Getting a cancer diagnosis is earthshattering and devastating no matter your age, gender, or family status. But the impact cancer has when discovered in a young child certainly takes the entire experience to a new level. Whether it is a young mind struggling to grapple with the impact of a disease far beyond their understanding, the frantic sorrow of the parents desperate to protect and advocate for their beloved one, or the change such a diagnosis wrenches into the entire family unit, childhood cancer is a journey that understandably causes anger, bitterness, and a loss of faith.
For Addie Freeman and her family, though, the exact opposite occurred, and Addie’s sweet spirit shines all the more brightly for all the darkness she had to face.
Addie was diagnosed with Diabetes Insipidus and Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH) in November of 2015, when she was only 5 years old. Addie’s parents noticed that her water intake had increased sharply back in September, and an eventual hospital exam during a fluid restriction test showed that she lost 4 pounds in 6 hours with an extremely elevated sodium level. Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis is a rare condition in which the body makes too many immature Langerhans cells which can cause tumors and damage tissue. And while LCH is considered very treatable for most children, treatment in and of itself is certainly traumatizing and difficult to go through. Whether it was weekly chemo, injections twice a day, or multiple hospital admissions, the battle against her cancer certainly took its toll on Addie and her family. After a year of treatment, the LCH spots had greatly improved, but were still there. A new difficult chemo was started for another six months, and after that an MRI showed that she was all clear! Addie and her family were so thankful that she was healed. In fact, Addie made a sign that said “I’m Healed” that she wore to church and everywhere she could.
Unfortunately, discouragement hit just a few months later when the cancer came back after all the treatment. Despite the discouragement and a period of tears, Addie and her family focused on hope and light. They would often look for “rainbows in the storm” as they had the entire journey and point out to one another the highlights of grace that were sprinkled throughout all the hard times. One of the many rainbows they noted was the family atmosphere, warm support, and caring kindness from family members, church friends, and associations like the hospital, Clement’s Kindness, and others. “It felt like we weren’t alone in this journey,” said Amber, Addie’s mother. Addie’s port was replaced, and another year of chemo began, with extremely challenging side effects and physical implications. At the end, however, Addie proudly sported a “3 times Chemo Grad” shirt to celebrate the obstacles she had overcome!
And then in November of 2019, they were once again told that a new spot had emerged. Facing yet another round of treatment was so difficult mentally and emotionally. Amber remembers that Addie faced this news with a quiet confidence, and told her mother, “Don’t worry. God is in control!” The family decided to take the holiday season to rest, pray, and recover before facing the next cycle in the new year. However, the results of the PET scan in January of 2020 brought amazing news! It was completely clear; and no additional treatment would be needed – a true miracle. And while Addie will still need to take daily meds for the rest of her life, she and her family are incredibly grateful for the Lord’s guidance through the rough seas, and his healing of her body. Addie has been having normal checkups and has been living “the boring life” medically speaking since that point.
“The Lord goes before us,” said Amber. “We are so grateful and have renewed perspective and thankfulness for our lives; her life.” Addie echoed that sentiment. “This experience makes you thankful for when you don’t have chemo, and don’t have to worry about being sick.”
Addie and Amber shared the following verses that they would cling to during the more turbulent seasons of Addie’s illness.
Addie’s favorite verse is Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
And Amber finds hope in Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Addie’s sweet and trusting heart beams outward as she gives her advice to others going through a similar path: “Trust God. He will always bring you through, no matter what.” And Amber agrees with that; adding with a smile “And don’t forget your numbing cream to help with the injections! That’s our practical tip.”