When you meet Diana, you may think she is a little different. But when you dig deeper you will discover that she has a stronger faith than many can even fathom. Through her entire life, her brother John has been there every step of the way. This is his account of their family’s journey through a special world.
When Diana was very young, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. But over time her family realized that she was still a little different. Diana’s mother had taken Dilantin while she was pregnant with all of her children, but it affected Diana little differently. She had adopted a defect that affects only 1 in 10,000 people: William’s syndrome*. But this was only the beginning of Diana’s journey. When she was 10, Diana slowly began to lose her appetite, energy, and her smile. When she woke up in the middle of the night, screaming from the pain in her abdomen, her family had had enough with her agony and took her to the local hospital. On August 28, 2008, her MRI revealed more than just your average stomach ache.
Diana was taken straight from her MRI to Children’s hospital for emergency surgery. Her brother John remembers sitting anxiously in the waiting room, crowded with 30 of Diana’s closest friends and family. And after waiting a virtual eternity, the doctor rushed in to explain an agonizing fear. Both of Diana’s ovaries were the size of grapefruits, saturated with Burkett’s lymphoma. The doctor gave the family two options: remove the cancer, leaving Diana without the possibility to ever conceive; or leave the ovaries intact, and wait for the malady to consume her entire ten year-old body. Diana’s mother broke down, unable to answer the doctor’s options; unable to bare the news that her child would never have her own children, or fathom the idea that Diana could die. Without question, John and his father told the doctor to take out the cancer.
Six weeks later, Diana started chemo-therapy. Her cancer was still progressing rapidly, and she was deteriorating quickly. On October 8,2008, she faced the worst surgery of her battle. John got a call from his dad telling him to drive to Children’s hospital, and say goodbye to his sister. He remembered the surreal drive, gripping the steering wheel, and crying out to God. He walked into the room, and there lied Diana, without a hint of hair on her brittle body, and with only God’s will sustaining her. John held her hand and began to cry, when his sister explained confidently, “Don’t cry John. I’ll be fine. Jesus will take care of me.” Diana was taken into emergency-exploratory surgery where the surgeon began to slice and sever anything in her body that appeared to be cancerous. John walked with his little sister, enveloped in IV’s and cords, telling her that he loved her and she would always be with him, no matter what.
Just as she had asserted, Diana survived the surgery. But she spent the next 21 days in an induced coma. John often visited her lifeless body. He would talk to her, knowing there would be no response. Diana’s exhausted body was there but the sister he knew was invisible. She was big—fluid engulfing her body. She was not Diana.
The battle continued. Diana remained strong, and her family supported her through every step. John and every man in the family, and even family friends had shaved their hair, then used shaving cream and a straight razor. Because bald was new normal for Diana, it would be their normal too. (She was mad though and said they all looked funny.) Throughout Diana’s journey she faced rounds and rounds of chemo. Some were fast and aggressive to wipe out the insistent disease. Others were slow and steady to sustain her weak body. Diana endured a surgery every two to three weeks, totaling a lurid haze of thirteen surgeries over the course of nine months. The family spent every one of those nights wondering if Diana would still be alive in the morning. But she remained in good spirits, and kept a smile on her face.
Through the haze of the family’s journey, John said he could feel the presence of God; he could feel Him working. There were churches the family had never heard of, calling to say they were praying for Diana. There were thousands of people who had never even met Diana, and God was healing her through their cries. Then on Saint Patrick’s Day, 2009, John got a call from his dad at one in the morning, “the cancer is gone.” John was in disbelief. He sat with the phone to his ear, speechless, eyes filled with tears. After days of praying to God, “You are the great physician, you can heal any of that”, he was shocked. “God just healed my sister.” Not a hint of cancer was in her body. It was a miracle; it was the healing power of God.
This didn’t end the journey though. During Christmas Diana was home, but she was too weak to leave her bed. They still had trips to Children’s for low blood cell counts and excessive vomiting. She spent the next couple years in a wheel chair because of her weakness. And the family still lived in fear that the cancer could return. Diana visited the doctor for consistent check-ups, and overtime they got farther and farther apart—but most importantly, they all revealed that Diana had still won her cancer battle.
This past year would be Diana’s fourth year of being cancer free. She is now considered a survivor, and she got the chance this year to carry the Relay for Life banner. John explained “looking back, seeing my sister lay lifeless, and now being able to watch her carry that flag is amazing.”
When people say, I can’t overcome that, John says don’t make God so small that you think that He can’t. He had accepted the fact that Diana would die. It was a waiting game to see when. “We had funeral conversations. But that conversation was saying how small God is.” The journey showed that God doesn’t give you anything you can’t overcome. You have to take God out of the box that this is too hard for me, this is too big for me to handle.
People don’t have ovaries size of grapefruit, and live. That goes to show, don’t read over the verse, with God all things are possible. And when you see that in real life, it is so much more meaningful. It proves God is the ultimate healer; He is bigger than all disease and weakness. The journey put me in awe of who God was and what He can overcome. He taught me to trust what He is doing. I leaned on the verse, In all things God works for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
Diana and my mom have shared their journey at many churches and events. God is using that story to draw people to Him; to work things together for His good. He has also shown He has a plan. My thoughts are not your thoughts, My ways are not your ways. (Isaiah 55:8) He has a plan and we have to be on board so He can use His plan for His glory.
Diana also shared with me, “When I found out I had cancer, I was devastated. I didn’t know what to do. I just prayed and I waited, and I waited. On August 10, 2009 they told me I was cancer free. And I thanked God for all He had done…When I tell my story at churches they clap, and I say thank you Lord, You are so good.”
On May 18th of this year, Diana turned fifteen and she is still cancer free. She has battled the side effects of hypothyroidism, she has overcome the adversity brought with William’s syndrome, and she has defeated cancer. Diana wasn’t supposed to live past eleven and she gives all of her glory to God.
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20
*Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that is present at birth and can affect anyone. It is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. These occur side by side with striking verbal abilities, highly social personalities and an affinity for music.