Before the fainting spells began, nothing could come between 10-year-old Axel and a soccer game.
He and his friends played after Bible lessons at their Compassion center and after school in their impoverished Honduran neighborhood. But soccer requires balance and energy — two qualities seriously impaired by a condition Axel didn’t know he had.
When Axel’s parents took him to a doctor at the public hospital, they learned he had hydrocephalus — a buildup of fluid in the brain. Although his parents were thankful that there was a treatment — surgery to implant a permanent shunt system to drain the fluid — they didn’t know how they would pay for it. Axel’s father works at a paint factory but still struggles to meet the needs of his son and daughter, which is why he enrolled them in the sponsorship program. Since joining Compassion’s program in 2013, Axel had begun going to a center at a church, where he received nutritious meals, Bible lessons, tutoring, health checkups and other benefits that lessened his parents’ load.
Knowing how much help the church had provided to Axel since he joined the sponsorship program, his parents went to the church staff for help with his diagnosis. The church worked with the local hospital and used Compassion medical funds to arrange for his hydrocephalus surgery. When he woke up after the operation, he and his parents enjoyed a brief moment of relief before the doctors told them of a new grim discovery: Axel had a brain tumor the size of a pea.
Axel with his parents and sister.
Axel shows images taken of the tumor in his brain.
“I desperately cried at the hospital when doctors told me about the tumor in Axel’s head,” says his mom, Ana. “In the blink of an eye, my son had a valve in his head and few chances to survive, according to the doctors.
“We found ourselves hopeless and penniless to cover medical expenses.”
The church staff encouraged the family not to lose hope. They used Compassion’s medical fund to help cover subsequent medical treatment. Testing revealed that the tumor was benign, but they would still need to perform radiation and chemotherapy to get rid of it. Surgery to remove the tumor was too risky, they said. But they had to get rid of it as soon as possible: It was already causing Alex to lose mobility in his right hand.
Axel underwent 28 rounds of radiation and 66 rounds of chemotherapy to kill the tumor. The side effects battered his young body with nausea, dizziness and fatigue. But his doctors marveled at his strength throughout his treatment.
“I remember that while I was in the hospital having chemotherapy, my mother used to read to me Philippians 4:13: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,’” Axel says. “I memorized this Bible verse in the [Compassion] project, and those words dried like cement on my heart and helped me to carry on. I have no doubt that God is fighting my battles.”
“In the project, my tutor taught me that David defeated a giant called Goliath with the power of the living God. While I was in the hospital bed, I believed those words.”
Axel continued to go to school when he felt well enough. Because he could barely move his right hand, he learned to write with his left hand. During the struggles he drew on an additional part of the Bible for strength. “In the project, my tutor taught me that David defeated a giant called Goliath with the power of the living God. While I was in the hospital bed, I believed those words.”
Axel has grown in wisdom under the mentorship of Rony, project director at his Compassion center. “We love Axel very much. He is not the same child since he was enrolled in the project, as he has increased in wisdom and stature just like Jesus did,” Rony says. “One remarkable thing about Axel is his faith, which is unbreakable. Every Bible story that Axel has learned in the project has shaped his character. Despite the medical struggle he has gone through, Axel is a role model for his classmates.”
Axel carried his faith with him through his final rounds of chemotherapy. Every time he had a medical appointment, the Compassion center staff, church pastors, church members and neighbors gathered in the hospital lobby to pray while he was under treatment.
It’s been a year since Axel finished chemotherapy, and today he’s cancer free. He can move his right hand slowly, but he still can’t write or lift heavy items with it. Still, the worst is over, and he and his family are thankful for the support they received as Axel healed.
“In the midst of our desperation, the church pastor and project staff did not hesitate to provide the spiritual and financial support that we needed,” Ana says. “We’ll be forever grateful.”
David and Goliath is Axel's favorite Bible story.
Another source of support in the family’s life has been Axel’s sponsor, Kelley Schroder of Fairfax, Va. “I have found deep encouragement in her letters, as she lifts me up through Bible verses and words of love,” Axel says. “I have let her know about my medical process and how God has strengthened my family and me.”
Even though Axel has spent a lot of time in the hospital, he has kept up with his studies and excels in junior high. He wants to be a lawyer someday.
But for now, he’s happy to be back on the soccer field. Because he’s still just a kid — despite all the beyond-his-years wisdom.
“The tumor in my head represented a Goliath that I needed to defeat,” he reflects. “The more the doctors said that I had few chances to survive, the more I held on to God’s promises.”
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