Hello! My name is William Tjeerdsma and I am a cancer survivor. When I was ten months old, my mom noticed that my left eye wiggled a little bit. She didn’t think that it was anything to be concerned about, but just as a precaution, she pointed it out to my dad, who was a cardiologist, when he came home from work. He didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but just to be safe, they pointed it out to my doctor at my 10 month check-up. That doctor who was examining me didn’t think it was anything to be concerned about, but just to air on the side of caution, he ordered an MRI to be done. While I was getting my MRI, my dad, being a physician, walked into the control room. As he did so, all the other doctors who were standing in there became very quiet. It was at that point that I was diagnosed with a large, inoperable brain tumor behind my left eye.
It was at that point that my parents took me to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Between the time that I was ten and nineteen months old, I went through FIVE ROUNDS of intense chemotherapy. Shortly after I had finished my fifth round, I went in for another MRI to check the effectiveness of the chemo. It was at that time that the MRI showed that the tumor had more than TRIPLED in size. It was at that point that the Mayo Clinic sent me home to die. Chemo didn’t work, I was too small for surgery and radiation was not an option at that time.
At that point, my parents were desperate to find someone who could help me. They worked hard at building their faith and believed that God was going to heal me. About that time, my parents were in the process of moving from Biloxi, MS, where my dad had finished serving 13 years in the air force, to Sioux City, IA. (My parents bought our first house in Sioux City sight-unseen from my hospital room at the Mayo Clinic!) Shortly after moving into our house in Sioux City, my parents had a lady come and babysit me so that they could run some errands. My Babysitter knew the situation my family was in and she knew that I was terminally ill. She kept telling my parents that they needed to go to her church, because it was a church that believed in healing! My mom started going and while she was there, other members of the congregation started praying for me and believed for my healing.
By the time that I was about two years old, my pain had become unbearable. We believe that as an answer to my parents’ prayers, God put a man in our lives, who was a pediatric neurosurgeon in Sacramento, CA. He did not promise that he could do anything permanent, but he believed that he could at least alleviate some of the pain. In November of 1997, I underwent my first major brain surgery. It ended up being successful and he was able to remove a large portion of the tumor safely! After I recovered, my parents were able to take me home to Iowa to grow up and live a healthy lifestyle while continuing to receive MRI’s every 3 to 6 months in addition to having check ups with an oncologist at Omaha Children’s Hospital.
In 2004, the scans had shown that there might have been a little bit of growth in the tumor. No one wanted to take any chances, therefore, my parents took me out to the same neurosurgeon and I underwent my second major neurosurgery on November 10, 2004. The surgery was successful and he was able to remove about 80% of the remaining tissue. They followed that up with two months of radiation in January and February of 2005.
Before and after the surgery and while I was receiving radiation, God blessed my mom and I by enabling us to stay at the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford! Because the radiation treatment only took about 15 min in the morning, Monday-Friday, we had the rest of the day to do whatever we wanted to do. I was in third grade at that time, so my mom homeschooled me. On weekends, we were able to drive to San Francisco and Monterey and do a number of fun things! I also started volunteering at the RMH as well! By the end of my 2 months of treatment, I had volunteered 24 hours there. Throughout the entire treatment, God protected me from getting sick or even losing my hair!
That summer, we were told about Team Ronald McDonald, a group of people who were raising money for the RMH at Stanford before walking a half marathon in San Francisco. I decided to join the team. We trained from August all the way up to the race. By the time of the race, I had raised about $3,000 and the entire team raised about $110,000! On October 23, 2005, my mom, brothers and I all walked the half marathon!
In 2009, I had the opportunity to continue volunteering, this time, at my local hospital! It was the same hospital that my dad worked at until he died of a heart attack, on September 24. Although my family mourns losing him, we know that he is in Heaven with Jesus.
Throughout middle school and high school, instead of playing sports, I volunteered! By Christmas time after I graduated from high school, I had reached my goal of volunteering 1,000 hours at the hospital and I ended up receiving The American Citizenship Award at my H.S. graduation!
I am now a Junior at Dordt College in Northwest Iowa studying social work. I would love working as a social worker with pediatric oncology patients because I can relate to what they are going through. I would also be able to tell them my story and let them know that God is a Healer!