KERMIT — Her parents were told their 15 month baby girl wouldn’t live beyond two years old when it was discovered that she had a cancerous tumor in her right side.
Angel Cheyenne Pack was only 15 months old when her mother, Stephoney Meadows, was rubbing her down with baby lotion preparing to lay her down to sleep for the night when she discovered a lump in Angel’s right side.
“I was doing our nightly routine, getting ready to go to sleep for the night, when I felt a large lump on her side while I was rubbing her down with baby lotion,” said Meadows. “It really scared me because I had no idea what it was.”
Angel’s parents immediately took her to the doctor where she was sent right away for an ultrasound at a nearby facility.
“I remember when the lady did her ultrasound she started crying and I knew something was bad wrong,” said Billy Pack, Angel’s father. “They told us she had a Wilms’s tumor.”
She was immediately admitted to the cancer floor at the Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH on that day, June 12, 2003, and scheduled for a biopsy that would take place two days later.
Doctors took Angel in for her surgery to perform the biopsy and when they made the incision she began to bleed profusely.
“She lost so much blood and they told us that she had already been bleeding internally for a while,” said Meadows.
The blood loss that Angel encountered caused her to suffer four strokes, which affected the right side of her body. She also began having seizures at that point. She was then placed in the Intensive Care Unit where she remained on a ventilator for 17 days.
Doctors told Angel’s parents that she most likely would not survive but they never gave up on her. They told the parents that they were not allowed to stay in the room with Angel and they would call them if something were to happen to her.
“There was no way that I was not staying there with my baby and if they thought she was going to die I wanted to be right there with her no matter what,” said Meadows.
Meadows refused to leave her baby’s side in ICU. Security was called to have her removed but she still would not budge. Finally, after seeing that Meadows meant what she said, they got her a pillow and blanket and agreed to allow her to stay.
It was a heartbreaking time for Angel’s parents, a time that no parent would ever want to through but they knew they had to keep faith in knowing their child would be okay.
“I had to be positive. If I stayed positive then my baby will be positive too,” said Meadows.“Everyone thought I was just in denial about my baby. They wanted me to get counseling and wanted me on medications but I refused,” added Meadows. “I let them believe however the wanted too but I knew my baby was going to be alright.”
One week after the biopsy was performed, doctors confirmed that Angel’s tumor was not that of a Wilms’ tumor. She was diagnosed with Clear Cell Sarcoma of the Kidney (CCSK).
CCSK is an extremely rare type of kidney cancer comprising 3% of all pediatric renal tumours. Clear cell sarcoma of the kidney can spread from the kidney to other organs, most commonly the bone, but also including the lungs, brain, and soft tissues of the body. Angel’s CCSK was attached to her kidney, liver and part of her diaphragm.
The removal of the tumor had to be put on hold when CCSK was confirmed. She had to undergo chemotherapy and radiation before it could be removed.
“I was so angry and I questioned God. I still prayed even though I would cry and get mad,” exclaimed Pack.
Although Angel’s mother tried her best to stay as positive as possible, Pack wasn’t quiet as strong.
Angel’s blood pressure and heart rate were sky-rocketing and nothing seemed to get it under control.
“I prayed and prayed so much and she still didn’t seem to be getting better, I was so discouraged and told God that he has to help me out,” Pack said.
It was after Pack was praying for God’s help that he was sent the help that he asked for. He said he remembers walking down the long hallway to his daughter’s room in ICU that he encountered two preachers. The preachers stopped him him the hall and told him he looked upset, then asked him what was wrong.
Pack began explaining to the preachers what was going on with his small child and informed them that her vital signs were out of control. The two men asked for Pack’s permission to pray for Angel and he agreed.
“When they went in the room to pray for her, her blood pressure and heart rate were sky high but right in the middle of them praying, the rates went down drastically,” stated Pack. “One of those preachers came to Angel’s room every single day and prayed for her and each day her vitals improved. God sent me what I needed.”
Angel went through several months of treatments before her next surgery took place. When the operation was finally performed, the doctors were forced to remove her right kidney, a piece of her liver and the part of her diaphragm in which the tumor was attached.
Doctors believed that it would take Angel several years to recover from her surgery because of the toll the four strokes had on the right side of her body. They also believed it would take a long period of time for Angel to walk again. But the day after her final surgery, Angel was walking the halls of the hospital. The doctors couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw her walking and climbing.
“She started walking when she was only 10 months old but she did walk again,” said Meadows. “We had her potty trained before we knew she was sick and we had to potty train her again after,” added Pack.
Through it all, Meadows stayed positive and Pack regained his faith by the prayers of many churches and individuals.
“I expressed my feelings differently I suppose,” Meadows said. “I would write my feelings down on paper.”
Meadows wrote a poem about her daughter while she was in ICU. The poem that has been published on Poetry.com reads:
“I cry myself to sleep at night, trying not to ask God why. I have false hope is what I’ve heard, rather than that don’t say a word. My faith is in God that’s where I stand, we gave her to him, she’s now in his hands. How do I cope with what I’m going through? Let me ask you this…what else can I do? I can only play the hand life deals, I just can’t imagine how Angel feels. Should I give up and let her go? As long as there’s hope I say NO. Some people say it’s all meant to be, an innocent child I don’t agree. You can tell sometimes she feels bad, but throughout it all she’s hardly ever sad. She has a great smile that lights up your day, for a moment or two my fears fade away. Do I wonder what life holds in store? No, I just pray for at least another day more.”
Angel picked up quickly on walking and potty training but fell behind on schooling later. Angel is home-schooled by her father and her grandmother, Patty Chapman.
“She fell behind in learning because of her illnesses but she is doing so great. She actually just read her first whole book, “Rabbit Ears”, last month,” Meadows said.
Angel is now 13 years old and doing better than ever. She has remained cancer free since her surgery. She now only has to have cancer check-ups once every five years.
Angel’s parents said that her cancer and illness has been a life changing experience for them.
“It was horrible but I kept faith in knowing that she was going to be okay. They told me she wouldn’t live and look at her now, said Meadows. “I wish like everything that my baby would have never got sick, but she did, and it has taught me to be a better person and to see things through new eyes.”
“I was so proud of Stephoney for keeping the faith that she did when Angel had cancer. Look at her now,” said Katheryn Meadows, grandmother. “We had her on every prayer chain around and knew she would be fine.”
“Angel actually handled the entire situation better than we did. She just never quit, she was a baby doing what babies do,” Pack said. “I know that without God we would have never made it and I am thankful for him. She is spoiled now because we give her her way but it’s okay, at least we have her.”
Angel is a light to many people and her parents pray that others can look at her and know that there is hope and to never give up. She is a walking, talking miracle.
Angel said she is planning to spend her summer swimming with mom and dad and fishing with her dad. She’s also planning on reading all the Harry Potter books that she and her dad enjoy reading together.