I saw a serious and sad little girl when I looked at her referral picture for the first time. My experience with referral photos told me that she had been through a lot in her short time here on earth. Her eyes reminded me of an old person who had known loneliness and sorrow. Her body language was of someone who felt hopeless.
My experience also told me that there was unlimited potential if given a chance.
The diagnosis for our daughter was serious: a spinal cord tumor called glioma that would continue to grow.
It took me a long time to say what it really was.
The tumor had already caused her to be paralyzed. We saw video of Josie walking, then limping and finally where she lost the ability to walk. The combination of cancer and life in a wheelchair is hard for any family to imagine. But for us, it was impossible to imagine that Josie would continue to live her life in an orphanage. No matter what medical conditions or disabilities she had, her life would be infinitely better in a loving family.
We did our best to bring Josie home quickly and consulted with leading neuro-oncologists about her tumors. Thankfully, we had many medical reports to share, and we could prepare ourselves for a range of outcomes.
All our children were willing to support their new sister if she had to go through surgeries or chemotherapy at any time. We prepared the best we could, but there were still so many unknowns.
Would she be able to attach and bond with us after all she had gone through?
Would we have to admit that even the best medical care couldn’t help her?
These thoughts would always fade away as I looked at the first picture we saw. We would figure this out together, and she would always have us no matter what.
There was no way to predict what happened next. My husband flew to China to finalize Josie’s adoption and bring her home. He met an intelligent, talkative little girl who was eagerly waiting for her family to come for her. She knew our names and faces from a photo album we sent, and she was ready to begin her new life. All the people who met her couldn’t believe how excited she was and how much she understood about adoption.
She had seen other children leave the orphanage, and she was waiting for her special moment.
At home, Josie was learning new things each day. She wanted to learn English and with the help of a translator at the children’s hospital, she understood that we would do everything in our power to help her medically as well.
During the first appointments and procedures, old memories of surgeries came flooding in, but this time she didn’t have to be alone. Now, there was a Mommy and Daddy who would never leave her alone in the hospital again.
We waited anxiously as our team of doctors reviewed her past MRIs from China and now looked at a brand new one done here. The news was much better than we’d anticipated, and we were given so much hope – for a long life and a good quality of life. It would not be without surgeries or even chemotherapy, but it would be possible to live with the tumor.
There was no cure, at least not yet, and her paralysis was permanent. Armed with this new information, we decided to take every day as it came knowing that once the tumor began growing, we would fight to shrink it. And in between those days, we would give Josie the most full, normal life possible.
I could tell you what we did for Josie, but the better story is in what Josie has done for us.
She is a remarkable, intelligent little girl that has brought so much laughter and joy into our family. She is determined, imaginative and full of life. I am thankful that the labels and the sad picture didn’t scare us away. There was nothing to fear. She wasn’t her tumor or paralysis or any other diagnosis that was listed.
She was a little girl who just needed a family and a chance to fight her disease.
Today, she has both. And with that, there is hope and a future.
– guest post by Jenni