Rare Cancer Hit Cattle Barons Honoree At 4 Months
By REBECCA HOEFFNER
Occasionally, a stranger will stop Delana Cochran and her 8-year-old daughter in the grocery store.
"They'll say, 'Oh, your daughter's hair is so beautiful,'" she said. "I'll use that to share my testimony from there and say, 'She didn't always have this hair.'"
Brandelyn Cochran was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer when she was only 4 months old. She was selected to share her story this year as the Li'l Wrangler for the American Cancer Society's Cattle Barons' fundraising event. The Li'l Wranglers event today recognizes pediatric cancer survivors in East Texas.
Brandon Cochran, Brandelyn's father, took her to the doctor the day of the diagnosis; Mrs. Cochran's maternity leave was over, and she had to return to work as a kindergarten teacher.
"The one doctor's appointment I have to miss, and they find a tumor," Mrs. Cochran said.
The doctor's appointment was for the routine 4-month shots. When Coch-ran asked the doctor why Brandelyn's stomach stayed firm even after she digested her food, he sent father and daughter to have an ultrasound.
"I wouldn't have asked about that if Delana was there, I wouldn't want to worry her," he said.
Brandelyn had a tumor on her kidney the size of two grown men's fists. It was a Stage 1 malignant Wilms tumor.
"About 500 new cases of Wilms tumors are found each year in the United States. About 5 percent of all cancers in children are Wilms tumors," according to the American Cancer Society.
Brandelyn, now cancer-free, makes routine visits to an oncologist to keep it that way.
"Cancer isn't just an adult disease," Li'l Wrangler event chairwoman Meredith Roberts said. "What happens with a child affects the whole family -- parents' and siblings' lives are changed forever."
Brandelyn's older brother, Marshall, is now 12, but remembers when his parents told him to tell his little sister he loved her in case he didn't see her again, he said.
Brandelyn and her parents were sent to Children's Hospital in Dallas, where family and friends had prayed for a bed to free up the night before. About "30 seconds" after they arrived, they had a bed, Mrs. Cochran said.
The child's doctor suggested surgery right away. Before the operation, Cochran stepped into the hall with the doctor -- away from his wife's ear.
"He said, 'If we get inside and it's spread, we'll just sew her up and send her home with you to have the time you have left with her,'" Cochran said.
Luckily, the tumor was contained, and the surgeon was able to remove it all at once, along with the kidney it was attached to.
"It was so big to be in someone so little," Mrs. Cochran said.
Brandelyn still had to go through six months of chemotherapy -- an unpleasant experience for anyone, let alone a baby. But the Cochrans saw God in almost every moment.
"Six weeks into the chemo, she rolled over," Mrs. Cochran said. "I knew it was God saying, 'She's going to be OK.'"
At the invitation-only Li'l Wranglers event today, Brandelyn and other children will have an opportunity to play skee ball, ride a mechanical bull, tie-dye pillowcases, play carnival games, take wagon rides, watch pig races, have their photo taken in a photo booth and win door prizes. It's an event Brandelyn looks forward to every year, she said.
"For them to be able to come to the party is a great thing, to celebrate that they've beaten cancer," Ms. Roberts said.