayla’s favorite Hollywood star. Others have come through a special trip to the Bahamas in September so Kayla could swim with her beloved dolphins. Now, Mendez wants the public outside Indiana to let Kayla know that she is not forgotten.
“I feel like I’m running out of time for this dear child, and I want to set up a mail train for her,” Mendez said. “I would like for people all over to send her cards, letters, pictures ― if they want to send gift cards, that’s fine, too.”
Kayla is completely bedridden now. Losing her eyesight and hearing, she has been asking Linzy for an early Christmas.
In a world full of sad stories, Mendez said that Kayla’s is worth paying attention to.
“In my eyes, she is a military child who has had to be resilient with moving every two to three years, [her dad] always deployed,” she said.
And now, of course, he is gone.
“This dear child has had way too much thrown at her at such a young age,” Mendez said. “I just want people to know how special she is and help her smile, and to know she’s loved with the time she has left.”