St. Jude patient Nathan, age 1, blood cancer

A true test of faith

In 2016, just days after Nathan was born, he was found to have cancer. Instead of spending Christmas at home nestled snug in their beds, his family found themselves at St. Jude.

 

Around the holiday season, many people will take a break from what can be a hectic time — from the shopping, the wrapping, the giving and receiving — to reflect on their blessings. Even a family spending a second Christmas at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because their child has cancer can find reasons to be grateful.

“We count our blessings as a running tally,” said Andy, the father of baby Nathan. “There are so many.”

At birth, Nathan had purple spots on his body — petechiae — that led to a diagnosis of mixed phenotypic leukemia at 3 days old. Newborn Nathan had two different types of blood cancer at the same time.

“Our first blessing was him being born alive,” Andy said. “Two, we are extremely thankful there were signs he was sick when he was born — if he didn’t have the spots, we would never have known he had cancer, and it would have gotten worse before we knew what was happening. And then, having St. Jude has been a blessing.”

 

St. Jude patient Nathan with his mother (Melissa), older brother (Anderson) and father (Andy)

Nathan became a St. Jude patient right after Thanksgiving 2016, on his tenth day of life. He was enrolled in a research trial called TINI, or Total Therapy for Infants I, and by Easter 2017, Nathan’s cancer was in remission.

But remission didn’t last. When it was determined Nathan needed a bone marrow transplant, his big brother, Anderson, was found to be a perfect match — another blessing. The transplant was successful, but severe medication side effects landed Nathan in the ICU, and then his leukemia relapsed a second time in October, not long before his first birthday. He continues to fight.

“Nathan doesn’t know anything different,” said his dad. “All he knows is needles, line dressing changes, all that stuff. But…no amount of darkness can ever take away light. Light will always take darkness away, and when I think of Nathan, he is as resilient as light. Nothing makes him sad, really. He has every reason in the world to complain, but he doesn’t. He’s a very content, happy baby who loves to play and smile.”

St. Jude reinforces hope. Hope is one of the most important things a family can have when a child is going through something like this. We feel like God put St. Jude here for a reason. It reinforces the hope we have that there’s a cure for our kid — and if there’s not, there’s somebody working on it diligently. Working to save every kid.
Andy, St. Jude patient Nathan's father

St. Jude patient Nathan with his older brother, Donald

St. Jude patient Nathan being held by his older brother, Anderson

“We’ve been very thankful for what St. Jude has offered us,” said Andy. “They know what you’re going to need, and they take care of it for you. And that fact that St. Jude doesn’t bill families is one of the biggest things we’re thankful for. Health care bills can wreak havoc on people, and we don’t even have to worry about it.” 

Now, they are preparing for a second Christmas at St. Jude, and this time, they know what to expect. Andy and Nathan’s mom, Melissa, know they will be able to visit an area in the hospital full of toys, where they can pick out what Santa will deliver to Nathan and Anderson in their hospital room on Christmas morning. They’ll read the Christmas story from the Bible, and keep their other Christmas traditions as best they can. And they will keep the faith. 

 

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