Kaelyn is my husband's brother's granddaughter. My brother-in-law, Bobby, married young the same as my husband and I did. He and his wife, Joy, had three beautiful daughters and a little boy on the way when tragedy struck. On the way to the doctor when Joy was almost nine months along, the back gate of a horse trailer came loose, flew into a pickup truck, instantly killing the driver. That truck veered across the road and ran head-on into the truck my sister-in-law was riding in. A friend who was taking her to the doctor was not injured. Joy and her little baby boy died at the scene. A very sad day in the life of our family.
But life does go on. In time, Bobby met another beautiful woman who had also suffered some hard times. She'd married a man who made her feel worthless and had treated her badly. Soon she was expecting a baby. She says that baby saved her life because although she didn't love herself enough to get out of the bad situation, she did love her unborn baby enough to remove her from danger. When that baby was around three, Kathy and Bobby fell in love and married. That little girl became Bobby's fourth daughter and eventually grew up to be a lovely young woman with a heart for Jesus. The church where they were members called a young pastor who was swept off his feet by my beautiful niece. And so the love circle continued as the two of them vowed their love to one another in a touching wedding ceremony.
Before long, my niece was expecting their first child, a little boy she lost because of an undiagnosed problem with her ability to carry a baby full term without special precautions. She and her husband grieved, but continued to trust in the Lord. Soon she was expecting again, but this time with foreknowledge of the problem, steps were taken to allow her to carry the child to term and a beautiful little girl named Kaelyn came into our family. She was a happy baby and grew into a delightful toddler with long wavy hair.
Her father heard the call to go back to Louisiana where he had once served a church and take a church there. The people loved him and the church grew. Another child, a cute little boy, was born into their family. A couple more years and with another baby on the way, Kaelyn kept being sick. The flu, the doctors said. A virus that kept hanging on. Maybe mono. They were packed up to come home to Kentucky for Christmas when Kaelyn's father took her to the doctor before they got on the road since she still seemed so ill. That doctor saw what the others had not imagined. Instead of heading to Kentucky for a family Christmas, they were racing for St. Jude Hospital with only hours before the tumor growing in Kaelyn's chest might be so big it stopped her heart. St. Jude's slammed the chemo at her to save her life. Then when her condition stabilized, the doctors outlined the treatment for ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Nearly three years of chemo treatments. She was five years old.
She had always been a very intelligent child, precocious in her social skills and even at five, aware of the love of Jesus in her heart. But for several weeks she wouldn't talk as she looked the enemy, cancer, in the face and didn't like what she saw. But in time she came out of her shell of sorrow and took hold of Jesus' hand and began walking the road to recovery. Her mother and father did the same. When her little sister had a stroke during birth a few months later, they kept trusting God, kept believing in miracles of healing, kept praying. The baby sister recovered completely.
Kaelyn kept getting treatments. She lost all her beautiful hair. Her father let her shave his head when they shaved hers. She got better and went into remission. She still had chemo. The enemy had to be defeated completely. And she and her parents began making appearances to support St. Jude Hospital and help in fundraising. Kaelyn appeared in St. Jude commercials. She was on the Today Show talking about her cancer and her treatments at St. Jude. She turned six, but couldn't go to school. Not while she was getting treatments. Her mother became her teacher. She had to wear a mask when she went to church. Her hair would start growing in and then fall out again with the next major treatment. She had to take steroids that made life miserable for her and the whole family.
And then 969 days later, she got to have a NoMo Chemo party at St. Jude Hospital today. It's celebration time in our family. Kaelyn faced down the enemy cancer and won. A major part of that victory and the victory of every child who is healed goes to Danny Thomas who believed every child deserved the very best treatment to give them a chance to live their lives. He had a vision of all children healed and he worked tirelessly to make that vision true at St. Jude's Hospital. These two facts (from St Jude) show the success of his vision.
- St. Jude has developed protocols that have helped push overall survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent when the hospital opened in 1962 to 80 percent today.
In 1962, the survival rate for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer, was 4 percent. Today, the survival rate for this once deadly disease is 94 percent, thanks to research and treatment protocols developed at St. Jude.
This post is longer than most I do, but I wanted to tell Kaelyn's story and the story of her parents who have trusted the Lord and never been discouraged. Their witness has touched thousands of people and thousands of people have prayed for them. I put Kaelyn's photo on my author Facebook page and it has been viewed over 35,000 times with over 200 comments and thousands of likes. As many of the comments say, God is good.
I also promised to announce the winners of my blog giveaway tonight, so I hope those of you who entered read this far to find out the winners. Denise and Sue H. won a copy of The Gifted. I also picked a bonus winner, and that's Maxie. Sue, I don't have your e-mail so if you'll get me that info, that will be great.
Thanks so much for reading and for praying for children like Kaelyn. Tonight we're rejoicing. On the back window of Kaelyn's car, her mama wrote, Honk for NO MORE CHEMO!! A lot of honking is going on!!