Hannah Kendall and her brother Jalen
Editor’s Note: The writer of this article did not use the word “cancer” in her title, however in order to portray to the readers what the article was about, we added it.
A Story of Faith and Healing
By Mandy Kendall
I will never forget the feeling I felt seeing the nurse practitioner coming down the hall at Children’s Hospital with tears streaming down her face. I looked to my husband and said “this cannot be happening.” My little girl was only eight years old and she had always been so healthy and such a thriving child. We would come to find out in just a few short moments that our little girl had a good size tumor on the right side of her brain.
We cried together, We asked God Why? Why her? Why us?
Hannah would immediately be hospitalized and scheduled for surgery that following Monday.
It was Easter weekend and here we were at the hospital trying to make sense of what was happening. I remember standing in the hallway signing papers with the physicians, giving my consent to perform the surgery. Hearing the doctor go through was happening with my husband and I. When something hit us—— and it was strength that only God could give!
We went from asking questions and racking our brains as if we had missed a sign or indication that she was sick to being filled with strength and hope. We had about 15 family members at this point in the waiting room, patiently waiting to see our girl. My husband and I greeted everyone and expressed that we were sad and could cry and they could cry but, no one was to cry in front of Hannah. We wanted a positive tone to be in place for her. We wanted her to know that we had a hope, we had faith that God would work this all for her good. We wanted laughter in the atmosphere of sickness.
That weekend we worked with their counseling department on the best techniques to explain to Hannah what exactly was going on. This helped tremendously……We followed their orders and discussed it to make as much sense to Hannah. We requested her counselor many times during our stay. Hannah developed a trustworthy relationship with Sarah and liked the fact that she had an outside source to chat about her sickness.
Hannah would go into surgery that Monday ………That morning I remember being sick! Not being able to eat or think about anything other than what we were facing. Once again we were strong with the Lord’s help. We prayed over Hannah and the staff and we sat for 9 1/2hrs while the doctor was removing the tumor. That was the longest 9 1/2 hours of my life.
I had never been so happy to see a doctor in my entire life when he came out, updating us that the tumor looked benign and that he could say he got 99.9% of it.
We were thrilled!! We felt such relieved and felt so blessed.
The next morning after surgery I asked the doctor if Hannah could get up and walk. He said most of the time parents want their kids to rest for a long period when in fact, getting up and moving is the best thing. We encouraged Hannah to take a lap around the floor that morning, which she could push a wheelchair and walk not once but, three times. The therapist and doctors were all so impressed. Everything was going great– or so we thought.
Later that night the doctor came back to the room and said that he had some tough news. The tumor that Hannah had was very rare and on the surface indeed looked benign however, after the lab reviewed it they seen small traces of aggressiveness. The tumor wasn’t able to be graded on scale of 1-5. My husband and I looked at each other and looked back and at the doctor and I responded saying “t’s going to take after the benign side and Hannah will be fine”. He said he couldn’t insure us either way. I explained that were people of faith and we were confident that God was healing our girl.
We went to the treatments and did the protocol all the while staying in prayer and letting our strong Christian faith give us the strength we need. Still there was the reality of taking her to her medical treatments and keeping her spirits up. We used a rewards program for every time we had office visits and that worked really well. We also had rewards when it was time for MRI scans which really did motivate her.
While we all tried to remain as upbeat and optimistic as we could, there are things along the way that we had to deal with and after going through it I have a few tips for those facing it.
Chemotherapy is the medicine they give you and sometimes there are a lot of pills and children aren’t used to taking pills.
They say a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down and we sort of used that idea. Hannah has a very hard time taking medicine so we used applesauce as well as chocolate ice cream to help her get it down.
There is a lot of down-time – waiting for appointments, waiting for results, not being able to go to school–but we didn’t want it to be “down” time so we came up with things to do— we started doing crafts. We actually had a friend use my Facebook account and mentioned that Hannah was enjoying crafts and items started pouring in.
Another thing with the disease is the chemo can sometimes make children tired or lacking in energy. She used coloring and crafts as her favorite passtimes since she wasn’t able to be super active.
Also we found that taking scenic drives was very relaxing. Our family would go on long drives and it was a way to get away from everything and be together having fun. (Mandy Kendall is shown with her husband Cory in the photo , left, taken at Elephant Rocks.) We found that both the drives and getting out in nature helped relieve tension and provided a fun outlet for our family.
We tried to remember to take time out for ourselves as a couple during this time also, even though at time it was tough to leave the kids. People want to help you and it’s good to let them. Short breaks can rejuvenate you.
During the times Hannah was in the hospital, we used social media to help Hannah stay connected with her friends.
Hannah did everything she was asked to do. She did great and recovered at a very quick speed.
Then six months months’ post-surgery everything bottomed out from under us. Hannah was having panic attacks, chest pain and night terrors.
I thought possibly it was the medicine they had her on. Come to find out she was experiencing post-traumatic stress. Which we were told sometimes happens in brain tumor patients. These are things you don’t know about so hopefully by me mentioning it here someone reading this can at least know it’s a possibility so if it happens they won’t panic, they will go to their doctor.
We met with a member from the Psychology Team at Children’s. This would start our journey of weekly visits for the next year.
One way to help in this situation is medicine, but we weren’t big into medicine and wanted to see if we could find natural ways to help Hannah through this tough time.
We found a holistic doctor in Illinois that agreed to meet with us. She said she had seen brain tumor patients in the past and felt like she could help our Hannah.
They requested a hair analysis which would help us discover that due to the surgery Hannah had a major chemical imbalance. This helped us get on another path but it had its drawback.
The more natural route is not covered under insurance. We made sacrifices and paid over $3,000 for treatment—but she is our little girl and it was wroth it to us.
Hannah was monitored and put on all kinds of supplements. I believe she was on 23 different supplements daily. After about three months we could slowly see life begin to come back into Hannah.
Each day passing got a little better than the previous. Hannah is now down to only taking three supplements daily and is doing great.
I still to this day will never say that Hannah had or has the “C” word!!! Maybe it’s being stubborn or maybe it’s me being determined. I don’t know but we did what we felt in our hearts was best for our family. We felt that by not saying it we were keeping negativity out and only leaving room for positivity. A positive attitude is vital to a child’s recovery.
We are now approaching our two-year mark of being cancer-free. All her MRI scans have been clean and Hannah is a thriving 10-year-old little girl. She is back to being social and making straight A’s in school. She is enjoying her life.
I hope that by my sharing my story it will help you get through the journey you may be on. There is always hope and if you don’t like the way things are going in your treatment you can always be your own advocate and find ways that will work for you.
If you know of a family with a child who has cancer contact Rainbows for Kids to find out about fun activities and great support: RSVPRainbowsForKids@gmail.com