Monday, October 22, 2012

Grace in Action: Overcoming Adversity With Support

Brenda had a disturbing premonition that her 10-month-old daughter was going to die.

She had given birth to twins Charlotte (Cha Cha) and Henry in January 2010, who were then baptized at the All Saints Easter Vigil. Throughout their first year the family attended a few All Saints services.

“It wasn’t until they were 15 months old that I finally put them in All Saints’ Sunday morning child care and attended church without them. It was incredibly difficult to leave them. That night I felt Cha Cha’s tumor.”

A pediatric physician assistant (PA) for 20 years, Brenda could feel that Cha Cha’s liver was enlarged. It turned out to be Stage 3 (of 4) hepatoblastoma – liver cancer. The tumor was inoperable. Cha Cha was given a 50 percent chance of surviving five years.

“The first night in the hospital I sobbed uncontrollably. But the next day I moved into acceptance and began our new life.”

Over the next six months Cha Cha underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and five surgeries. She and her mom spent 34 nights in the hospital, “away from Henry, away from home.”

There was a moment before Cha Cha’s first surgery, when Brenda was aware that something was happening. After spending a day and night absolutely terrified, Cha Cha was tranquil for 30 minutes, even as her mama kissed her goodbye and told her she loved her.

Soon after, when Wilma Jakobsen brought prayer shawls to the hospital, she told Brenda that many critically ill people have experienced a feeling of being carried, held or hugged.

“That was the moment of realization. I had undeniable faith that God was taking care of her.”

After the second round of chemotherapy, the tumor shrank and became operable.

“The day her tumor was removed I stopped feeling that she would die.”

When they weren’t in the hospital, they had 11 appointments a week – blood transfusions, outpatient chemotherapy, occupational therapy, and visits to the John Tracy Clinic to help with hearing loss from the chemotherapy.

“We lived in the car if we weren’t in the hospital.”

Children’s Minister Laura Thornton visited the family at their house and brought homemade potato leek soup. She encouraged Brenda to try the Thursday morning group, God, My Parents and Me.

“This group of mommies was so amazing. After Charlotte finished treatment, they helped me heal. They helped me feel like myself again – actually, a better version of myself.”

The group was so important that when Brenda returned to work after nine months away, she used vacation days to keep attending on Thursdays. Soon she joined the Parent Culture Group on Sundays, and today she is in the new member class.

“I started going back to church for Henry and Cha Cha. But now I realize I’m going for me.”

Cha Cha responded well to the treatments, and her chances of survival are now 90 – 100 percent. Her language skills and physical development are back on target. She and Henry laugh, shriek, vie for chocolate, run around the house and greet the mailman – just as you’d expect from energetic 2 ½-year-olds.

“These babies are the greatest joy I've ever known.”

Brenda is now on the executive board of Terrific Twosome Mothers of Multiples, in September she passed her board PA licensure test for California. She volunteers at All Saints’ Children, Youth & Families activities, practices yoga, has planted an organic garden and has started cooking again.

When asked why she pledges to All Saints, she explains:

“Families often identify themselves by their activities. I have met beach families, camping families and Dodger families. I’ve decided we are an All Saints family. I pledge because of gratitude. We have benefitted in countless ways from so much that All Saints offers. I want to make sure that in the future others have the same opportunities.”

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Your pledges help support essential outreach and support programs like the Children, Youth & Families ministries.

Photo Caption: Cha Cha, Brenda and Henry with the trees they got at All Saints 3:00 p.m. Family Christmas Eve Service in 2010.

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