Superman Lifts Woman's Spirits

By John Denton

September 8, 2010

ORLANDO --
The incurable cancer that has ravaged Kay Kellogg’s body has forced her to contemplate death much sooner than she would have preferred, but the bright and bubbly 62-year-old Orlando Magic fan has vowed that when her time’s up she will leave with a smile on her face.

``Most people think they will enter heaven to a beautiful choir singing or riding a chariot through heaven’s gates,’’ Kellogg said. ``As for me, I’ll be slam-dunked into heaven by Dwight Howard. What a way to go.’’

Howard, Orlando’s consensus All-NBA center, brought a ray of happiness to Kellogg recently when he visited her at her Orlando home. Kellogg was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the white blood cells in the bone marrow, on Aug. 8, and unfortunately there is no long-term cure for the disease.

Kellogg, all 5-foot of her, was once a classical ballet performer and solo singer who traveled the country as a professional entertainer. She performed with Bing Crosby, danced at New York’s famed Radio City Music Hall and worked for years for Disney both in Orlando and Los Angeles.

But these days, Kellogg needs walker to get around. Her days are filled mostly with radiation and chemotherapy treatments and she recently needed a blood transfusion because the abnormal plasma cells in her blood (myeloma cells) are multiplying and spiking protein levels in her blood.

In hopes of possibly bringing a smile to her mother’s face, Kellogg’s daughter, Arian Clute, mentioned to one of her co-workers with connections to the Magic that her mother’s dying wish was to meet Howard. Clute eventually wrote a letter to the organization explaining her mother’s plight and her love for the Magic -- and especially Howard.

As a gift to herself, Kellogg bought herself upper-bowl season tickets last season, ``so that I could see my Dwight play every game.’’ And she would usually show up at every game with her blue No. 12 Magic jersey, Howard’s number. And for this season, she’s already budgeted for the $17 a month for digital cable so that she can watch the Magic on Sun Sports and FSN-Florida.

Orlando’s star center has been a busy man this summer, twice traveling to China for Adidas and an acting role in a basketball movie. He also was in India as part of a promotional tour for the NBA and he’s been in New York and Los Angeles filming a television show and recording a children’s music album.

But upon hearing Kellogg’s story, Howard made it a point to visit one of his biggest fans. Howard was scheduled to stay at Kellogg’s house for 30 minutes, but ended up hanging around for almost two hours. The two of them talked cooking, free throw shooting and life. Kellogg said she avoided talking about her cancer diagnosis, but she was touched at how Howard’s mood shifted from playful to serious when she would grimace because of pain in her body.

``I just find Dwight to be such a great kid. The world is his oyster, but he’s stayed real and clean cut and I couldn’t be more proud of have him on this Magic team,’’ Kellogg said. ``And I told Dwight, `If I had a son, I would have wanted him to be just like you.’ Dwight was 7-feet of the best chemotherapy drug that I’ve ever had.’’

Howard, who has spent time already this summer visiting special needs children in Seminole County and putting on a three-day basketball camp for other children in the Central Florida area, was as touched by the visit with Kellogg as his biggest fan was. He was shocked that someone’s dying wish would actually be to meet him.

``Meeting Mamma Kay was one of the best experiences of my life,’’ Howard raved. ``It was such an uplifting day for me, talking with her and finding out about all of the things in her life. To think that she’s dying of cancer and meeting me was on her bucket list, I don’t think we realize sometimes as athletes the impact we have. She’ll always be in my prayers.’’

Clute, one of Kellogg’s two daughters, said that Howard’s visit did wonders for her mother’s spirits in the days afterward. Clute said the true impact of the visit hit her when she saw a photo taken of Kellogg looking up lovingly at Howard.

``There was one picture that struck me and just warmed by heart. As Dwight was leaving, my mother was leaning on her walker, looking up with the biggest smile and she looked like a little girl. She literally looked like a kid in a candy store with this innocent joy,’’ Clute said.

``I could definitely tell that the visit itself did everything for my mother,’’ Clute continued. ``They say that your energy and attitude have everything to do with your healing. I can honestly say that the happiness delivered from Dwight’s visit absolutely changed the next few days. It was very uplifting for everybody in our family.’’

Described as a ``sports nut’’ by her daughter, Kellogg has a shrine in her home dedicated to her favorite teams -- the Magic and the Tampa Bay Rays. She’s kept bobbleheads, noise makers and posters from years past. And of course, the favorite item in her collection is the No. 12 Magic jersey, which stretches down almost to her knees. Unprovoked, Howard wrote get-well wishes and an autograph on the jersey during his recent visit to Kellogg’s house.

Gushed Kellogg: ``I could not have been more impressed with Dwight. I love having a hero like him and meeting him was the thrill of a lifetime.’’

Kellogg said she’s at peace with her fate in life now because of her strong religious faith. Her concerns now are for her children and her grandchildren, not herself. And another hope is that she can survive long enough to see Orlando’s first game in the new Amway Center and possibly even a championship season for the Magic.

``Yes, I have an incurable disease, but that doesn’t mean that God’s finished with me yet,’’ she said. ``I’m not upset and I haven’t had one day of denial. Things happen the way that God wants them to happen and I’m at peace with that. I’m not afraid of dying, and when I do I’ll die a happy person.’’

John Denton writes for Orlandomagic.com. Submit questions to John’s weekly Question-and-Answer pieces by writing to John at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.