Family faces back-to-back tragedies, Brother's Keeper shares over $400,000

By members James and April Standring, American Fork, Utah

From the August 2018 issue of Heartfelt Magazine.

Late 2016 and early 2017 were some of the most difficult months of our lives. Our two-week-old son, Crew, passed away from a heart defect. Still reeling from the loss, we got the news less than six months later that our two-year-old daughter, Mazy, had a life-threatening condition.

Soon after Feb. 2017, when we joined the CHM Gold program and Brother’s Keeper, Mazy started experiencing typical childhood ailments. We weren’t alarmed by her mild fevers and cold-like symptoms. Even some bruising, pale skin, pain and fatigue seemed indicative of nothing more than a bout with the flu. Mazy was too young to tell us much about how she felt.

April: A few days later I was lying next to Mazy and stroking her hair before her nap time. My fingers ran across a bump slightly smaller than a ping pong ball above her right ear.

I immediately felt panic and was confused as to how I hadn’t noticed the bump before.

The pediatrician thought it might be a cyst and ordered an ultrasound, with inconclusive results. That led to an MRI and a misdiagnosis of a bone disorder.

About a week later we met with specialists about the bone disorder and they decided to perform a CT scan. The results ruled out the original diagnosis, but the neurosurgeon still wasn’t sure what it was because the scan was atypical for both infection and cancer.

That’s when we really became frightened.

Two days later the neurosurgeon had biopsy results showing that our sweet Mazy had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

It’s impossible to accurately describe all the emotions we felt. We were lost, scared, hopeful, angry, frustrated and sad all at the same time. We immediately began to pray and pour out our hearts to God. We asked, Lord, what’s happening? Are we going to lose our daughter now, too?

James: Meanwhile, we were still working through the details of some of Crew’s medical bills. I remember that I fought back tears one day after a particularly difficult phone call with a representative from our prior health plan. I felt extremely frustrated and helpless knowing that Mazy’s treatment would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. I prayed, God, our son died and no one from this company even seems interested in helping us. Am I going to get the same treatment from CHM when I call about Mazy? Please, help me.

Thankfully, the conversation with a CHM staff member that day was like a breath of fresh air. She was sincere when she told me how sorry she was that we were facing this situation, then took the time to ask how I was doing, how April was and how our two older sons were coping. She asked if she could pray for Mazy and our family. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for her kindness and concern.

In contrast to the “sprint” of activity in just a month’s time, Mazy’s two-and-a-half year treatment plan stretched out before us like a marathon. She underwent a year of intense chemotherapy followed by two weeks of cranial radiation. Our schedule is much more manageable now, with a treatment regimen of daily oral chemotherapy and monthly rounds of intravenous chemo along with lumbar (spinal) injections every three months.

Meanwhile, the medical charges have piled up. To date CHM has shared over $410,000 after $436,000 in medical bill discounts. Every healthcare provider has given us discounts—especially the children’s hospital—and financial aid. What I thought would be an intimidating process was relatively simple; some providers even gave a discount automatically. After some practice I also found it fairly easy to upload Mazy’s medical bills to CHM’s Member Portal.

At this writing Mazy still has about a year of chemo to go, but thankfully the most difficult treatment period is over and she is now in the “maintenance” phase. She is a happy, strong, busy three-year-old and she has an 80 percent chance of being cured!

Though Mazy will likely experience some long-term side effects from treatment, we’re grateful for our trials and have learned many things from them. Here are a few:

  • God loves His children deeply and perfectly; He never has and never will abandon us.
  • When tragedy strikes, look for the “helpers!” We were the recipients of so much love and many services. We were offered meals, house cleaning, child care for Mazy’s older brothers, listening ears and shoulders to cry on. Furthermore, we received many prayers and cards, a number of them from CHM members. (One day Mazy was so excited to receive a batch of cards from ministry members that she carried them around all day!)
  • There are many kinds of miracles and there’s always something to be
    thankful for.
  • We have a choice when we go through trials: we can turn toward or away from God. Trials and pain can be sacred and beautiful. The hard times can help us become better and more Christ-like people if we choose to learn from them rather than wallow in self-pity.
  • We weren’t being singled out; everyone has trials. When we focus on helping others with their difficulties, we find that our own burdens seem lighter.

 

We’re thankful for all those who helped us on our journey—heavenly and earthly angels alike. Family, friends, doctors, nurses, other families fighting cancer, and CHM members humbled and inspired us with their kindness.

Ultimately, we’re thankful to our heavenly Father who has carried and sustained us.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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