Wednesday, March 26, 1997

Family of sick 9-year-old put trust in God

Daily Light Publisher

The family of 9-year-old Ashley O'Rear received some disturbing news Monday.

Doctors told Paul and Susan O'Rear that the tumor removed last week from their daughter's brain was malignant. Ashley has cancer.

Paul said it was classified as a medulloblastoma (MDL), a "fast-growing, invasive tumor which frequently metastisizes to other parts of the central nervous system via the spinal fluid."

Shortly after Ashley's condition was diagnosed 10 days ago at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, surgeons removed about 95 percent of the tumor during a six-hour operation. They couldn't remove all of it because the tumor had attached itself to the brain stem, and attempting to remove that portion of the tumor could have damaged the brain stem.

According to Paul, Ashley underwent minor surgery Tuesday afternoon to implant a porta-cath just under the skin in her chest.

"The porta-cath will be used as an access point for Ashley's upcoming chemotherapy treatments," he said. "While in surgery, the doctors extracted bone marrow and spinal fluid, which will be tested to see if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what extent."

By late Tuesday, Paul anticipated having more answers and being able to discuss treatment schedules with oncologists.

"The good news is that this tumor is very responsive to treatment with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy," he said.

Ashley's problems began back in January, when she started complaining of nausea in the mornings and sinus drainage into her stomach at night. This occurred off and on for several weeks until one night, after she had vomited seven times throughout the day, she was taken to a clinic and diagnosed with a serious bladder infection.

Believing Ashley was on the road to recovery, the O'Rears were watching a movie at home two nights later when Ashley suddenly started seeing double. She then temporarily lost her vision.

"We had expected the pathology report to come back showing the tumor to be benign," said Paul, youth minister for College Street Church of Christ in Waxahachie. "Obviously, that was not God's will. We accept that, and still believe firmly that our God is more powerful than even a malignant tumor."

Both Paul and his wife, Susan, are volunteers at T.C. Wilemon Elementary School as tutors and mentors. Their children, Ashley and 7-year-old Justin, are students at Wilemon. Paul is the former president of the Waxahachie Kiwanis Club, and Susan is a partner in Double O Wallpaper in Waxahachie.

Sunday and Monday were good days for Ashley, according to her father. Her steroid dosage was cut in two (prescribed to control post-surgery swelling), and she was given a stronger anti-nausea medication, which combined to make her relax more comfortably.

"She even smiled and laughed several times," said Paul. "That did more good for me than just about anything, to see my little girl happy again."

She continued to progress Monday, working with a physical therapist for about 30 or 45 minutes. Paul said she got out of bed and walked down the hallway, worked on some therapy exercises, and "even climbed the stairs as part of her therapy."

"She was quite wobbly still, but did remarkably well," he said.

Later, she went by wheelchair to Speech Pathology, where she sat in the wheelchair for about an hour. Paul said that was the first time she had sat up for any extended period of time since her surgery last Tuesday.

Monday night, Ashley received several visitors, including family, friends from church as well as school friends and teachers. She ate pizza for dinner.

"Ashley was in wonderful spirits and spent most of the evening talking and laughing with her friends. She took a bath and watched TV for a while, still giggling and laughing at things she found funny. I was worn out and ready for bed by 9 p.m., but she was just getting her second wind."

A fund has been set up at Citizens National Bank in Waxahachie entitled the "Ashley O'Rear Medical Fund." Donations for Ashley and her family can also be made at College Street Church of Christ, 423 N. College, Waxahachie, TX, 75165 (note "for Ashley O'Rear Medical Fund").

"I know God's will is going to be done, and in fact is already being done, in this situation," said Paul. "I also believe with all my heart that all things work together for good to those who love God.

"God is going to cause some kind of good to come out of this whole situation. We are already seeing some of that good, but in my limited wisdom, I don't pretend to know all the ways in which God is causing or will cause good to come from this. We continue to put our trust in Him."

NOTE: This article is reprinted here with permission of the Waxahachie Daily Light.