High Point family's cancer fight strengthens their faith

Mar. 03, 2013 @ 01:00 AM

Molly Motsinger drove home on a nearly flat tire Tuesday and scarcely noticed anything was wrong.
In the back seat, buckled into her car seat, sat Molly’s young daughter, Hannah Jane, who was feeling kind of flat herself. Twelve days of being poked, prodded and operated on by doctors will do that to a 2½-year-old.
Nothing could deflate Molly, though. Not on this day. She and her husband, Curt, were finally able to bring their baby home from Brenner Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem, where the High Point couple had spent countless, endless hours since the day after Valentine’s Day.
“This has been a good day for us,” Molly said Tuesday, glancing at Hannah Jane, who was mesmerized by the wide-screen television in the family’s living room. “A really good day.”
Really good days have been scarce for the Motsingers lately. On Feb. 15, their only child — sweet, innocent Hannah Jane — was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her left kidney. That was bad enough, but then came the news the tumor had ruptured, spilling cancer cells throughout her abdomen.
“It was devastating,” Molly says.
“I kept saying, ‘Older people get cancer, not 2-year-olds.’ I mean, she’s never smoked. She’s never tanned in a tanning bed. She shouldn’t have cancer — it’s just not right. I mean, I’ve done bad things in my life — everybody has sinned — but she’s so innocent. She’s done nothing. I won’t ever be able to wrap my mind around why this happened to her.”
Curt expresses it more succinctly.
“Why her?” he says softly. “Why couldn’t it be me?”
This isn’t a tragic story, though. It’s sad, of course, and scary, but Hannah Jane’s prognosis is good.
Moreover, this is a story of a family lifted by their own faith in God, and by the loving support of the community they call home.

* * * *

All seemed normal the morning of Feb. 15. Hannah Jane was her usual joyful self, laughing and playing at home, and then at First United Methodist Church’s Child Enrichment preschool.
Later that morning, though, what looked like a simple fall changed everything. Hannah Jane wouldn’t stop crying, and she screamed in pain when Molly, who works at Child Enrichment, picked her up.
“I looked under her shirt on the left side of her tummy and felt this really rock-hard lump,” Molly said.
She began to pale, and before long she was throwing up. Molly took Hannah Jane to the pediatrician, where doctors said she might have an intestinal blockage of some sort, but it would be best to take her to Brenner to be sure.
A CT scan at Brenner revealed the unthinkable — a tumor sprouting from Hannah Jane’s left kidney.
“It looked like a baseball with these two leaves on the bottom of it,” Molly says.
Hannah Jane was admitted, surgeons removed the tumor — identified as a stage-3 Wilms’ tumor — on the afternoon of Feb. 18. It was a clean, successful surgery. That was the good news.
The bad news, of course, was the rupture. With all of those cancer cells now turned loose in her abdomen, that means Hannah Jane will need radiation in addition to the usual regimen of chemotherapy.
“Not the news we wanted,” Molly says. “We were given the worst-case scenarios (radiation side effects), which kind of rocked our world a little bit. Every single organ in her body, even her growth, could be affected by it.”
The first of seven radiation treatments began at 8 a.m. Thursday — only two days after Hannah Jane came home from the hospital — and the first of 28 weekly chemo treatments began two hours later. Doctors say she’ll likely lose her hair and face bouts of nausea and vomiting — typical side effects of chemo — but her overall prognosis is positive.
“We are considered in the 95-percent success rate,” Molly says, “which I think is as good as you can get with cancer.”

* * * *

Meanwhile, even as Curt and Molly dealt with their daughter’s medical issues, they struggled with questions of faith. They’ve wondered why God would allow Hannah Jane to have cancer. Molly says she’s expressed anger at God more than once.
“The bottom line, though, is that we still have our faith,” Curt says. “We may not understand the reason, but there’s some reason, and we still have faith that God’s gonna get her through this and she’s gonna be OK.”
Molly agrees.
“I still love God, and I know He’s got a bigger plan,” she says. “However, I’m still human, and as the mother of this sweet little girl, I still get angry sometimes.”
That’s where the Motsingers’ family and friends — and even total strangers — have been such a godsend, wrapping the family in love with their prayers, messages of encouragement, meals, cards, flowers and more. Fundraisers are being organized to help with the family’s medical expenses.
“It’s been overwhelming,” Molly says. “We had people from China and South Africa and Peru and France — people we’ll never know from all over the world — praying for us. That’s what got us through. All those prayers are what held us together.”
The boys’ basketball team at Wesleyan Christian Academy — where Hannah Jane’s grandfather, Paul Coates, is the school chaplain — even committed to praying for the little girl during their run to a state championship this past weekend. They wrote her name and “I’m Praying For You” on their sneakers, and sent her an autographed poster of the team.
“That put a huge smile on our faces,” Molly says.
You might even say it shot a blast of air into their tires.

jtomlin@hpe.com | 888-3579

Want to help?

Holes 4 Hannah, a benefit golf tournament and silent auction, will be held April 13, with 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. tee times, at Meadowlands Golf Club, 542 Meadowlands Drive, Winston-Salem.
The cost is $300 per team, which includes lunch, and space is limited to the first 60 teams. The tournament will include long drive, putting and closest-to-the-pin contests.
Checks should be made payable to Holes 4 Hannah and mailed to 205 Kinloch Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27107.
All proceeds will benefit the family of Hannah Jane Motsinger.
For more information, email holes4hannah@gmail.com.