Testimony By Jane Yap – Telok Kurau, Singapore
“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?” (Matt 6:25, 26)
Here I recount the wonderful grace of God upon my daughter, Elena, who as 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 constipation.
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 as 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 tumor.
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 us.
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 the 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 100ml. 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 EVD.
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 slodged 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 that EVD might break. He removed the remainder of the tube that was still lodged inside Elena’s head and stitched up the wound.
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 8 a.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 that doctors could examine the remaining two percent of the tumor that could be removed by surgery. The fMRI images showed there was nothing left o fthe 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. Thank God for He had watched over Elena and also given her the promised Holy Spirit. She rested peacefully in the Lord on February 4, 2008.