SAN CLEMENTE, CALIF.
On Nov. 30, 2006, the Hales family of the Marblehead Ward, San Clemente California Stake, gathered around 5-year-old Chase. His two older sisters came to spend time with him in case he did not survive surgery to remove a brain tumor. He held tightly to a toy they had given him as he was taken back into surgery.
"I think I got it all," breathed a relieved Dr. William Louden an hour and a half later.
Before the surgery, Dr. Louden, Chase Hales' pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital of Orange County, told Sloan and Stephanie Hales he was "choosing to be optimistic" about the complex surgery to remove a medullablastoma (malignant brain tumor) apparently entrenched in the top of their son's spinal cord. The surgery went more smoothly than planned: the tumor came out easily and in pieces.
"The type of tumor that it was, it's the kind you'd want to order," said Sister Hales. "Academically, socially, physically, it was almost perfect timing if you're going to have a brain tumor."
Through divine intervention, the tumor was discovered just in time. The fluid on Chase's brain had been building up for two to three weeks; had it been discovered any later he might have died, according to Dr. Louden, his neurosurgeon.
"Even now, I am amazed at the grace that Heavenly Father showed us," Sister Hales said in an email. "I marvel that Chase's symptoms had to get bad enough that my husband and I could not ignore them, but not bad enough to kill him, in order for him to be properly diagnosed. Had we called the doctor even weeks before, Chase probably would have just been prescribed anti-nausea medicine and/or anti-anxiety medicine because he exhibited no other alarming symptoms."
Chase was also fortunate in that his subsequent treatment took place as part of a five-year study. At random, he was selected to receive more chemotherapy and less radiation, leaving him with fewer side-effects.
Sister Hales ascribes Chase's miraculous diagnosis and smooth recovery to priesthood blessings, the faith and prayers of others and people following promptings.
"Our family, thankfully, has been able to turn our fears about Chase into hope and then gratitude. Anyone can do that," Sister Hales said. "I know that Heavenly Father gave us the strength and comfort we needed when we were uncertain and weak."
The Orange County Foundation took care of the family after Chase's diagnosis and sent the family to a camp for families of cancer victims, free of charge. In order to give back and raise awareness of OCF and other non-profits, Sister Hales instigated an annual day of giving to encourage people to find a way to give to self and others and celebrate being alive. She hopes the Day of Giving will gain momentum as things move forward. The first Chase Hales Family Day of Giving coincided with California's coastal cleanup day. Sister Hales designed the day to be something anyone can participate in, anywhere in the world. More than 800 volunteers gathered for a beach clean-up effort on Sept. 15 and more than 11,000 people shared the event on Facebook.
"I want my children to have something they can be proud of," Sister Hales said.
Over a period of 10 days, Sister Hales and her oldest daughter used left over paints to restore and detail a faded map of the United States at Chase's school. This map has become a fun play place for children at Marblehead Elementary. Sister Hales said she is happy her family is involved with service and is optimistic her children will continue with this legacy.
"Especially, because of the way everything transpired for our family, and because so many of us struggle with our health or other hardships, I don't feel we have the luxury to wait or procrastinate doing good when we can. None of us knows what tomorrow holds, but we all have today."