On December 15, 2015, Caitlyn was unexpectedly rushed to the hospital due to severe head pain and loss of consciousness. She was taken to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh by ambulance where she would undergo emergency surgery for a large mass that was seen on the left side of her brain through a CT scan.
As parents, we were devastated and in complete shock. Caitlyn seemed to be a perfectly healthy child up until this moment. All we could do during this time was pray. We cried and prayed all while trying to comprehend what was happening to our daughter. We were blessed to have so many family members and friends pray for Caitlyn, too.
Toward the end of her surgery the doctor came in to tell us the bad news. Caitlyn had an aggressive tumor in her brain that was starting to outgrow itself, causing her brain to bleed. He explained to us that Caitlyn may not make it out of surgery and if she did, he believed she would most likely have physical impairments.
After anxiously waiting, Caitlyn woke up and had no impairments. Praise God! We were able to go home after about a week in the hospital. During Caitlyn's recovery at home, we spent a lot of time in prayer. We knew that this was only the beginning of a long battle.
Pathology results came back and Caitlyn was diagnosed with a high grade Neuro-epithelial tumor. It was more bad news. The doctors put her on a harsh treatment regimen because they knew this was an aggressive cancer. She started a 6-week treatment plan of chemotherapy and radiation daily.
As a family we went through so many struggles. Watching a loved one endure the pain and sickness that comes with these treatments is unbearably painful. As parents, it was something we never thought would happen to our child.
God gave us the strength to get through each day. There was so much heartache and pain but we were determined to stay positive through prayer.
Four weeks into treatment, Caitlyn started to complain of a headache. We took her to the emergency room thinking it was a side effect from radiation. We were wrong. The tumor grew back to its original size and it was starting to bleed again. Caitlyn was placed on hospice care.
There were several times when we felt defeat and anger but we had family and friends that didn't let us give up! They continued to pray with us and they didn't let us lose hope. After a week in the hospital, we decided to continue Caitlyn's hospice care at home. It didn't take long for us to notice that Caitlyn was getting better, not worse. In fact, she didn't need her pain medication at all. Praise God!
We contacted her Oncologist and requested an MRI. The doctor agreed and he scheduled it a couple of days before our Make-A-Wish Disney trip! The results were amazing! Caitlyn's tumor was much smaller! Praise God!
After learning of Caitlyn's miracle, life became a daily celebration. We learned to thank God for every blessed day and our faith grew tremendously. Caitlyn enjoyed eight healthy months that were filled with great memories and a lot of love! We were hopeful that God would continue to heal Caitlyn but He had other plans. In October 2016, Caitlyn started to complain of head pain again. We were devastated to learn her tumor was growing back. Sadly, on December 13, 2016 she passed away.
Although we didn't have the outcome that we were praying for, we still believe God was with us through it all. Since the night Caitlyn was diagnosed, we have not stopped praying. We have learned what it means to have a relationship with God and we know that he carried us through tragedy. We are thankful that God gave us time to grow and strengthen our faith. Having faith doesn't make the pain go away but it brings so much peace and comfort knowing that Caitlyn has simply moved on. She is exactly where she is supposed to be and she is happy and healthy. The pain that we endure on this earth is only temporary. One day we will see her beautiful face again in God's kingdom and it will be eternal.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Photography by Ashley Joyce