I began teaching in the fall of 1967. That first year I taught all sophomore English students. I had some really great kids back then whose parents had reared them the right way. Many of them, as well as students from later classes, are friends of mine now on facebook and we communicate regularly.
It is difficult to remember every student one taught over the span of a number of years, though I do remember most. There are always those students who stand out that a teacher never forgets, however.
Sometimes it is because that particular student made your day miserable but more often it is because that student had a way of "making" your day. Cynthia fell into the second category. She had a dazzling smile, no matter where one saw her and she was one of those kids whom everyone loved. I don't think Cynthia ever made an enemy.
After she graduated, having claimed just about every honor a school and her fellow students could bestow upon her, she went on to graduate from Oklahoma Baptist University.
I lost touch with Cynthia, as teachers are want to do, after she graduated. So, I remember being shocked when I saw her picture some ten or fifteen years later with her two young sons on the front page of The Daily Oklahoman.
Both her boys had been born with severe immune deficiency, an inherited disease generally passed from a mother to her sons. Since there was no history of the illness in either family, the assumption was that a gene had mutated during Cynthia's development in her mother's womb.
Children with this defective gene, which is recessive, are nearly always boys. The mother may pass the defective gene on to her daughters, making them carriers; but they do not have the disease.
That is because the gene is recessive, not dominant. A child receives one sex gene from the mother and one from the father. The mother presents two genes that are normally designed XX; the father presents two genes that are designated XY. But in Cynthia's case her two are Xx, with the small "x" representing the diseased recessive gene.
Under normal circumstances, depending on which of these genes unite, the child will be either a girl or a boy. If the child receives an "X" gene from both the mother and father, the child will be a girl. Even if the girls gets the 'x' or diseased gene from her mother, she will not have the disease because the dominant "X" from the father will dominate. The girl, however, will be a carrier and could pass the disease to her sons.
However, if the "X " gene from the mother unites with the "Y" gene from the father, the child will be a boy. If the "X" gene from the mother is the recessive 'x' the boy will have the disease. A boy only gets one "X" and the "Y' cannot protect it.
What this amounts to is that a child has a 50-50 chance of getting the 'x' gene, making it either a carrier if a girl or having the disease if a boy. Both Cynthia's boys had the defective gene.
For some reason, the disease is much more severe in some children than others. Often children with severe immunodeficiency die before their second birthday because they are susceptible to every virus or bacteria to which they are exposed. You may remember the story of the boy who lived in a bubble for twelve years because he had severe immunodeficiency.
The good news in Cynthia's case was that doctors had begun having great success with stem cell transplants in treating this condition. Often doctors administer chemotherapy before the transplant to kill the defective cells circulating in their blood stream before the transplant.
They then remove bone marrow from the recipient, either a parent or a sibling, and transplant it into the sick child. Doctors in Oklahoma City decided to use this new procedure on Cynthia's two boys. In their case, it worked miraculously and her boys are now grown and married.
Cynthia also has two girls, who are also married. Sadly, both of them are carriers. However, thanks to in vitro testing, doctors now can tell the parents in advance if the child they are carrying is a boy or girl and whether it has the disease.
One of Cynthia's daughters has five children, three boys and two girls. Her youngest son has the disease and received a transplant when still an infant. But he was always small and still prone to infections. Last September at Age 6, he was diagnosed with a rare blood disease for which there is no known protocol. In February, doctors tried a second transplant on him but he continues to be gravely ill.
About two weeks ago, doctors sat his parents down and told them that they were 95% sure that he was not going to survive, that they could either take him home and keep him as comfortable as possible or they could try one more experimental round of drugs. The family opted to try one last chance to save him.
Meanwhile, Cynthia's other daughter has three healthy children, two boys and a girl. Pregnant this past year with her fourth child, tests revealed that the baby, a boy, did have the disease. So, about a month after he was born, the family brought him to Dallas for a transplant. Sadly, he kept getting infections. In June, at about four months, he died of pneumonia.
Meanwhile, Cynthia was fighting her own battle with cancer. Diagnosed several years ago with bone cancer, she learned two years ago that her cancer had returned. A year ago, Cynthia's beloved father, a long-time Baptist minister, died. But she continued to be a beacon of faith and love to her family until about a month ago when she suddenly began to go downhill rapidly. On August 4, she posted on Facebook. "I will not be afraid." Because of her tremendous faith, I don't think she was.
Sunday, Cynthia succumbed to the cancer and passed away. This family, full of ministers--Cynthia's father, one of her sons and one of her son-in-laws--has had a year of tribulation. But the faith that they have shown in the face of tremendous adversity is a beacon to all who marvel at how powerfully faith can work in one family's life.