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In November of 2000, five months after I turned six years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer involving the immune system. I still remember, but I’ve enlisted my mom to help share my story.
Despite being so young and having chemotherapy treatments weekly, Chad never complained. His body however, always knew when he would be receiving chemotherapy, as each week he would throw up during the two and a half hour drive to Stanford Medical Center.
Because Chad was so young and had to receive injections and IVs so often, the doctors informed me they would need to insert a port under his skin for the needles. Most children have a hard time letting doctors inject them with needles; however, Chad was so calm during his treatments they reversed their initial decision of placing a port in him.
Chad was placed on steroids for four months while receiving chemotherapy. The doctors said this would cause him to be mean and violent. And yet, never once was Chad mean. He stayed true to his sweet and kind nature. However, they did make him restless. He would come into the kitchen at night and walk in circles saying, “I am so tired but I can’t sleep. I am so tired but I can’t sit.” He always said this with an apologetic tone, feeling bad for not being able to sleep. He never complained.
Chad struggled with computerized tomography (CT) scans and position emission tomography (PET) scans. The IV medicine always made him throw up. And yet, he sat perfectly still for 50 minutes during three different pet scans at the age of six. After one scan he sweetly said, “I had an itch, but I didn’t move.”
When he had his lymphangiogram, which lasted four hours, he had to go in fasting. They cut the tops of his feet and cut his lymph veins one at a time and pulled them out, placing a needle in them to shot dye threw the vein. As each vein broke, they would lay it on his foot and pull out another one. He had IV sedation and shots directly into the foot, but he kept saying he could feel it. Chad has a fast metabolism that burns through medication faster than the average person so the doctors ended up screwing the needle off and pouring the medicine directly into the holes of each of his feet. Because the sedation wasn’t working and he was awake for most of the procedure, he said he was hungry. The doctor finally let him have a sucker while they continued cutting veins out of the open holes in his feet. This young six-year-old boy remained calm through it all.
When he was five years old he had a needle biopsy where they drew fluid from his neck 30 times. He felt the pain of each of the 30 needles going into his neck, yet remained still for them to finish. Chad’s doctors never ceased to be amazed with his willingness to let them do whatever they needed to without complaining and always staying so calm.
Chad loved played with his older cousins, who lived between Chad’s hometown and Stanford Medical Center. However, because he was only six and younger than his cousins, his aunt did not always let him come over. However, once he was diagnosed with cancer, he was invited over after every treatment. When talking to Chad, our family always referred to what was going on as him having a sickness, rather than cancer. After a chemotherapy treatment, Chad told me, “I’m glad I have this sickness because I get to see my cousins.” He would feel sick because of chemotherapy, but he loved to see his cousins.
When he looks back on the experience, Chad remembers his family always being there for him but kids at school being mean. Along with losing his hair, he also lost his eyebrows and eyelashes. He gained a lot of weight because of the large doses of steroids. Chad looked very different than everyone else but he never complained of the persecution and persevered while remaining optimistic and positive.
Many teachers, not knowing Chad’s experience with cancer, have noticed there is something different about him. Mr. Deveroux, Chad’s teacher when he was a 10-year-old, recounted the following experience of Chad. There was a boy in the class who caused a lot of problems. Mr. Deveroux decided that he needed a friend and that it would possibly help him. Knowing Chad’s loving nature, he asked Chad to sit next to this boy during lunch one day. A month later, Mr. Deveroux was walking through the cafeteria and saw Chad still sitting next to this same troubled kid. The experience had Mr. Deveroux at a loss for words that Chad would not only listen to his teacher once, but go above and beyond and become this boy’s friend.
One of Chad’s youth football coaches recalled the following story of Chad. During a football game, the other team’s wide receiver was wide open and thrown the ball. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize how fast this boy was so many of the players stopped running and gave up. However, Chad pushed himself as hard as he could and was not willing to give up despite the seemingly impossible task. He truly is an example of never giving up.
When you look at him, he looks like a regular boy. Chad plays basketball, snowboards, is a football standout, and does everything a regular college boy would do. A lot of people don’t know that Chad went through so much as a child, but they do notice there is something different about him. An elementary teacher of Chad’s made the comment that “this kid is going to be the next president.” He has a quiet confidence that radiates and brightens others lives. He is strong yet sensitive.
Chad was a young six-year-old boy fighting through grueling chemotherapy treatments, and yet, he was the strength in our family. He lived loving each day of his life. People could look at him and regardless of his drastic changed physical appearance; never know what he was fighting inside. He displayed an unimaginable courage that many adults would not have had.
Chad is an example of not letting adversity take over his life. We can all learn from this courageous boy’s story to never give up, to never stop fighting, and to do all that we can do. He has persistently fought through every challenge that has come his way. He is my special blessing to remind me of the innocence and hope we can all strive to have.
While my mom describes how I handled having cancer as an example, I look to my aunt, who passed away last December from a lifelong battle with cancer and coinciding health issues, as the ultimate example of hope. She radiated hope and optimism, despite having a future that looked very bleak to all those around her. She is a constant reminder that no matter how dark and dreary our days may seem there is always reason to smile and keep moving forward.
Over Christmas, we cherished our time with Fawn. We sat and held her hand and valued each moment with her. On New Year's Eve, she joined her Heavenly Father on the other side, where all of us know she is actively engaged in a good cause to bring as much joy to those there as she did to us here.
Despite being confined to a wheel chair for five years, no one remembers Fawn ever saying anything negative about not being able to walk. We knew she was in pain, but she continued to smile and be brave. Before Fawn lost her ability to communicate, she told my sister, “I’m not afraid. I will go where the Lord wants me to go. I have faith that whatever happens to me is the Lord’s will and I am not afraid.”
She knew that Heavenly Father loved her and she shared that love with those around her, even when she couldn’t communicate through words. She would hold our hands and gently rub them. She had to have help getting dressed and cared for and she would often say “I’m sorry” and she would continue to smile and say “thank you.” Fawn said three words most often the last few years, the words, “I love you.” We felt those words in our hearts as she said them with happiness and sincerity.
Fawn always epitomized the word “hope.” When I think of Fawn, I think of her smiling and laughing. It makes me smile just thinking of her. She never complained; she was always optimistic. We all felt special after being with her. She spent her time making others feel good rather than focusing on what she was going through. She had a way of making us all feel important and want to be better.
My aunt Fawn had a special spirit and she left behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin penned the perfect general conference talk, ‘Come What May, and Love It,’ to remind us that our happiness is determined by how we choose to react to adversity in our lives. Fawn chose to be happy and as a result, changed our lives forever.
Rather than looking at challenges as negative experiences, it’s crucial, no matter what may come, to love the opportunity to grow and learn. When we look for the good in each trial, we realize that we are given the opportunity to grow and become better. I could be bitter about having to face cancer when I was so young. My aunt could have spent her life angry because of the countless health trials she faced. Instead, we chose to be grateful for the blessings we’ve been given.
When people face struggles, it’s easy to think of them as unfair and unnecessary. Despite the outcome, whether a miracle or sad ending, we are challenged to walk away a new person, to learn from the situation, and value family and life so much more. We are privileged to choose the course of our lives.