September 30, 2022

Student battling cancer meets Newton hero

Kaden Kelso tries not to put the gloves on too much, he doesn’t want the signature to fade, but he can still feel their magic every time he picks them up. After all, they’ve cradled a touchdown pass. Kelso, 11, a student at Berg Middle School in Newton is recovering from mucoepidermoid carcinoma cancer, he had surgery on Sept 18 at the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s hospital to remove a cancerous tumor from his lungs.

After a bout of pneumonia last winter Kaden’s mom, Mindi Noel noticed he was still having issues with shortness of breath so she brought him back in for a checkup this summer. Not only had the pneumonia returned, medical imaging also revealed a dark spot on his lung, which prompted them to send the family to the University of Iowa for treatment. There’s nothing fun about cancer, Noel is quick to point out, but for lifelong Hawkeye fan Kaden the experience was special.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to be in the hospital, but it was the coolest thing ever, it just lifted his spirits and he really enjoyed it,” Noel said.

The Stead Family Children’s Hospital overlooks one of Iowa City’s most enduring landmarks, Kinnick Stadium, and this year a new tradition is in the works at Iowa. After the first quarter of every home game fans turn and wave to children in the hospital, many of whom are watching from the 12th floor. As Kaden watched the Hawkeyes take on Penn State there was a player in particular that he had his eye on, fellow Newton native Nick Easley.

The junior wideout from Newton plays the same position as Kaden, and last Thursday he stopped in to see his biggest fan. Easley brought Kaden an autographed pair of his gloves, and told the middle schooler that his spirit was an inspiration.

“Nick was awesome, he was really nice when he came in, we just talked about football,” Kelso said.

Kelso was in the hospital for Iowa’s game against Penn State on Sept 23, and getting to head up to the 12th floor to watch the game was a welcome relief. Surrounded by friends and family he had a chance to forget about the cancer, and focus on football. As she watched her son wave a glowstick at fans, Noel said she’s still processing everything that’s happened.

“A lot of people asked me ‘how do you do that’ and my answer is always what else do you do,” Noel said. “People offered to come and spend the night with Kaden but I knew I was sticking out until he was able to go home.”

Kelso was released from the hospital last Monday, and while he’s still out of school for the time being, Noel said things are starting to feel a little more normal at home. Pain management has been an issue, but doctors are optimistic that they removed all of the tumor, Kelso’s prognosis looks good.

“The doctors said they think the portion of his lung that they removed will grow back, and in a year’s time he won’t be able to tell the difference,” Noel said.

Noel is hopeful that Kelso will be able to return to classes at Berg in a couple of weeks, and his teacher Doug Smith has offered to come out and tutor him to make sure he can get caught up with his studies. Kelso is ready to go back as soon as he’s able.

“I miss school, and I miss hanging out with my friends, I’m pretty bummed that I won’t be able to play football this year,” Kelso said.

It’s still a long road ahead for Kelso, but he’s already itching to get back out on the football field. After all, he’s got a set of receiver’s gloves that are already broken in, and just waiting to cradle their next touchdown pass.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or