Heroes Come In All Sizes

This is a brief glimpse into the life of two extraordinary people.  A young boy fighting for his life and facing unimaginable adversities; struggles that even we as adults stand in fear of--And his mother, a single mom who braves each day and can do nothing more than be there to comfort and console her son while he wages wars against the demons that threaten his life.

Brayden is 6 years old.  In January 2009, he was diagnosed with cancer.  He endured 8 weeks of radiation and 42 weeks of chemo-therapy.  He tracked his progress himself and when it was all over, celebrated his victory.  Unfortunately the celebration ended abruptly this year on Mardi Gras.  His mother Maddie’s stomach sank when he cried out suddenly, complaining of a severe pain in his head.  Just like that they were reliving this nightmare all over again.

Doctors decided surgery to remove the tumor in his head would be a last resort.  The risks were far too great and it would leave his face severely disfigured.  Brayden was sent to St. Jude Children’s Research hospital in Tennessee where he was treated with an aggressive form of chemo; so strong in fact that it is sometimes fatal.  Maddie was told that if  he survived the treatment, he would need a heart transplant when he reached his twenties.  He received 27 treatments (that’s about 9 bags of chemo) in 3 days but in no time, he was smiling and laughing again.  Doctors and staff called it a miracle.

Unfortunately the celebration was once again interrupted by crushing news that the treatments did not destroy the tumor.  Finally doctors decided that surgery, their absolute last resort, was necessary in order to save Brayden’s life.  There was a 20% chance that he would survive the surgery.  On May 6th they performed the surgery and were able to remove 98% of the tumor.  A nerve attached to his brain was wrapped around the tumor but miraculously the doctors did not have to break Brayden’s jaw as they had originally planned. He was breathing on his own right away and never needed the tracheotomy they had originally discussed.

Now Brayden is paralyzed on one side of his face but has that stopped him from smiling?  No!  In fact, he’s smiling, laughing and even peddling his bike around the hospital.  He will be at St. Judes for the next 6 months before he can come home.  He begins another round of chemo on May 24th as well as several surgeries to correct the paralysis in his face.  They’ll have to remove tendons from his legs to put in his face during this process.  He’s looking forward to getting a port put in so that he can go swimming this summer.

It will be easy for some people to read this and not be touched and still feel somehow disconnected from the reality of this boy’s struggles--maybe because I explained the story in such short detail or because I’ve simply failed to convey the message on an emotional level that struck a cord.  But imagine for a minute that you’re this boy, struggling every day and fighting for your life.  Imagine again that you’re his mother; helpless to defend your son against threats that you can neither see or feel.  And staying at her son’s side without an income has not come without consequences.

God has been so gracious to Brayden.  And St. Judes and the Ronald McDonald House have been such great blessings.  It never ceases to amaze me; the degree and level of courage that the most unexpected people, in this case Brayden, posses.  He really is a miracle.

Somewhere in the world a nest of  tiny ants are killing a  large bear,  while this young boy perseveres through all of these adversities--with a smile on his face.  I’m just saying.

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