I’ve known this story from the beginning. Indeed, the boys in this story—my nephews—are now ages 48 and 50. This is the first of a series of true stories about folks who have suffered life-threatening illnesses and a God Who has seen them through these dark and worrisome times. In fact, what the ends of these stories reveal are not so much about the illnesses and the people suffering from them, but about a great and mighty God who sustains His people in miraculous ways. There is nothing too hard for Him. And so, I introduce to you now my sister Lyn, who recently related to me her memories of this time in her family’s life…

February 3, 1978. Bend, Oregon. I was preparing dinner for my family and a family from church who were coming over. They had boys close to the ages of my younger boys, Todd, almost four years old, and Chad, age two. While I was busy in the kitchen I couldn’t help but think about Todd, who had been looking too pale to me lately. I was a nurse, working part time at our local hospital, and wasn’t easily alarmed—but this was so out of the norm and unnatural for him. The word “leukemia” had already entered my mind. 

I had, in fact, called our pediatrician to inform him of my concerns. He had assured me I was just a worried mom and I needed to stop. Still, I was sure that wasn’t the case, and I planned on taking Todd to the pediatrician on Monday so he could see for himself. My musing was interrupted by Chad getting up from his nap. Normally a happy and easy-going toddler, he was unusually grumpy, crying a lot.

We lived on a 40-acre farm, and raised llamas. Chad loved the animals and so I sent him with my husband, Bill, to do the evening farm chores. I thought that would calm him and it did. Our friends came over and the evening progressed nicely. But as I got Chad ready for bed that night, the crying returned. It seemed to me he was reacting to pain, but I couldn’t determine where exactly it was. He didn’t have a sore throat; the problem seemed to be in his neck, as though he might have a stiff neck. I applied heat but that didn’t seem to help. I was up and down with him all night, and by morning he did decidedly have a stiff neck.

This was before there were Urgent Care centers, but I did manage to find a pediatrician who had Saturday hours and saw sick children in the area whether or not they were his regular patients. “Don’t worry,” he told me after a quick examination. “It’s just a little stiff neck.” I was tired of getting told I was a worried mom. I knew my boys (I had two older boys, ages eight and ten) and then there was the fact that I had been educated and actively working in the medical field my entire adult life. 

“ I was tired of getting told I was a worried mom. I knew my boys (I had two older boys, ages eight and ten) and then there was the fact that I had been educated and actively working in the medical field my entire adult life. ”


Hospital Emergency Rooms were also different back then. They weren’t equipped with the personnel or testing equipment to diagnose out-of-the-ordinary illnesses. You didn’t use them unless you had an emergency. Chances are they would have reacted to both boys as the pediatricians had: “No worries.” I had to resign myself to wait until Monday to see our pediatrician.

Early Monday morning I was at his office—both boys in tow. Chad could no longer move his head and Todd was still deathly pale. The doctor took one look at Chad and ordered him to the hospital immediately, calling ahead to make them aware and ordering tests. However, I refused to leave his office until he took some blood from Todd to test. Still believing it unnecessary, he agreed, just to get me out of his office, I think. 

“ We were told how Todd was positive for leukemia and he was being admitted to stay overnight. ”


At the hospital there was a room waiting for Chad, and as we entered, the phone was ringing. It was the pediatrician’s office. “You’re not an overly worried mom,” he said. “I’m coming right over to the hospital to do a bone marrow test on Todd.” He, too, was already guessing it was leukemia. The bone marrow test only made him more certain. But he couldn’t make the call, and told us that we were going to have to go to Portland in the morning to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU—part of University of Oregon’s medical department) for diagnosis and treatment plans. He said Bill would need to go too as important decisions would need to be made.

“What about Chad?” I objected. “I can’t leave him here all alone.”

“You are going to have to,” he told me.

I thought of my newly widowed sister, Jan, who had recently moved to town from Ohio with her three children. She gladly said she would be able to come and stay with Chad at the hospital while we were gone. 

Arriving in Portland, we were seated in a big circle with the head physician of pediatrics at OHSU as well as a team of other medical staff. We were told how Todd was positive for leukemia and he was being admitted to stay overnight.  They had found that his blood count was so low that they would have to begin a blood transfusion and would also start immediately on a chemo therapy. After the initial dose, we would be able to take him home and continue with an oral chemo that I could administer. 

Bill and I left Todd in the hospital that night. I called Jan but she wasn’t being told anything about Chad’s condition, although she had stayed with him all day. He had lain quietly in bed the whole day, she said, but responded to Jan when she talked to him and her children. They wondered at his lack of movement. Bill and I spent an emotional night without sleeping, returning to OHSU the next morning.

“ Chad was paralyzed from the neck down. ”


For a child that had never been sick much, Todd was accepting his treatments well—without much crying or resistance. I was sitting in his room with him, watching the bag of blood drip into his veins, when a phone rang somewhere outside his room. Then I heard my name being called. It was Chad’s doctor in Bend. Chad was paralyzed from the neck down. This was occurring in the days before MRI’s, but a CT scan had been done and results showed there was a blockage on his spinal cord that needed to be removed at once to prevent permanent paralysis. A neuro surgeon was called in and immediately ordered surgery. “We cannot wait for you to get back from Portland,” the doctor explained. This news hit me hard. I was fast losing my ability to cope with everything.

As I returned to Todd’s room, there was a woman waiting for me. I had no idea who she was, but she wrapped me in her arms and began to pray. “Father, You know all about these two boys. They are yours. They are in your care. You will take care of them. We know that.” I felt myself beginning to calmly accept the truth of what this strange, but believing sister in Christ was praying. And who was she? It turned out that she was a friend of my friend who had been to supper the fateful night that everything began to spiral downward. God was providing  a support system for us that was known only to Him.

The Portland hospital hurried their treatment so that we could leave as soon as possible. The drive to Bend from Portland is over three hours and traverses some of Oregon’s highest mountain passes. Normally we all enjoyed the beauty of the trip; but when time is of the essence—when a child’s life hangs in the balance—the journey seemed endless. I flipped through my Bible hoping for some encouragement while Bill drove. 

“ For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ”


I landed on Psalm 139 and read aloud to Bill. These words of comfort penetrated to the very depths of our anxiety-ridden souls. “…You have searched me and known me! ...You discern my thoughts from afar…You are acquainted with all my ways…You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; …Where shall I go from your Spirit? ...[wherever] I am, You are there…Your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me… Darkness is not dark to you;…for darkness is as light with you.”

Those words were precious enough but then, I read these: 

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!


God was truly speaking to us. We were not alone and He was guiding all things. Best of all, He had made our boys and knew exactly what was happening to them. They were “fearfully and wonderfully made” and “my soul knows it very well!” We were assured God was in control, and He is trustworthy!

My memory now is a little fuzzy about what we did when we got to Bend. Did Bill go home with Todd? Jan was still at the hospital, I think. Surgery was over and the neuro-surgeon, Dr. Miller, came to speak to me. (We didn’t know all this at the time, but he had just come to Bend and had witnessed a similar surgery before coming. He was also a believer, and he kept Chad’s picture on his desk through his years of practice. The whole experience seemed to have God’s fingerprints on it for him as much as it did for us. Finally, he never billed us for the surgery.)

Dr. Miller told us that Chad had inherited a birth defect known as arterial venal malformation, a blockage on his spinal column that could have ultimately left him a quadriplegic. Dr. Miller had successfully removed the blockage but could not guarantee that it would end the paralysis. Chad was still paralyzed after the surgery but the hope was that in time that would diminish. 

“ Chad was still paralyzed after the surgery but the hope was that in time that would diminish. ”


Chad was in ICU, but I was allowed to see him. There was my helpless baby, still in diapers, laying in that big hospital bed, all bandaged after surgery, tubes and monitors connected to his little body. “Jesus loves you,” I said to him. “I know that!” he retorted. I smiled. “Can you bring me Sealy?” he asked. Sealy was his favorite stuffed animal, a seal. Because I worked at the same hospital, I knew all the nurses. They were my friends, so the hospital didn’t seem so strange to me as I left for the night. One particular nurse worked in ICU and voluntarily took extra special care of Chad, never losing contact with him as he grew and became an adult. 

Early the next morning I received a call from a doctor I knew making his rounds. I knew this doctor was not a Christian nor did he run in Christian circles, but his first words were, “I hear half of Bend is praying for your boys. I’m here to give you some good news. Chad is moving his feet.” How we thanked and praised God! Chad was going to come out of his paralysis. 

Chad remained in the hospital for about three weeks. Because of Todd’s illness, the doctor knew my time would be compromised and wanted Chad to be doing as much as possible on his own before he was released. Gradually, Chad began to move more and more until he was sitting up and doing things with his arms, hands, and fingers; but he was not able to sustain weight on his feet, although he was able to move his legs, feet, and toes. 

His stay in the hospital caused him to become depressed. Although he was too young to articulate his feelings, I believe he thought that living in the hospital was going to be how he would live forever. He had a sadness about him that children should never have, even though we sent friends and family to visit him often. He was also the recipient of many, many toys from so many people and groups. 

“ Shortly after this, Todd came down with pneumonia. Being on chemo had weakened his immune system and it was easy for him to get sick. ”


Shortly before we expected that Chad would be released, one night Todd began running a high fever. I couldn’t give him anything that would bring it down. We rushed him to the hospital and he was put in the same room as Chad. But when a yellowish discharge began oozing from his nose, he was ordered to Portland for fear it was a spinal discharge. Once in Portland, however, an EMT discovered a piece of tissue that was lodged high in his nasal cavity. 

At that first meeting with Todd’s medical team in Portland, Todd had taken a spill which resulted in him having a bloody nose. Everyone remembered that, but nobody thought to investigate the possibility of the infection being caused by a piece of tissue left behind in his nose. 

After Todd returned to Bend, Chad was released from the hospital. Bill’s mother had come to help and she took Chad for long walks in his stroller on the farm. Chad was getting stronger and stronger but still not walking. One day I came upon them while they were outside. It seemed to me that Chad was strong enough to get out of that stroller. I unfastened the belt and put him on his feet. He took a few wobbly steps, fell, and pulled himself back up. Then he was off. And he never stopped. Never needed rehab. What an answer to prayer!

Shortly after this, Todd came down with pneumonia. Being on chemo had weakened his immune system and it was easy for him to get sick. Once again, he was ordered to Portland to be treated. Now that Chad was home, he became hysterical whenever I put on my coat to go somewhere. I knew I had to take him with me. I asked Laurie, Jan’s daughter, to come with me to help me take care of Chad. I had an uncle and aunt who lived in Portland at the time, and Laurie was able to stay with them. We were probably there about a week until Todd’s lungs were clear. 

But remember the woman who showed up in Todd’s hospital room after I received the news about Chad’s surgery? Her church continued to minister to us during what became numerous trips to Portland, many overnight, during the five years of chemo therapy, spinal taps, bone marrow testing, and radiation treatments for Todd. Someone from that church let us use their property to park an RV that my sister’s pastor had loaned us. They provided many meals as well. After a few trips that way, we became friends with the property owners and were able to stay with them in their home, not needing the RV anymore. In Bend, we received meals for our family from our church for weeks and weeks. Women from the church cleaned our house during all those months. So many blessings! We never stopped being aware of all that God was doing on our behalf.

“ Corrie ten Boon: You will never know that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have. ”


We had no medical insurance. Bill is an architect and has always had his own practice. During those years the national economy wasn’t exactly booming, and often clients were hard to come by. Yet, we watched as God provided for us in amazing ways. We received money from so many people and places—not even knowing where it all came from. I even received a check from my great aunt’s ladies Bible study group in Miami. (Bill and I now attend that church in Miami although my great aunt passed away years ago.) 

No bills went unpaid. As I said before, Chad’s surgeon did not charge us, neither did the anesthesiologist. Still, the hospital bills were staggering. When we had bought our farm, however, we owned a house that we never sold. My sister and her children rented it from us when they moved to Bend. Soon after this, she remarried and her new husband relocated their family to another Oregon town. We were able to sell the house and pay off every medical bill. God had provided in ways we never imagined.

Todd has been in remission from leukemia since he was nine years old. He, too, has suffered from a similar birth defect as Chad’s, an arterial venal malformation in his head which likely caused him to have a stroke at the age of 19. Today he suffers from growing non-cancerous tumors in his head and has undergone major brain surgery three times. While his life has been riddled with medical problems, his faith in Jesus has multiplied. What a comfort to us as his parents.

Chad is healthy, a teacher, a husband and the father of my three grandchildren. He is active in his church and is a strong testimony to the faithfulness of God. These two sons of ours, they are living witnesses to the faithfulness of God. Like Psalm 139 says in verse 12: “Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” 

Corrie ten Boon wrote this about her own experience to which I add a hearty “amen.” “You will never know that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

Isaiah 43:2-3 says: 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
 For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I can attest to this!

Send Me A Message