Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord
“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat
or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life
more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air,
for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father
feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Mt 6:25, 26)
Here I recount the wonderful grace
of God upon my daughter, Elena, who was six at the time.
Around June 2005, Elena started to
show signs of illness that were but the beginning of a series of nightmares for
us. She started to vomit on a regular basis, which was abnormal. She vomited
before meals as well as after meals. Thinking that children at times throw up,
my husband and I were not too perturbed. We brought her to a family clinic and
got her some medicine to stop the vomiting.
The medication did not work, and
the vomiting continued for another three months. However, as there was no fever
or stomach pain, we did not see any red alert then.
But, of course, our hearts ached
to see her suffer like that. We brought her to a pediatric specialist hospital
where she was hospitalized for three days. A series of blood and urine tests showed
nothing abnormal and the doctors concluded that the vomiting could be due to
Feeling helpless, the only thing
we could do was to pray every day for Jesus’ help. At work, I would also pray
whenever I went to the washroom and especially during lunch time as I knew that
was the time when Elena would be having her lunch. I was in constant fear of
getting calls from the childcare center because each time the teacher called,
it was bad news.
We also tried a Chinese doctor and
Elena got some relief for about ten days. But the symptoms returned soon after
and she started getting headaches too. We began to suspect that she was simply
not adjusting well to school.
Elena also complained that she was
having double vision. We had noticed her eyesight had worsened in the last few
months. We thought that poor eyesight was the cause of her headaches, and so we
made her a pair of prescription glasses.
In hindsight, I think I have been
a negligent mother. I had no idea how to help my own child. I remembered that
for months, Elena was not able to carry her own school bag. Whenever she had
her bag on her shoulders, she would fall or lose her balance. But we thought
that she was acting up and would scold her.
ILLNESS FINALLY DIAGNOSED
By October, the headaches had become
more severe and lasted even longer than before. Elena would break out in a sweat
and knock her head against the wall because she could not bear the pain. On October
24, at 5:30 am, she woke up disoriented and sick. We decided then that we
should send her in for a CT scan.
Results of the scan revealed that
Elena had a tumor about 4 cm large in her brain. The tumor was pressing on one
major nerve, and fluids accumulated, causing the headaches. The vomiting,
double vision, and loss of balance were all symptoms of the presence of the
Although I had prepared myself for
this possibility, the news still came as a shock. I could not believe that the
worst case scenario had happened. I began to ponder why this was happening to
After looking back, I thanked God
and praised Him. A week before the CT scan, I had prayed to God to reveal to us
what was causing Elena’s sufferings. I thank God that He really listened and
answered our prayers quickly. It was an assurance that His grace would be
sufficient for us.
We later found out that Elena had
had this tumor from birth, but God had not allowed it to become full blown
until after we had come to know Him and gotten baptized. Parents who have
children suffering from cancer undergo tremendous stress. We knew very well
that if we had not known the Lord Jesus, we would not know whom and where to
turn to. To us, the timing was perfect.
SURGERY AND RELATED COMPLICATIONS
On October 25, Elena had the first
surgery to remove the tumor. The surgeon told us that the tumor could not be
removed completely because some of the cells were attached to a central nerve
and drastic damage might result if he tried to remove them.
Instead, they decided to try
thirty-two courses of radiotherapy plus eight courses of chemotherapy to remove
them. This would stretch over a year. Elena would have to defer school for a
year or even more.
The next day, Elena suffered terrible
pain at back of her head. The doctors had to operate on her a second time, as
they suspected it was due to either fluid retention or a blood clot. We later
found out that during the first surgery on October 25, a tube called an EVD was
inserted into Elena’s head to drain excess fluids. That tube had somehow moved
out of position so water had accumulated and caused her pain.
The EVD tube would be there for a
week to monitor whether the head was regulating its water drainage well. For
each twenty-four hour period, from 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next day, the water
drained out should not be more than 100 ml. If it was more, it meant that the
head was not regulating its water drainage properly.
Then a permanent tube (called a
shunt) would have to be inserted in the head and connected to the stomach for
the water to be drained to the stomach. In addition to being a high-risk surgery,
a shunt is a device that can lead to infections.
For the next week, almost 300 ml
of water was drained every day. This worried us because that signaled a need
for inserting a shunt. But the doctor decided to give it another week before making
a decision on the shunt. The old EVD had to be replaced with a new one to
prevent infection. So a third operation was done on November 1 to change the
The week following that was
another worrisome period of waiting. For the first four days, the EVD was
recording levels of water higher than permissible. The surgeon predicted that
Elena would need a shunt.
On the fifth day, the water level
was already at 20 ml by 8 a.m. Only two hours of the day had passed and there
were another twenty-two hours more to go! I was worried and sad at the same
time, because with this kind of reading, it was quite certain that a shunt had
to be done on Monday. It was at this moment that a miracle happened.
GOD’S WONDERFUL ARRANGEMENT
A nurse came to sponge Elena and
change her bed sheet. As she tried to lift Elena up, the EVD broke and was
dislodged from the head. Everyone in the ward panicked, especially the nurse.
I was surprised at myself for
staying completely composed then. I calmly suggested that they page for a
doctor immediately. As it was a Sunday, only residents were on duty.
In my heart, I knew that
residents, not being specialists in neurosurgery, would not be able to help
much. I started to pray to Jesus for help. I looked at Elena and saw that she
was all right, with no signs of fear or pain at all. She could even laugh about
the EVD being broken.
Just when I began to pray, Elena’s
surgeon, Dr. Ng showed up. This was about five minutes after the tube had
broken. What a miracle! I was puzzled why he was at the hospital on a Sunday.
He explained that he had a suspicion the EVD might break. He removed the
remainder of the tube that was still lodged inside Elena’s head and stitched up
Praise the Lord, Elena was all
right without the EVD drain that whole night. I strongly believed this was
God’s will. If the tube had not broken, a reading would have had to be taken. I
was sure Elena would have to go for the shunt, since the water level was
already at 20 ml at 8a m. But our Heavenly Father had already planned
everything ahead for Elena.
A CT scan was carried out to check the
water content in the brain. Thank God, the scan showed no shunt was needed. Thank
God, for we could really see His work and grace towards us!
Not long after, Elena went through
an fMRI so the doctors could examine the remaining two percent of the tumor
that could not be removed by surgery. The fMRI images showed there was nothing
left of the tumor. What a miracle!
STRENGTH AND FAITH TO FACE TOMORROW
I have learned that in all
circumstances, we need to stay calm. When something happens, there must be a
reason why God allows it. Only by trusting in Him can we see His will and love
for us. He is our heavenly Father, and He watches over us.
Elena will be starting
radiotherapy on the entire head and spine. Although the scan showed that the
cells did not spread to her spine, it has to be done on the spine as a safety
measure. Elena will have to undergo chemotherapy as well.
The oncologist told us research
has shown that child cancer patients treated on the head will normally suffer
some form of damage to the brain, and their IQ levels tend to be lower than
normal. Their height development will also be stunted.
Whatever comes, I have faith in
God. He will not neglect even a single one of His children, so I entrust Elena
into His hands.
Editor’s Note: Elena was able to
return to school after her treatment was completed in January 2007. However,
doctors discovered in August that there was a recurrence of the brain tumor,
and Elena’s health has since declined. We pray that Elena will not suffer, and
that God’s love and mercy will be upon her and her family.