Avery is a gorgeous, gregarious little girl. With golden bangs gently sweeping her bright eyes, her long wavy hair seems to glisten, much like her personality. Avery’s closest confidant was her brother, Campbell, who shared the same expressive eyes and wide, happy smile as his twin sister. Though Campbell said he adored being a twin because he “loved having someone to play with,” Jill admits that Avery is the only one who truly understood Campbell. And more importantly, “for him, having Avery by his side was a life saver.”
A CT scan revealed devastating news: Campbell had cancer. Surgeons rushed to remove a four-and-a-half inch mass from Campbell’s abdomen and after reviewing pathology reports, doctors diagnosed him with Stage IV Rhabdomyosarcoma, a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. Jill says, “Rhabdo is a fast-growing tumor. It responds well to chemotherapy, but at the same time, it tends to come back.”
Amidst the shock and confusion of the diagnosis, Jill and her husband, David, looked at each other and wondered, “How do we tell our children what is going on with Campbell?” Their golden-haired boy was barely four-years-old, and he and Avery were truly Jill and David’s “miracle babies.”
Jill’s pregnancy was considered high-risk, and her babies were born at 33 weeks. “They were both so tiny. Our miracle babies went to the NICU, needing oxygen and time to grow. But when we were able to bring them home, they thrived. God had answered our prayers and He continued to show His healing power in our lives. And in my mind, we had already faced our struggle.”
Campbell finally returned home, a bit more fragile and with a tender scar. Avery, just one minute older than Campbell, immediately took on the role of caretaker. The protective four-year-old hauled her sleeping bag into Campbell’s room, and spent every night on the floor beneath him. Jill says, “When he came home, all was right in the world. Avery was so happy to have all four of us under the same roof again, and Campbell was always glad to come home with her waiting there for him.” Campbell even lovingly said his favorite thing about being home was “that I sleep in my bed and I can look down on the floor and Avery is sleeping right beside me.”
After 54 weeks of intense radiation and chemotherapy, it appeared Campbell’s cancer was in remission. However, his final scan showed a two-centimeter growth in the same vicinity as the original tumor. Jill says, “That was so hard for us when it came back. I had two weeks of nonstop crying, not understanding. I was hyperventilating. David and I worried so much about how we were going to tell him and explain it to him.” But Campbell’s trust in God blew them away. “He did say a few times, ‘I thought my boo-boo’s were gone!” We simply told him we would keep praying for God to make them go away. And that was it. He never asked again. Campbell did not question God like David and I had done.”
Heaven gained a most beloved angel, just weeks shy of the twins’ sixth birthday. Jill’s faith shines through in her beautiful description of their tragic loss: “Our sweet Campbell finally caught his rainbow…he ran through Heaven’s gates into HIS Daddy’s arms and is sitting at the feet of Jesus. What a sight to behold! Praising Jesus that HE blessed me with the most precious blue-eyed, blond haired boy almost 6 years ago…the joy he has brought into our lives is unbelievable. Our hearts are breaking, but we are home rejoicing that he is healed and he is finally HOME!”
Thank you to Leigh and Ken Johnson with HiLeigh Kentagious for providing the hot air balloon and an afternoon of fun for the Dale family. Also, a special thank you to Adam + Alli Photography for capturing the beautiful family photographs.