“Are you (****ing) kidding me?”
This was Lisa’s exact question to their beloved oncologist, Dr. Austin, when meeting with her to discuss Grayson’s leg amputation in the wake of his cancer diagnosis. But it wasn’t just the fact that their then seven year-old son would lose part of his leg that evoked such a response, it was how she explained the bottom portion would be reattached.
Grayson began complaining about pain in his left knee area in the Fall of 2021, which wasn’t out of the ordinary for their energetic boy, and youngest of three. But it was ultimately the way that he woke up crying from his sleep one night that sent chills down Lisa’s spine.
“I just knew it was cancer.”
Lisa told me she knew this at 2:30 a.m. that very night, in the way only a mother knows instinctively. But she didn’t let anyone else in on her intuition at first, not even after they were sent from Patient First to their local Ortho On Call. It was at that appointment when her fear was finally confirmed: Grayson had a tumor in his leg.
After discovering that the cancer had spread to his lung, Grayson was given the highest dose of chemo possible over the next several months, which caused hearing loss in both of his ears. Mervin and Lisa took turns being with him throughout his treatment, but it was often his dad that stayed with him so that Lisa could work at her family’s restaurant, which has been around for over twenty years.
Grayson’s parents also prepared him as best as they could for what would happen to his leg. Rotationplasty isn’t a commonly chosen procedure, but the limb rotation will allow him to be more mobile and continue to play in various sports as he gets older. Still, it didn’t come without risks — or grief. Within minutes of waking up from the six and a half hour surgery, Grayson’s toes began to wiggle, but the sense of relief was followed by his new reality.
“Is it gone?”
Grayson looked at his parents, then lifted up the hospital sheet to see for himself. He shook his head and sighed, tears sliding down his cheeks to see the result of the limb salvage surgery.
Yet, in the midst of his sadness, Grayson never complained. He faced the challenges that came with an ease that surprised even his parents. And in the toughest times, Mervin said they remained grounded by their faith. He recalled that his favorite verse had always been 2 Corinthians 5:7: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Having grown up as a pastor’s kid, myself, I knew the reference immediately. “Walking” in scripture is almost always metaphorical, but it took on a different significance for Mervin in light of the decision he and Lisa faced that day in Dr. Austin’s office.
Grayson’s path has been full of unexpected twists and turns, but his family discovered they didn’t have to navigate it by themselves. Because hope isn’t always about a destination or an outcome — it’s sometimes as simple as knowing that you’re not walking alone. And Grayson, in his own sweet-natured way, has redefined for both his family and community what it looks like to “take it all in stride.”
Grayson, 2023 | Connor's Heroes Art Ball © Kristin Seward w/ Lens of Hope