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Keeping Hope and Faith During Childhood Cancer

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
March 31, 2021 6:00 am

Keeping Hope and Faith During Childhood Cancer

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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March 31, 2021 6:00 am

Turner and Tara Simkins share their story of their young son's four-year battle with leukemia (which he survived) and how their faith was strengthened as they depended on God to sustain them through that harrowing experience. Our guests offer hope and encouragement for those faced with dire circumstances.

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You've read accounts in the Bible. So many people really know very little about the lives of those early followers of Jesus chosen I've called you by name matches what life was like price based on the widely acclaimed TV series. The chosen this Focus on the Family book by best-selling author Jerry Jenkins rings color and depth of the people surrounding Christ. You can find out more@focusonthefamily.com/chosen four years of hospitals and treatments, three relapses to faith filled parents one brave boy one God, our God who does, but with the world says is impossible. That's the story that you're going here today the story of Brendan Simkins.

His parents are here Turner and Tara and your host for this Focus on the Family broadcast is Jim Daly jump. Perseverance is referenced several times in the New Testament in Hebrews that Christians are told that we need endurance in Philippians, Paul mentions pressing on to the heavenly prize through Christ Jesus and James being Jim.

I like that book were told that the crown of life is waiting for those who persevere under trial and as an orphan and I know when life feels like you're trudging up killing 4 feet of snow and it doesn't seem to be getting easier and in that context. Perseverance can be hard it can be so difficult to find the courage to take even one more step forward.

But what I think is really interesting is that the verb perseverance as it was originally written in the Greek didn't simply mean to patiently stay in a difficult situation but it implies action on our part. In other words, as Christians, were not called to simply keep going. Were called to be active participants in the stories God has called us to be a part of trusting him with the results and our guest today are very inspiring couple and their son as well. I would agree Jim Turner and Terry Simkins are cofounders of the press on fund, which is a nonprofit established to identify groundbreaking alternative therapies for children with cancer and they have three teenage boys Turner and Tara welcome to focus on the thank you for having us thinking that let's jump right in. From the time your middle son, Brendan was a baby you had a feeling and I Thought this is interesting in the book but you said you had a feeling that God had something special in mind for him describe that feeling and what was your reaction to it is difficult to articulate a from the first moment that I held him there was something about he does. There was a glower and energy you guys and tell and then from the point that he could interact with us. He was always reaching out and he was always wanted. He was always happy and he was always he was sort of the glue between what's his little brother Christopher came along between the three of them and then he had had these prodigious hand eye coordination, and just about everything he did in town. It was just a feeling out of really do something. It was something about the kid had a friend also said something to you about him that I write this down and you remember a conversation that was relatively it was late. Later in the evenings.

I'm glad that I recall that you when someone says that he was looking at him and at a photo of him and haven't seen him early in the day.

Remember my God father Frank and he said he under something about this kid got I think he's going to do something special.

Wow, that's amazing that the Lord give you that because that I'm sure became a strength for you as you begin to unfold. What happens organ to get to that at the tell us about Brendan as a child understand he was showing major promise in his golf game. Dad was proud of that. I'm sure you are feeling he was before talking about. I met you five years old and meanwhile even entering these junior events and Augusta Georgia area.

If it gets plugged off relative competitive and in it I do everywhere but yeah I mean he could chip and putt in which is very difficult for most of the younger kids out there and usually end and he had a beautiful swing and I remember looking at the video of Tiger Woods when he was about that age on the Johnny Carson show thing is I love Britney can do that to you know that now he is announcing that it was but yeah, of course, in unitary, you had as little kid you when you saw a lot of that in as well is very special little moms inside there so he gets to his seventh birthday are almost to his seventh birthday and he suddenly started showing some signs of illness tell us about the night that he was diagnosed in what were the two abuse mom and dad feeling and thinking and this is where people that are going through hard stuff right now with their own children diagnosis that somebody may have just gotten their child.

This is where were all going to lean into the story. So tell us about that day. What was unique about what caught your attention and why did you take him to the doctor while he had started as Turner said he active CAD and his wrath are within the third grade. He was in the first and he was so fatigued after the Christmas holiday and we thought that it was just his turn to Stay with his brother's complaint about his leg. Complaining about lack pain in the grandmothers said he was sad when he was complaining about his lack pain to continue an orthopedic pediatric orthopedic surgeon is a friend of ours and he did x-rays and that is absolutely fine arts.

The next time you go to your pediatrician. You might want to ask for some bloodwork so I just kind of put that in the back of my brain and we had taken all of the kids up to announce deceased now all the kids were out there playing and Brendan was just too tired. All three children, all the kids are making snowman snowball fights and he's in the bed really and said that with we have walk with her sister that day and we had just this heaviness just we we sort of knew that we did in yourself is ominous and there was and then we say we cut that trip short and we went out pediatrician. The two boys had ear infections and burning did not and thankfully that doctors instruction in the back of my brain which you mounting some bloodwork and he said no problem. So I went to go to my law office suite.

Kids went with the babysitter Turner went to work and I kept waiting for that same terrain and lunch. Went by and no FM call and after about 3 o'clock I need like this is a time, doctors can make in at 5 o'clock call from the nurse will make that call. Yes I doctor because it's not a good sign and said I said there's something suspicious in the bloodwork to get Brendan come back to the hospital. We were remember thinking driving to get taken not to meet Turner like leukemia, it just wastes I thought and I will not matter what member we had to go to the fifth floor of the Children's Hospital and that's the oncology as you get off the elevator and there's this really sweet kid who we became close with who actually is a whole other story.

But that's lease when you knew him.

He saw the kid with no hair on the back obliges are all these other things I can often befall the devastation he listed is what what did they say to you the doctors when you got the news what was said your child has cancer child has leukemia little while.

It took him several days to pinpoint exactly what it was. At first I thought he had a LL which is more common form of childhood leukemia.

Yeah, and then they thought was a plastic anemia, which is another terminal blood disease and then finally was AML and ML is acute myeloid leukemia and he had a weird subtype of it is a chromosomal deficiency. Call seven.

Cutely that's a very aggressive cancer.

Yet is one of the most difficult of the childhood cancers to care and fortunately had her head in the sand a little bit of time. You know, so we didn't take on the fear that we would've had, you know, in retrospect, so that point were thinking okay we can do this, we are positive we were and that you that was short-lived. Obviously short-lived, but I want to hear your hearts on is mom and dad talk to me. Mom and dad. When Dr. say that in people listening.

They may have heard it or they're going to hear it and I want you to connect with them because that's a moment where you can go a lot of different directions in your faith and your anger yeah you guys it is that it's almost like a cyclone of emotions and thoughts at that point to answer your question process just human nature right you start to first elect praxis as a business problem or something that we can handle tasks right we can handle it. And I remember I had a friend who is a pediatric oncology nurse and she says it takes families times to hear your child has cancer like the full effect at that actually I remember that night we were so nave. We taken him to the hospital and we are like 9 o'clock at night to let a kids home operation.

There's a cot for y'all you're not going anywhere tonight say you not think it takes a while to sink in and then I remembered the next day when the oncologist walked into the rain. He was on call that day and she happened to be an acquaintance and she hugged me and she stopped and she sat in so sorry.

And at that moment I thought oh my gosh we have. This is this is a big yeah, but that that that that says and then I remember you're caught between two worlds right trying to get through all that daily duties may gather the kids to school their lunches prepared for that point we were doing our jobs are stuff on me that you get it just, are you in a fog. Are you trying to say okay when we got you hyper focused innocent. I think military well on a mission. There's the fear that focused this year that allows you to focus on paying off. It distracts you from the depth of what going on with your heart that I remember that as the days went by the fear that understanding graded what we were getting ready to get in Turner sitting there reading we were in the hospital.

We were able to stay there as a family and sleep and so he's going through the protocol with all the side effects and it's terrifying. And then I just hear this voice and it says in the midst of fear fall deeper into the nets to fear fall deeper into live and I knew that we were being told to trust to trust in something gives me chills. Trust in something bigger. I will hold you through this right you will be helped Ray that he will not go through this alone and sad. That is phenomenal encouragement and had be God speaking to you right.

And if you're tracking along with any aspect of this story, please know that we have caring Christian counselors that you can talk to here call and schedule a consultation with them. We have resources and our phone number is 800 K in the word family so Brendan goes through his first bone marrow transplant doctor sit you down and says what what he'd sail through transplant.

So it was almost a little too easy things we don't know models. We were also told that you post transplant.

There needs to be some signs of friction, fevers, and rashes. Certain things to show that this new immune system is effectively taking over and will hopefully see the cancer or something bad in foreign is fighting something none of that happened that you know that day is the one where you're the cyclone really kicks in turn actually got physically lost driving hope in the car on a road that we traveled you also not took an exit letting me know because my mind was just no more hope he said there's no curative option, yet they gave him two months to call hospice go to Disney World. It was Larry black and white when he was sympathetic. This is a tough thing for the same kind, but part of that kindness is the directness right right but but the difference was. You did not react in a way that said okay I guess this is over. Lord, you have our son and we had a little kick in the pants. And what about that when I heard one of our close friends who I went to college with him actually from Augustine. His son had neuroblastoma in his son Patrick could relapse which is not a good spot to be very difficult disease to survive it. Relapse, they were in Philadelphia.

Children's Philadelphia were driving home we call Stephen and tell him what's going on and were talking about this gloomy sherbet and he said you know screw that man know so we can look to each other lives, what we needed. It was like a football coach and get back in the game guys unit and that we know that you know we were certainly behind, but we came home and we we got everybody that we knew that a connection we rounded up the troops and we started making phone calls yeah Terry that mama bear thing right you like to hear. Let's go right that sound like in your mind what you mean. Some people say, okay, it's over. You will that part.

Yes, you're right. That's what I think that one of the places of Christ, that we had twice. We want align right. We knew we were not aligned. We knew we'd been promised that we would be walked through this not ourselves friends were so important that we had a community. Another family he was going through it that we saw all kinds of families, single moms children never were able to come to the hospital. There is always what is it that we can do. How can we serve, how can we be of use. What is the better question that we can ask instead of Y's how my diabetes.

How might I be of service. So as we work through this though, I mean we have about 10 minutes and I want to make sure we grab all of this is a long story you don't know that it paints the incredible picture. The second transplant didn't take the third transfer. They did take get your there's a difference in if the transplant took but then the cancer came back.

In each of those right so I mean we defied all the he's in the second when he survived the third one is apparent as an owner to think about.

That is 1/2 a match you the child's half Terry he's half me you really don't browse the donor for the third one and it took and then things went haywire and we he was given last rites a week about his brothers and tell him by name is on a ventilator in you hear about it but you could feel it mean it was a physical energy of peace knowing that you have peeled off the things done everything you could. And it was them in his heart to describe it so emotionally you're saying goodbye to Brenda yes point we had. We had never done inside that yeah because we had almost all of the doctors and nurses and your childlike specials. All were in the room.

They're all weeping think and remember a doctor in Philadelphia saying try to transfer second transplant on a kid in less than a year and he died of pretty gruesome death on a ventilator and so Avnet never left my mind right and so here's a skip third transplant and is on a ventilator and then the decision to try for then he came back you know and then yeah Sauternes you still have that sense of we can get through this always had the sense that we could get through this with outs being hopeful of what the outcome could be that without having to me the outcome to find that we were held right there is such a difference. That we didn't have to say God, even to prove it to us by saving our son right like working 1/2 day and that we need this outcome to happen. It was this in the midst of fear fall deeper into lifeways always had this moment and the question was how can we feel love and be channels for that live in this moment and allow it to be in math and human struggle attacked you think turning to such a beautiful job in the buckets. The science is one thing that we are talking about daily living and the practice of some hopeful expectancy and trust and believe in some kind of mixture of all of that with some type of confidence and I remember during this time at the root of confidence is concrete right walking in faith, so we knew that this was all of that and at the point Turner describes is the ultimate letting that peace that passes all understanding. Read about the alternate letting that doesn't mean that we didn't have any of those feelings that we didn't have any doubt that we didn't struggle but became an active part at that blog what she's talking about is really one thing that we were taught through that because you're in this cocoon summary numbing where we will call the rest of the world's going on outside is I realize that I'm afraid of the outcome were worried about the outcome or angry about why we're here. I'm going to lose this moment that I have with this kid with me right now while in his brothers and five Luton and in that moment may not be here 15 minutes from now, and in his case because it installed to find when you're going to the mundane things like him. It is easy to can't have that smarted up a little bit and so this situation peeled off all that Monday entity engine when you're in an environment once you get to St. George was hospital and these are a lot of these kids don't come out right there and lots of reactions you see divorce extremely high rate of divorce in pediatric cancer. Will that is part of it. You guys were able to hold together, and even through this very stressful time in the good news is Brendan receive that for transplant and it did work and he's now doing great 17 is no longer that seven-year-old eight-year-old fighting for life and the way he had to is doing much better right. He is remarkable. Yes, he 17 lot of side effects from his treatment that again but just said, grateful and if we can never just stay in that place of gratefulness that this is what we pray for even the days I want to strangle them when talking about that specialness that Brendan and I do think the parents out there child that he was slapped he was a fighter. He never thought it never felt abandoned by God. He never felt that people write letters that said this child is paying for the sin you and your ancestors and I'll apply now to just home. I got things right. Last any and in some way this can endure to where art he was seven hours we were trying to cocoon them will what's wrong transplant relaxers and you can start dying and coming to get the cats out of the bag right so it is in our kids would go to funerals of other children. That's not something you could do that on a semi-routine basis of the age of seven on that's if it had an impact on you know what was what was good.

This is the quote of the book that really got a hold of me you said the interim nature of childhood itself should be sufficient to hold everyone of our kids type for every possible second, we should not need cancer for this and that is powerful. You guys went through a traumatic experience where your son almost died. Not once, not twice, not three times but almost many times right in that fourth bone marrow transplant if you don't know anyone who's done a bone marrow transplant. I have a good friend, Chuck Bulkeley, you just went through that and it is really brutal is brutal.

It takes about a year to recover. If everything goes one well and I've just been watching that from a distance and to hear when your son went through for those in a short Pyrenees time it caught my attention. It was like this is not this is an even normal for someone who's going through that. The other aspect of it is your attitude to fight and I just so appreciate that you didn't give up after the first situation where it didn't didn't work and you didn't give up.

As parents that's a good lesson for all of us when it comes to medical issues that we may encounter at some point I hope the people listening will take that as of the Clarion way forward if they are given for diagnoses not to hurt anybody's feelings. If you try and opinion you may be on the right track.

You need to get what you need to make sure that you get all the cards on the table like so appreciate that.

The last question which is really perhaps the most difficult in my own brother and his wife went through this cancer with their son and he was doing well but then got him again and he did make that a young age, and so I think the question is a tough one but it's for those families that did fight the good fight but they lost their loved one. They lost their child, their son or daughter. What word would you have for them and now this understanding that every human life is not that what ever it is that they were meant to be to him everything they were born to touch it attached to them and that it was in and to find some peace and right to find something in that we can spend our entire rest of our lives what anything second-guessing conflict dealing we aren't letting the Lancet within call today.

You're really saying contentment has to be your goal, you can't control these outcomes and that you have everything, every little seed in the ground every little problem upon and we may be a long ways off before that matures, and we may never know what it is but it's something in each of those children who've been in the hospital of touch someone to touch another family that touched the doctor and there is meaning there may not be the one that was written up in the handbook when the child was born, but it's certainly I do think that we just we know you know that if we push the data side then faith is there and then you can mean you can't have anger you can't have all of the human donations to process process them learn from them.

Now, let alone talk about a human talk about it with your friends all thought that you guys I'm so grateful for you to be able to share you know your pain points with the audience and be able to hear your rustling through this and the fact that you know thus far. Brendan's in a good place.

Maybe not a perfect place, but is in a much better place and he was 10 years ago and God is good and faithful absolutely. And the point is, he is faithful always matter the circumstances of the circumstances are. And John is before I go imagine some of the pain and the people who are listening and things that they're encountering and focus is here for you. That's the whole point we have so many generous donors who equip us to have no counselors in place to hear where your heart is to help you to give you some idea and direction to give you biblical wisdom on what you can do to stay in the fight the human fight of doing better in this life and leaning in the him and we got lots of resources to help you do that we do were a phone call away and that number is 800 the letter a in the word family and online you can find help and will have the links in the episode show notes and perhaps you'd like to pass this encouraging message along to someone who's going through a tough time similar to this. We'd love to send you a CD of this broadcast so you can do that, they'll be yours for gift of any amount to help us continue giving families hope and you'll find details at our website along with information about Turner's book possibilities, perseverance, grace in the story of one family's life with leukemia. Turner and Terrell, what an amazing story. Bless you guys. As you continue this journey of family life. Thank you for this grateful for all the families that when you come back from something like that. He can't understand or sell a lot of fight ahead if you like family and military coming back and trying to write please. I just heard all of your listeners to use the resources that you have available for them that love your crime will have Jim Daly the entire team here at Focus on the Family. Thanks so much for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting back next time. As we once again help you and your family try your marriage resources ventures and Odyssey stories. There are thousands of stories just like Focus on the Family's legacy community folks who leave a legacy get through their well dressed other estate planning tool helped have godly family.

Use your resources to help families for generations to come. Find out more focused legacy community.com that's focused legacy community.com


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