Live, laugh, love: the Nathan Lin story
Live, laugh, love: the Lin family story
There are many heroes in healthcare. Physicians and hospitals specializing in the care of children are among the most celebrated, and rightly so, but a different kind of hero is needed when curative care fails.
This is the call pediatric hospice teams answer. In the difficult days that follow a child's terminal diagnosis, Community Healthcare of Texas Little Doves Pediatric Hospice gives comfort and makes the days count for children and their families.
Most Community Healthcare of Texas patients are age 65 and older, but heartbreaking reality brings more than 100 children to the Little Doves Pediatric Hospice program each year.
Their care is a demanding specialty that requires expert knowledge of a wide range of children’s medical conditions and an interdisciplinary team equipped to support the medical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of young patients like eight-year-old Nathan Lin.
His mother, Cathy Lin, shares his story to comfort and strengthen other families facing the unimaginable.
Nathan was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer, in 2015. It was devastating news for Cathy, her husband Jeff, a surgeon, and Nathan’s older brother and sister.
Yet through it all—10 months of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy—Nathan lived, laughed, and inspired everyone he met.
He tolerated treatment well, and family photos of the months that followed Nathan’s diagnosis show a close-knit family making every day count.
“We were in a golden period when celebrations were frequent and life definitely took on new meaning,” Cathy said.
There was a dream vacation to Disney World, a big family Thanksgiving dinner, and the triumphant February day Nathan got his wish to sign a ceremonial letter of intent to swim for TCU. Local media captured the day’s events, and video shows the family’s VIP welcome at TCU, the signing ceremony, and a beaming Nathan.
When a reporter asked him to describe the day, Nathan had just one word for it. “Awesome,” he said.
Cathy could not have agreed more. “I actually let myself think about our future beyond just the days ahead of us,” she said. “I even started making plans for our summer vacation--we were winning!”
Then Nathan developed extreme fatigue and was admitted to the hospital. There an MRI showed the cancer has spread to his brain stem, and Cathy’s soaring hopes collapsed.
“We heard the words no parent can ever imagine hearing—'there is nothing more we can do’,” Cathy remembers. “‘We recommend you go home with hospice’.”
Choosing a hospice provider was just one of many heart-wrenching decisions ahead. Community Healthcare of Texas Little Doves Pediatric Hospice was the most responsive, their oncology team said, and it earned the privilege of caring for the Lin family.
Their hospice team--a nurse, a social worker, a chaplain, a child life specialist and physician--managed Nathan’s symptoms and answered the countless questions parents ask when faced with the final days of a child’s life.
When and how to tell Nathan he was dying was just one of these. Child Life Specialist Kelly Cox prepared Cathy she that conversation and assured her she would know when the time was right.
It would be Mother’s Day. Nathan had struggled to breathe the night before. “I could not take the chance that Nathan would pass without understanding what was happening,” Cathy said.
A slender book, I Wonder What You Will Do on Your First Day in Heaven, helped Cathy find the words to tell her son he was dying. Kelly had recommended the book, and Cathy began reading it to Nathan, as she would every day until Nathan’s own story ended.
A serious or final illness changes the lives of all it touches. Community Healthcare of Texas, the state’s largest not-for-profit hospice and palliative care provider, prepares, cares for and comforts everyone in the circle of life. Its services include advance care planning programs, four levels of adult and pediatric hospice care, and Grief Care for anyone in the community to needs help living with loss. Call 1-800-226-0373 to connect with Community Healthcare of Texas.