Wednesday, October 1, 2008

CJ's Story

Now that we are home many of you have asked me to please explain how this all began and what lead us to this diagnosis as well as what the signs were and why we didn't know sooner. I decided to share it here on the blog for all those who were also curious.

Before I begin, let me say I know this began before I am even aware of and I do not presume to know when God stirred these events into motion or if He just nodded His approval as they were stirred into motion by some other means. What I do know is that not one thing that has happened to CJ was not filtered through God's sovereign will. Since I can't tell you from God's perspective nor would I even try, I can only tell you how it happened from our earthly perspective.

First, I want to just touch briefly on CJ's childhood to you. I know this may sound like hindsight to you with all that is happening but it is true that all who knew CJ well from the time he was very young would say to us that God had a calling on his life and he would do something amazing for God. We used to call him our little minister. He would say strange and insightful things as a young child. He would speak deep spiritual truths without even knowing he was doing it. He would ask spiritual questions we usually couldn't even answer. His compassion for others far outweighed anything I had ever seen in a child. Let me say that I know many kids are special and display their own unique qualities, and we in no way are declaring him more special than any of our other children or anyone's children but I share this to say that we believe these are all ways God prepared our hearts and his for this time. Furthermore, although this is an unbelievable shock to us, there is still a stange sense of quiet knowing.

As a young boy CJ went through a time when he began to struggle with fear and anxiety which caused a few panic attacks. By about age 6 this was gone and he grew into your typical young boy who loves sports, guns, games, friends, family and God. We are a faith filled and family oriented family. We are an active homeschooling family and in the middle of the 2007-2008 school year (his third grade year (age8) the anxiety suddenly began again. He began struggling with panic and anxiety over things he had previously had no difficulty with. Simultaneously, he began to struggle with stomach issues. His stomach always seemed to hurt. He spent more and more time in the bathroom. In researching this on the Internet a little I would look up anxiety and it would say "rule out stomach problems first which can cause anxiety", then I would look up stomach problems and it would say "rule out anxiety first which can cause stomach problems".
Therefore, we faced the dilemma of separating the two and treating them as separate issues that could be closely related. We took him to his Primary Care Physician who has been by our side throughout this whole thing. He referred CJ to a GI who ruled out any major stomach problems and said maybe it was Irritable Bowel. He had blood work done both by the Primary Care physician and by the GI. There were no signs of a problem.

Then, in about early May, he began having some back problems. He would complain of back pain but it seemed to get jumbled into all the other things he was complaining about at the time. It just seemed like one more thing that hurt and we thought it was related to the stomach issues. He would get constipated and then finally be able to go and say his back felt better so we thought his back pain was from constipation. On a trip to Gainesville at the end of May he had his first bought with severe back pain. We had celebrated my nephews birthday and had spent the day on a slip and slide. Later that night he woke up with severe back pain. Assuming at first that he was constipated I sent him to the bathroom. The next morning he was still hurting so we assumed he must have hurt it as he threw himself down the slip and slide. It hurt just watching him. We went home and he began to feel better.

In June he started playing flag football and riding go carts. The back pain came back again. This time he woke in the middle of the night crying about the severe pain. This incident lead to 2 ER visits in a matter of 3 days. X rays were taken, blood work, urine and nothing seemed wrong. They had no explanation for his back pain and we assumed it had to be the go cart riding we had done the previous day as the onset of pain. We were told to follow up with our primary and we did. He wanted to follow up and referred us for an MRI. We had an appointment set for back on July 7th. We got a call two days before the appointment that our insurance company had denied his approval for the MRI. Our Primary Care's office spent hours on the phone trying to get it approved for us but to no avail.

Soon he began to feel better and was even playing flag football on Saturday mornings. His stomach problems were increasing all the while and he was spending more and more time in the bathroom. This is when I started saying things to my husband like, "There is something wrong with this kid." We knew something wasn't right but we couldn't quite put our finger on it. It just seemed like he was never feeling well. Something always hurt....his stomach, his back, his hips, his legs. We could not pin point an area that was the problem. We couldn't decide if each symptom was related to another or separate. He began missing birthday parties, church and time with friends. I guess I knew something was wrong but never quite imagined anything like this. I thought maybe an undetected hip injury or abnormal development, or maybe severe growing pains. But since we had not been approved for the MRI we had no way to figure it out.

One weekend in August, CJ once again came into our room in the middle of the night and was once again having severe back pain. This lead us back to the ER. We did the same routine of x-rays, blood, and urine. They did not perform any new tests. They diagnosed him with Sciatica and said to follow up with the primary. This struck me as an odd diagnosis for a 9 year old boy and no new tests were performed even though we had been there 3 times in the last couple of months for the same problem. When I followed up with the primary, he really did not like the diagnosis of Sciatica and was upset the MRI was denied so he referred us to an orthopedic specialist. He knew we would either get some answers or we would get the referral for the MRI through him. So we went and took x-rays that once again showed nothing. Thankfully, the orthopedic was very thorough and felt CJ was presenting atypical so he referred him for the MRI. This referral was almost denied as well. The day before we were supposed to go we were told they were having trouble getting approval for it from our insurance company. Thankfully, the orthopedic office followed through and spent almost 6 hours making calls and fighting for the MRI. We are very grateful.

That MRI was scheduled for the very next day, September 12th. And as most of you know that have followed the blogs from the beginning, that routine outpatient MRI lead us here with a diagnosis of cancer.

As a parent, my heart aches over the time that elapsed while CJ was struggling and suffering. I am ashamed to say many times I was frustrated with it and would not be as compassionate as I should have been. I know this story makes it sound like we were diligent parents and did all we could but there were so many times he was struggling and we could have done more and been less selfish and more understanding. We have both asked CJ to forgive us and he has. We have both asked God to forgive us and He has. Now we must accept that and do all we can now to help CJ go through this. The first few days the temptation to drown myself in condemnation was great. I kept thinking I should have done more, been more, felt more, said more, tried on and so on. But I kept washing my mind with Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." I also realized that "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." (2Cor 7:10) So I trust in God's sacrifice to cover my sins against my son during that time. As tempted as I am to punish myself and allow shame to consume me and, I would be saying my ways are higher than Gods and my standards are higher than His.

That all said, I know many of you are angry about the MRI being denied. We too are very angry when we realize we could have been attacking this cancer over two months sooner and CJ would have had 67 days less of suffering. My heart aches just thinking about it. All I can say to that regard is that I must believe God's timing was perfect. He knew exactly when we needed to know. One reason we are so sure of this is that there are a series of events that I could list that took place in that last month that had to happen before God allowed us to know. Even up to the the very night before the MRI appointment God was preparing us and those around us. I can even look back and see His guiding hand in this clearly as far as two years back. And I am not talking about coincidences. I am talking about things we could not explain at the time or understand that are all crystal clear now. For example, why God prevented us from moving away from South Florida when we really desired to and took all the necessary steps to. Another being God leading us to a church home that is like being in the very arms of God Himself in their shepherding and care for our family. Even starting this blog was all part of God's plan. And the week before this diagnosis my family attended a conference with our church which was a time God used to prepare the soil of our hearts for this journey. I have to focus on that when I am tempted to become very angry at AvMed. I will write them a letter when the time is right. I will tell everyone I know what happened so they too will protect themselves from needless denials. But until God shows us otherwise we are clinging to Romans 12:19 " Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge, I will repay" says the Lord. God has already began that process in the form of my aunt who heard our story. She is the administrator for a large firm and their insurance was up for renewal. Although AvMed came in well under the other bids, she told the representative to her face that they would not go with them because of what they did in denying CJ's MRI. They have already lost a $113,000. contract due to their denial of CJ's MRI. God sees!

Well, that is how we ended up with a diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma. Ours heart ache at the diagnosis, yet we rejoice that it is a treatable cancer. We are trusting God and seeking complete healing for CJ. We are humbled at how God has moved His people to support CJ through this; many of whom don't even know CJ personally. He has been so uncomfortable and in pain for so long that we long to see him healthy and free from the worries of stomach and back pain. We long to see him running and playing the sports that he loves and bowing to serve the God that he worships! But most of all, we long to see God high and lifted up. Exalted as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We long to see every knee bow at the name of Jesus Christ!

Thank you for letting us share CJ's story with you.


Anonymous said...

dawn and chris first i love you both, im blessed to have a son and daughter-in law like you, you are so honest and humble about so much, you humble me. your love for the lord and your family is an inspiration to all who know you. but i believe god knew when he brought chris and you together that this family of hoffers and georges would be united in prayer trust, strength and love of the lord as well as for each other. we will get through this with gods grace one day at a time. i love you both, you are awesome parents and i am blessed and humbled by you both.

Tammi said...

Dear Dawn,
I am honored to be your sister and CJ's Aunt. I am blessed to have you in my life and to even know a person as wonderful as CJ. I am so, so grateful for your abounding love for the LORD, your family and for me and my children, and for your constant prayers for everyone and for all the times you forgave me for my shortcomings and showed me Grace and patience and reminded me to be honest and genuine and to Trust in the LORD.
Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Dearest Dawnie, Chris & Kiddies....Love you lots and lots. CJ and I have been having fun writing to each other on line. When the time is right; I would be deeply honored if you would allow me to write the letter for you addressing AvMed's denial of CJ's first MRI.
Love you lots,
Aunt Penny

faith2pray said...

Thank you...its a difficult story to tell I'm sure, yet full of faith and I'm deeply moved by every word. May God continue to sustain you and GLORIFY himself through it all.

Our steadfast prayers & love,
Marilena, Lukas & Raquel

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Mrs. Dawn for writing this blog.
i miss all of you guys and i learn so much from the humility you have when i read all the posts.
your wisdom has always been a great example to me and you, my mom, Mrs. colleen, & jackie have shown me true prayer warriors when you guys are in your prayer huddle, i will be trying to be a prayer warrior like that, now, for C.j. and continue to pray!


Unknown said...


I too ache at all the time that passed when CJ was suffering. I remember you telling me many times that something was wrong but CJ was having a hard time explaining his symptoms. No wonder. How could a 9 year old explain these kind of pains. I still am so hurt though at what must have been going on in his mind when all the doctors would see nothing wrong and I'm sure he doubted himself too. He probably felt guilty to keep saying something was wrong. I remember in the hospital Chris telling him CJ you're in pain aren't you and he finally said, yes. He probably was in the habit of holding it in by then so no one would be mad at him. It seems like he is actually in less pain now then before. That is amazing with all the medicines he is taking. Even though you need all your good energy I think perhaps you should let Aunt Penny begin that letter to AV-Med for you. It may save another child's life. I believe we should write to the 3rd doctor at the emergency room to question why he wasn't sent upstairs right then and there for an MRI instead of her telling you sciatica and if he had this or that he would be in so much pain. Well he was in a lot of pain. They might be more diligent for the next child as well. As a Grandma it is almost unbearable to think of.

I know that God has been preparing you, Chris, CJ and your entire family and his recovery will be all that we hope for. It is true that you aren't bragging on CJ, just telling the truth of how he used to blow us away as a baby, almost scare us. I remember your Aunt Karen telling you, Dawn, I'm not sure what it is but God hasn't something huge for this guy. I believe so. I know CJ. When this is all over and he has recovered he will be dedicated to helping other children and spreading God's word. He already wanted to help children all the time. I love you guys. Mom

CeCe said...

Wow, that was intense for you CJ. All I know is... That you are a strong boy, and love God, and that he will make your path strait. I am going to miss you at home group. Everyone one of you, starting from... CJ, to Mr. Chris, to Mrs. Dawn, to Alibrandi, to Brett, and last but not least, Corey. I will miss all of you Georges. Okay, the "Prayer Time" that I haven't done forever on this is about to start.

Dear God,

Thank you SO much that CJ is home from the hospital, and he is with his family. God, thank you that even while he is hurting, and suffering, that he is still giving, and wanting to please you in all that he does. Thank you so much for this boy, that is a great example to everyone that reads this blog, that hears about this, and that knows him personally.

Okay, Georges, thank you for waiting. Here is your prayer.

Dear God Almighty,

Thank you that all the kids got there mommy back, and that they can all just rejoice with one another, because CJ is back home, and the kids don't have to wait days to see CJ. God, you are great, and only you could have put this in there path, and you approved it, and you were totally in charge with this.

Okay, this is not normal, and I do know that all Malinda is not sleaping with the Georges anymore. I would still like to pray for her.

Dear Father,

Thank you that you got Malinda to saved the day for the George Family Kids, and that she got to sleap there, and act like a mother to them while CJ was in the hospital. Please bless her, and thank you that she helped that family.

God bless you guys!


Anonymous said...

Chris and Dawn thank you for opening up your hearts and sharing your story. God is AWESOME and yes I agree with due time the LORD will show you when to write to Av-Med.
sending you our love,
Ily and her gang

Anonymous said...


My heart ached when I read the post. I know how hard and frustrating it was for you at times. But know that you have always dedicated yourself to your children, all of them,selflessly. I have witnessed it first hand on 1,000 different occassions. And through the example you have been for me over the past 12 years since Allie's arrival, I have learned so much. I am so thankful for your influence and example. Growing up, I never imagined motherhood the way it actually is. I love breastfeeding. I love my baby sleeping with me at night. I love hearing my five year old receit scripture. I love being home for them, instead of working. Thank you for opening the door for me to such wonderful, wonderful life experiences. I am so thankful you are my big sis and God has blessed "me" with such an amazing, GODLY role model. God is so GIGANTIC, TREMENDOUS, and AMAZING!

And CJ! Man, he has always been so generous, thoughtful, giving, and compassionate. He truly loves the Lord and people. I remember discussing with mom on numerous occassions that he is just such an amazing boy. His heart is bigger than anyone I have ever met. He always would bring things to our attention that we overlooked. He is always concerned for others and their well being. He is truly a child of GOD!



Wendy Whitlow said...

Dawn thank you for your story on CJ. It was shared with such clarity and passion. Even as you share are changing the lives that read it. It is a story of hope....and trust in the God who is so much bigger than our circumstances. It is a story of redemption. Our sins big and small are forgiven and forgotten as far as the east is from the west.
You didn't have to persist...because as you said..."In God's timing..." the MRI was approved and the diagnosis made. It ticks me off too that it wasn't done sooner...but I still see what satan may have meant for bad...our pecious Father has and continues to make for good.

Dawn you are such a gifted, honest, and caring person...
Continue to write and share your heart...


Mary Mahfood said...

I love you George family! I miss all of you and I want to see you guys! I know that's not gonna happen soon, but I can't wait till it's possible! CJ, you look so happy! What a great example for me. Feel better!


Anonymous said...

Hello George Family!

Thanks for sharing CJ's story. He is a very special boy.
We are praying for him daily and last night our home group prayed for all of you and for a miraculous healing for CJ.
We love you!

P.S. Tito (Gilberto) has been wanting to see CJ and give him a card/gift. Let us know when its a good time Friday or weekend. 954-829-9328

Viguie Family

gathering said...

Dear Chris and Dawn,

I've been wanting to write something since you wrote the story, but my heart just aches and I couldn't bring myself to express what I wanted to say. Its hard to put into words the impact that you have had on so many.

I've seen your story in real life and I've heard you cry out to God, our God, the true living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I know that you have been walking with God and seeking Him with all of your decisions, questions, frustrations etc. You have not taken the easy road, but always strived to seek Gods best. You are so very special. A light in a dark confused world.

God has given you in Him such boldness, such discernment, such humility that I truly think is rare in these times, but its because you have been diligent in working on what matters most, on what has eternal value and can not be taken away from you. "Your the real deal" as they say, there is no nice christian pretending or cliche words to say at just the right times. No.....your normal human beings, flesh and blood, that stumble, cry, laugh but through it all stick to your God and seek to walk in His way and His truth.

I am so very thankful to God that He has given my family and I the opportunity to know you. Thank you so much for the innumerable acts of kindness and love that you have had towards our family and others throughout the years.

Thank you for sharing Cj's story, so openly, you are in precious in His sight.

Psalm 84:5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.

We love you,

Dear CJ,

It boggles my mind to read your story, even though I mostly already knew it. Its just so amazing how God has been working in you and your family.

CJ, I know that you have been diligent in reading the scriptures, seeking God in prayer, and obeying your parents. Your faith expressed in love in the most difficult times is evidence that He has been working and will continue to work in you. You understand things that we as adults wish we knew at your age.

I can't help but be impressed at how you have endured pain, frustration, and not knowing. Yet you continued to try to smile and do what you needed to do. I'm sure you have wanted to cry more than once and smiled instead. Your a very special boy. Even though nobody knew, God knew, and He still knows the work He is doing. I don't presume to know the mind of God, but I think He must be smiling at you, because He knows the race that you have been running and He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.

You and your family are in our constant prayers and I'm sure in that of many others. May they be a sweet smelling aroma to Him.

We love you,
Mrs. Chisholm

Anonymous said...

What a bautiful poem you wrote to your Grandma Paula. You have a special gift. I can just imagine her now giving it to everyone to read, she is so proud of all of you! You are surrounded by so much love!
I never truly believed in Fate until Ana, but now I know that everything happens for a reason and we have to trust God.
You are all in our thoughts and prayers


Nicole Alberto & Ana

the Grays said...

Thank you for pouring your heart out and sharing your struggles with us. Even as we pray for CJ we also pray for you and Chris to have strength against condemnation and anger in the whole situation. This has been my consistent prayer for the two of you and our family will continue to lift your family in prayer. We are honored to call you friends and humbled by your example. We are anxious to help in any way we can. We love you guys and look forward to seeing you soon.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for so humbly sharing what's in your heart. Thank you for fighting the good fight and arming yourself appropriately for battle! Like Vonda said, I too am honored to know you and call you my friend. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with you daily...


Thank you for being such a godly young man. Your example has touched our family, and has caused us to draw closer to the Lord in the midst of your struggles. What a priviledge to have you as someone my son can look up to and learn from. I've learned so much from you too buddy!!!

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." James 1: 2-3

Mrs. Gonzalez

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

we hope you feel better and we are always praying for you.we haven't seen you in a long time but we are thinking of you all of the time. we are happy you are home from the hospital.
love,kiera and clare and jim and candy loftus

Anonymous said...


Iliana said...

CJ do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you! Your situation is an encouragement to me not to complain about my circumstances. Keep looking up and back to God's Faithfulness. He will never leave nor will He forsake you. We love you and pray that God continuously give you Joy. May He also diminish your pain as well in Jesus' Name! Amen! To Him Who is able to do more than we hope or ask, all Praise, Power and Dominion is His forever.

Anonymous said...

WOW - I am in awe at how positive you remain when it could be so easy to break down and become angry and resentful. I am honored to know you and your family! You have taught me a lot over the years about mothering, family and God. I am grateful that your are in my life. Thank you for sharing CJ's story.
Your family WILL get through this and I am certain that the reason CJ got the cancer is all part of a plan that God has created. He will watch over you and protect you through it all.
CJ, you are such a brave boy! It hurts me to see you suffering, but I know you can push through this!!!
In a short while you will be playing sports, swimming in the lake and hanging out with your family and friends.

Love to all,
Melissa Castro

Heather said...

Thank you for being so humble & honest in how this all came about with CJ.
I wanted to share with you yesterday and todays spirit verses from the radio station up here. You may have gotten them already.

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Psalm 91:4

"and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me."
Psalm 50:15

Also here is one I wanted to share that I came across today.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.
Psalm 34:17-20

I love you all

Anonymous said...

Dawn and Chris,
Wow, when I read your blog my heart too aches for you guys as it has for the last few weeks. Thank you for being so honest and humble. It's hard for me to write the right words to you guys. I have always said Dawn you are a wonderful mother and Chris a wonderful father, which is so evident in CJ', Allie, Brett and Corey's little hearts. You have wonderful children and you have given them the best gift of all, you've taught them about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That brings to mind this bible verse;
Prov 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it".
Those are true and powerful words.
I continue to pray for all of you.
I Love you both,
Aunt Mo

Jaime said...

I am so sad to read about the MRI as well and while I am reading this I am thinking "they must be so angry with the insurance agency!" But the way you relate it to the Bible is so beautiful and so right, and thank you for showing me your strength in dealing with this.

Much Love,
Jaime Swanson

Anonymous said...

Dearest CJ...I'm sad because I cannot pick up my emails from work today since our server is down momentarily and I'm sure you sent me one!! I'm so happy that we get to talk to each other and it just makes me so happy when you ask questions and we can share "stuff." Hope you enjoyed your pizza for lunch. Love you lots, and Lots, Aunt Penny xooxox

boggeddown said...

We wish you God's best blessings and know that you have been and are continuing to be blessed. We continue to pray for healing and restoration, knowing that God is still on the throne and is in charge. I am so glad you were able to get your cruise. How AWESOME is that! I know you all had a wonderful time. It's a blessing to me to see how your family has grown, physically and spiritually. You have beautiful children. They are fortunate to have wonderful parents who love them and share Jesus with them continually. Love and prayers,
Mary B. and family