From Chicken Soup for the Christian Teenage Soul

In-VINCE-ible Lessons

Just looking at my vivacious, seven-year-old brother, Vincent, no one would know the painful struggle he went through just three years ago, nor would they know about the invincible way in which he fought and overcame his terminal disease.

“Mommy, my leg hurts,” Vincent said three years ago. Having used all his energy to limp to the couch, he laid down for a rest. For a very busy four-year-old who never sat still, this was not normal. His sudden inability to walk up or down stairs and go about his usual playful activities concerned us. My family thought it might be an injury from roughhousing with my other younger brother. The doctor said it was his left hip and advised temporary bed rest, which seemed to help at first.

Soon it was time for Vincent’s Halloween party at preschool. The children formed a parade circle outside the school to show off all their cute costumes. When an adorable panda trailed far behind the rest of the class as they walked around, we were abruptly reminded that something was seriously wrong.

It’s been three years since Vincent was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a fast-growing malignant childhood cancer. The cancer in his abdomen had already spread to other parts of his body, including his left hip. The day I was told, I was overwhelmed with confusing emotions. I saw how young, innocent and weak Vincent looked, and all I could do was watch and hope. I prayed that he could handle chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and two stem-cell transplants.

Even through his pain, loss of hair, mouth sores, isolation from friends, stomach cramps and other complications, Vincent never complained. He continued to enjoy the simple things of childhood—jokes, arts and crafts, teasing and goofing off. As the months went on, Vincent’s smile and sense of playfulness remained. Vincent made me feel more secure that God would protect him and be there through everything.

Vincent made it through a number of treatments and both his bone-marrow transplants. However, following his three-month isolation period at home, Vincent came down with post-transplant kidney problems. After a six-day hospital stay, he was stabilized and able to still go with us on his Dream-Come-True trip to Disney World. My family received our dream come true, as well. Vince was clear of cancer and finished with his treatments. Within five months his kidneys were 90 percent healed. Vincent has proven himself invincible. He is now almost three years cancer-free and still maintains a wonderful, spirited attitude. We are so thankful to God that he is a survivor.

Vincent taught me important lessons through his suffering. Not only did I learn to trust in God, but also that the Holy Spirit and His gifts will always be here for me in times of spiritual or emotional challenge. Patience, the presence of God and an inspirational little boy have made an everlasting impact on my life.

Casey Glynn Patriarco

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: My brother is still surviving. He is almost eight years old, and I hope one day he will read this.]

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