When I was a freshman in college, I was blessed with a happy coincidence. Across the room from my dorm room was a delightful 19-year-old girl, Laura, who was an exchange student from Wheaton College in Illinois. Laura and I quickly became friends and spent many hours talking in her room while we were supposed to be studying. After that semester, Laura returned to Illinois, I went my way, but we kept in touch. A little spotty, but we did our best.
Fast forward twenty or so years. By now, Laura and her husband, Bob, have four kids and are settled in Illinois. I live in California with husband Steve and our four kids. Laura and I still stay in touch though but now it’s only through Christmas cards.
Then, in 2002, I received a Christmas card from Laura that stilled my heart.
The previous summer, Laura’s eldest daughter–Anna, aged 17–returned from a two-week mission trip to Dominican Republic.
While overseas, Anna had lost some weight and now noticed a funny bump on her abdomen, on the right just below the rib cage. She has no discomfort and no symptoms; just a funny stomach. Her grandfather, a doctor, looked at it and quickly realized that they were dealing with something serious. The lump was quite large and appeared to be associated with the liver. Within days, Anna’s lump was biopsied. She was diagnosed with Stage IV, high risk Neuroblastoma, just prior to her senior year of high school.
Anna has been in treatment for over six years. This cancer, common to very young children, originates in the sympathetic nervous system but quickly metastasizes to other organs in the body. Anna has lesions on the bones of her right arm, legs and hips and throughout her abdomen and lungs. Since then, Anna has endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy, major surgery to remove the primary abdominal tumor, many rounds of radiation and has participated in numerous clinical trials. She has been unable to rid her body of this disease, yet has been able to remain relatively stable for the past several years.
Even with all of the treatments, Anna graduated from Wheaton College in May, 2007, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Mathematics. In the summer of 2007, Anna’s disease began to progress, spreading throughout her abdomen and chest, eventually showing some positive response to the Thalidomide and Temazolomide regimen. She is continuing on this oral treatment and and has started a foundation to benefit research for a cure for neuroblastoma called “Anna’s hope.”
Last week, Anna spoke at Wheaton College Chapel about her story. You can listen to it here.
Anna is a gifted speaker and has shared her journey many times on TV, radio, and at events. It’s her hope to raise money for Neuroblastoma research so that these many children can win their battle against this disease. Funding for neuroblastoma is pitifully poor, especially compared to other forms of cancer.
Of course, all of Anna’s friends are hoping and praying for a cure. I’ve prayed for her nearly every morning since I learned of her diagnosis. If you’d like to know more about the amazing Anna and her remarkable, wonderfully supportive family, check out her website here.
And please join me in praying daily for Anna’s full recovery. Her parents believe that she is a living testament to God’s unfailing love. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God'” (Mark 10:27).