Highlights From a Low Point: 5 Lessons Learned from Helping Our Daughter Battle Cancer

Our daughter, Faye, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in April of 2011 at the age of 3. After months of leg pains progressively worsening and multiple doctor visits, we were called early on a Saturday morning to rush her to the emergency room to confirm blood tests. This was just one week after we had welcomed our third child into the world. After the results were confirmed, we were put into an ambulance and driven to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. After experiencing every emotion imaginable, we did our best to compose ourselves and made the decision to have two basic priorities: (1) To do whatever was needed to make Faye feel comfortable and loved; and (2) to support each other as a family.

Meldrum Family April 2011

April 2011 - And so it begins
Faye showing cancer who's boss - June 2011

One of her favorite things to do in the hospital was to wear whatever she wanted. Talk about priorities changing: all of a sudden Mom didn't care what she wore, as long as she was happy! July 2011

Faye achieved remission and came home after 5 months in the hospital. However, in September of 2014, almost three years to the day of her coming home, we found out she had relapsed. This came after similar warning signs to what we experienced the first time. Blood tests continued to come back without any evidence of problems, but we knew something wasn’t right. We pushed for an MRI to get some answers. The MRI showed some abnormalities in the marrow. A marrow aspirate and biopsy were done and confirmed what we had dreaded.

Our faith played a major role in helping us keep a positive outlook and carry on. We genuinely believed that regardless of the outcome, everything would be alright. That belief doesn’t make the trial any less difficult, but we gained a stronger testimony of the beauty and importance of eternal families. 

Meldrum Family - September 2014

After a second remission was achieved, Faye was sent to the bone marrow transplant unit. We were blessed that her younger brother, Nixon, was a match and would be the donor. She came home just in time to spend the holidays with her brothers at home and is now attending regular clinic visits to monitor for any relapse or side effects of the transplant. She is patiently waiting for long hair and enjoying being home with her family and friends. 

Nixon right after his bone marrow was taken out to give to Faye in October 2014

Below are some of the highlights of lessons we have learned from the ongoing experience.

1. Be proactive

When opportunities arise to be of service, find specific ways you can help and extend the offer. There were never any texts, calls, messages, or service for us that was not greatly appreciated. No doubt we are genuine when we say “Let me know if there is anything I can do to help,” but our experience and observations have been that those offers rarely materialize. Try to understand the situation and offer something specific: a meal, childcare, a listening ear, a game of checkers, or whatever you feel is appropriate. People want to know they are being thought of.

Take it a step further and figure out how you can put it into action. Offer to bring a meal, do yard work, or help with household chores on a specific day. This made it easier to curb our resolve to be independent and accept service. Some people knew Stacey well enough that they saw where help was needed and told her what and when they would be doing it.

2. Be an advocate for your children

No one cares about your child as much as you do. During treatments it was difficult for us to stay on top of everything that was going on. We had to be informed and ask the right questions. There were times when doing so made a big difference.

As our children grow and experience life, we realize this applies to all aspects of parenthood. Keep informed on what they are going through. Ask the right questions. Be there to encourage, comfort, and support them.

3. Keep an eternal perspective

After Faye's initial diagnosis, our life was turned upside down. We quickly had to readjust our priorities and realized some things were not worth the stress and worry that we typically allowed. And some required a little extra attention. For example, money was necessary and work provided it. Career goals and objectives boiled down to being that simple. Conversely, our frustrations from having to repeat instructions 4,329 times to children were lessened. The most time we would get to spend together during the week was an hour or two during our shift change at the hospital. So we knew we needed to find ways to make each other a priority.

Focusing on how we could help each member of our family feel loved and positive was the goal. Keeping an eternal perspective regarding outcomes and what has real value is essential in the trials of our lives.

Super Faye - October 2014

4. There is good all around us.

We too often find ourselves talking about all the sad, terrible, and scary things that are going on in the world. To be fair, it is difficult, if not impossible, to shelter yourself from it. It is the focus of most news stories and headlines in all types of media.

When we were thrown into the world of childhood cancer, we saw countless examples of service, faith, charity, and love. We met outstanding people who gave their time and talents to bless the lives of others in difficult times. We were also blessed to meet brave little souls that pushed through struggle with smiles on their faces and love in their hearts. These people, small acts of kindness, and the selfless generosity of so many inspired us to be better people and to contribute more to the good and focus less on the bad.

5. You will find what you are looking for.

We have found that if you want to see the bad, you’ll see it.  But if you look for the good, you’ll find it. Matthew 7:7 says: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.” Sophocles wrote: “Look and you will find it - what is unsought will go undetected.” And less profoundly, Kevin Costner discovered that “if you build it, they will come.”

At times, we face trials difficult enough that questions of why and evidence to support the lack of fairness in our plight are understandable. But if we seek the good and notice the tender mercies of the Lord all around us, our hearts will be full. It may not change the outcome of our trial, but we believe it will change our lives for the better.

We realize how incredibly blessed we are with the outcome that we have been given so far. We have seen and experienced far too many tender mercies to deny the love of our Heavenly Father. We are amazed to look back and see the many blessings and small things that made a larger event possible to handle. We never doubted or felt that there weren’t people praying or holding our family up during this time. So while there were many low points, we choose to highlight the things we learned and continue to strive to be worthy of the wonderful blessings we have been given, and we try every day to put these lessons into practice in our own lives.

Nick Meldrum was raised in Ogden, Utah. Stacey grew up in Layton, Utah. They met on a blind date and were married five months later in November 2002. They moved to Logan, Utah, where Nick received his Bachelors in Landscape Architecture from Utah State University. They then decided they didn’t have enough “Aggie” experience and moved to College Station, Texas, where Nick received his Masters in Real Estate and Land Development, from Texas A&M University. They are currently living in Cypress, TX, with their four children.

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