“It’s a WHAT?!!!!”Those were the first words my daughter Allisa heard from her mother as she entered into this mortal life. We had moved to a suburb of Little Rock Arkansas just 2 weeks before I was due to give birth to our fourth child, who according to my Dr.’s best guess, was going to be a little boy. We had chosen the name Michael Robert and I had made an adorable little quilt with choo choo trains and teddy bears to bring him home in.
The baby was due on my sister’s wedding anniversary,July17, and all of my other babies had been born either on or close to their due dates. This baby was different! On the morning of July 17, right on schedule, I began to have contractions. My mother was flying out from Utah to help, as we had not lived in our new location long enough to even know anyone. My labor continued to progress and it seemed that we would pick Grandma up from the airport, take her and the children home, and go straight to the hospital. As we rounded the freeway and the airport came into view, my contractions suddenly stopped. After 6+ hours of labor, Nothing! We waited, and waited. We waited for days! We took a trip to Memphis and walked around Graceland in 95 degree heat…NOTHING!
After 10 days of waiting,my mother had to return home. When she arrived she was met with some intense family drama and the next day my Grandfather called. He told me that I should not worry about my sweet baby being so late. “That little baby is in a place where she can not only be safe from the influence of the adversary, but where she can help to bless those who are having such a hard time in our family.” “She will come when she has done all that Heavenly Father needs her to do.” At the time, I didn’t pick up on the “she” part.
Allisa was born 17 days late,exactly when she was ready, despite all that I could possibly do to encourage her otherwise, being born at exactly 7:00 am and weighing exactly 8lbs. This was the beginning of a lifetime of doing things exactly as she knew she should!
When Allisa was about 4 years old,she had a very special experience that I have pondered on many times over the years. We had come home from church and the children had all gone down for a nap, but when the others kids woke up, Allisa would not. She napped for over 4 hours and no matter what I did to try to wake her, she simply would not wake up. Finally she dragged into the kitchen around 7:00 that night…her gaze was very contemplative and far away. I asked her if she was feeling OK and she replied that she had been having a dream. I asked her what the dream was about and she replied that she had been talking with Jesus. When I prodded for more details, she simply replied that they had been talking about “things” and that He had told her that He loved her very much.
Allisa has always been strong willed.Once she makes her mind up about something, that is the way it is going to be. When she entered the Young Women’s program, she decided that she wanted to get her medallion by the time she was 14, and she did it. She also chose to receive her Patriarchal Blessing that same year. She ran long distance and participated at the State level when she was a Freshman. She always has had a high moral code for dress and behavior. Never has there been a time when as a parent I have had to remind her to pull up her tank or cover her back side. Never have I ever had to worry about who she was with or what she might be doing, because her standards were set so high and every one she associated with knew it.
Just before she began High Schoolwe felt impressed to move our family to the town where we now reside. It was 45 miles further away from my husband’s work, but the impression came so strongly with a warning that “if we did not go then, it would be too late”.
The new High school proved to be anything but an easy adjustment.On the first day of school I hugged Allisa and her older sister and enthusiastically asked how their first day had been, to which they both gloomily replied that not one soul had spoken to them. Being the eternal optimist I gave some promising remark that it would get better, and after a few weeks, Allisa’s cousin invited her to hang out with he and a few friends. I was relieved as friends are so important to kids at this age.
On Christmas night 2008,just 3 weeks after taking her only brother to the MTC, Allisa became very ill. At first the symptoms seemed flu like and they came and went with varying rates of intensity, but after a few days it became apparent that there was something else wrong. We took her from one person to the next and after 3 weeks, the pain became nearly unbearable, and she would vomit several times a day. Though feeling literally like crud, Allisa never complained. When I would ask her how she was doing, she always replied, “I’m fine” or “I’m going to be fine”. On January 19, 2009, we discovered the first tumor. It was growing in the left frontal lobe of her brain and measured 7cm. She underwent 6 hours of surgery 2 days later, which revealed that the tumor was not only malignant, but was a glialblastoma…the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer.
Allisa’s first miracle camein the form of no significant changes to her personality post surgery. We were so happy to still have the girl we knew and loved. The next few days she proved her power of determination and was climbing the stairs 2 days after surgery. We left the hospital just 3 days later.
After recovering,Allisa began intensive Chemo and Radiation therapy. A side note here is that Allisa has ALWAYS had long beautiful hair, which she absolutely loved! Within a few weeks of treatment, her hair began to fall out by the handfuls. She was sad, but did not let it get her down. Instead she saved the strands and made a braid and sent it to her brother who was by now in Taiwan. It totally freaked him out, which was what she was hoping it would do! :0)
Allisa was in treatment for 3 months.During that time, aside from the days immediately after she returned home from the hospital, not a single soul called or came to check on her. Days and then weeks passed and nothing. No one from her school, no one from her Young Women’s organization, no one. I felt varying emotions from being sad, to being frustrated to being plain out angry, but Allisa never said anything. She never complained. Instead, she became my best friend and reminded me that even Christ had times when He was deserted by His friends.
When faced with the decision to continuea second round of Chemo or not, we asked Allisa what she felt. Her Dr.’s had no conclusive evidence that further treatments would be of any benefit, but thought that it might be wise due to the nature of the tumor. We were concerned about the long term health issues. We sought guidance and she was blessed to received a powerful priesthood blessing from a member of our Stake Presidency in which she was promised that the Lord would let her know in no uncertain terms what course of action was the right one for her. After returning home from the stake center, she went downstairs and came back up some time later. Her eyes were tear stained and she said simply, “I asked Heavenly Father, and I don’t have to do any more chemo.” The Spirit bore a strong witness that this was true.
One day in August,there was a knock at the door and when we answered it, we found a rose with a note indicating that it was for Allisa. There was no name to indicate who it was from, and this continued for the next several weeks. Sometimes the roses were obviously from a home garden, and sometimes the flowers were ones that I recognized as those that grow in our local mountain area. Finally Allisa figured out that the anonymous door ditcher was a boy in our ward. The two became good friends rather quickly as both it seemed were considered ‘odd ducks’ by their peers.
Allisa returned to school that fall wearing hats.The dress code strictly forbids hats, and during the first week, despite my best efforts to inform administration about her condition, Allisa was cornered by the principle and ordered to take her hat off or leave the building. She just stood there somewhat confused and feeling totally humiliated until another administrator came to her rescue and informed the gentleman that “this is the girl I was telling you about!” This was unfortunately the beginning of a very hard time emotionally for her. The kids that she had met the year before suddenly did not recognize her. If she said hi in the halls, they would just turn and walk away. She sat alone at lunch much of the time, and on the days that she would go and sit with some of the kids she had known before, they would ignore her and talk about plans that did not include her. I know her heart hurt, but she never was angry. Instead she made up her mind that she was going to be the one to seek out someone who looked lonely. She made it a point to say hello and flash a big smile to every person whose gaze she caught.
Her classes also proved to be an up hill battleas the tumor had caused her to lose much of her short term memory and both her science and math skills. Many days she came home exhausted from just trying to understand what was going on. Some of her teachers were helpful and understanding, and others treated her like she had just had a bad cold. They simply could not understand why she was struggling. After all, she looked just like any other high school kid except she wore a hat. She worked hard, sometimes for hours on a single subject. Her personal standard was so high, that she would not accept anything less than what she knew was her very best work.
One of her favorite school classeswas working with disabled kids. She was assigned to a boy named Kevin who had severe physical handicaps. His body was misshapen and he could not speak, and yet the two of them had a sweet connection. Her Seminary teacher asked if she might be willing to attend the special needs seminary class and help with the students there. This would mean that she would miss out on the deeper doctrinal discussions, as these kids were more at the level of a young primary child, but Allisa accepted the call with enthusiasm. She and the other kids each had a special needs student that they would go and get from their class room in the main school building and carefully walk with them outside to the seminary building. Then they would help them to hold their scriptures, or sing songs or say prayers. Most days, there would be some sort of challenge or interruption, but the spirit in that class of Celestial people was often tangible.
It always bothered Allisathat kids were so caught up in the drama of high school and missed out on those things that really mattered that were of a more eternal nature. She made it a point to attend release time seminary even though she was so very behind in her schooling requirements.
As the school year wore on,her friend from the ward who was by the way, home schooled, did his best to make her feel important. When it came time for one of the dances, he asked her to go…even though he was not even technically a student. He arranged for a group of other home school kids to go with them, and knowing that she would have to wear a hat, he wore one too. She looked like a princess, because she was treated like one.
She worked hard through two summersand with the help of a couple of key administrators, Allisa graduated High School on time with a 3.8 GPA. While most kids have big plans for their graduation night, Allisa didn’t. Instead, she came home and watched a movie with her family.
Allisa has always had a bit of a feddish about cleaning.It’s what she does when she gets stressed. Many were the times that a weekend would come and go and no invitations would be extended to join in…rather than grumbling or complaining, Allisa would start to clean the house. I’m not sure if she did it to blow off steam, or just to help me out, I rather think it may have been a combination of both.
Allisa got her driver’s license just 3 weeks before her 18th birthday.She had been so busy the two summers before with her schooling, that there had not been time for her to take the classes offered at the high school. She was determined to get her license before she turned 18, and so she took night time driver’s ed classes. Whenever some one would ask her why she was so long in getting her license, she would smile big and say, “oh, I had a brain tumor”. She often laughs at people’s responses because she totally catches them off guard. No one seems to quite know how to respond to a brain tumor and a smile! Most people stumble over an awkward apology and she kindly assures them that, “it’s ok, I’m fine”.
Allisa and her Mom (that’s me) have been asked to speakon several occasions to young women and their leaders about her challenge and how she overcame it. Every time she left one of these speaking assignments she always had a glow. “That is what I want to do with my life!” She has said that so many times! “I want to talk to people about the power of being positive and having faith in their Savior. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything with His help.”
On Nov 21, 2011, just 2 weeks after starting her first real job,Allisa was diagnosed with another tumor. This one being inoperable and with little hope for treatment options being offered by the medical community. Her Dr.’s predictions are bleak at best, but her attitude has not changed one bit. “we just press forward” she says to people who ask how she is handling the news. She accepts with peace and humility that her time here on earth could be coming to a close, but at the same time she looks forward with incredible faith that if it is His will, that the Lord can heal her of this trial and work a miracle.
Just 4 days ago,Allisa was blessed to receive special permission to enter the temple and receive her own endowment. Though young in years, her spiritual maturity is astounding. She simply understands the Plan and her role in it. Triviality of the world does not phase her. Hers is the bigger picture of the returning of the Savior and being ready for Him is all that matters to her. She talks of her future as though it is a given, though the reality is that it may not be so. We speak openly about the possibility that she may be called home and she is so at peace. At the same time, she is ready to do what ever it may take in order to stay if that is His will.
I have hardly touched the surfaceof what an amazing life my sweet daughter has led. She hasn’t been the most popular kid in the school, but she has changed lives for the better by keeping her standards high and staying positive. Regardless of what The Lord may choose, we are blessed to know that we will always be a family, and I am honored that Heavenly Father would trust me with one of His most choice daughters. She is not only my daughter, she is my friend and a true example of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
If you want to here more about this incredible girl and her amazing life click here