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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Ginnetti-Barrasso

Meet our Recipient: Laura Vining

Happy New Year!

We are very excited to start 2019 with the introduction of Laura, one of our recipients of funds. She was diagnosed with Adamantinoma in 2017; a cancer so rare there are only 20 cases in the U.S. She's endured 6 surgeries, 2 infections and she has a major surgery coming up this month. With travel to and from her doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York, you can only imagine the financial burden it puts on her and her family.

On Sunday, December 16th, we surprised Laura & her family and presented them with a check at the 10:30 service at New Hanover United Methodist Church in Gilbertsville, where her father, Gil, is the assistant pastor.  He thought we were there to give a little presentation on our Foundation, but little did he know, we were about to call his family on stage to present them with a check. It was a very, very good day! We are so happy to be able to help relieve some of their financial stress, especially around the holidays & Laura's major surgery coming up this month, thanks to your support and generosity.

A huge thank you to Liz from NHUMC - it was all her idea. She organized everything and kept it all a secret...we couldn't have done it without her!

Please take a moment to read Laura's story that she was so kind to share with us, below. She truly is an inspiration, finding the positive in what can be some of the most trying days. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your story with us!

The Discovery

It all started in the beginning of June 2017, basically a year and half ago. I had heard the song “Trust In You” by Lauren Diagle, and I thought to myself, “Wow, I absolutely love this song, the message it conveys really speaks to my heart". You see, the Lord was preparing my heart and mind for what He was going to do in the next year of my life. Since I was mildly obsessed with the song, I decided that I would make it my alarm to wake up to every morning, and that was that. At the end of June, I was asked to lead a group of students to Creation Fest where we would set up for one of the biggest Christian Music Festivals in the world as our missions trip. I left for the missions trip on June 24th. Two days into the trip, I was carrying a picnic table. I set it down to adjust my grip, took a step and my leg snapped. I went down and screamed out in pain. (Side note: I did know I had a benign tumor in there already, they found it when I was 11 when I broke the smaller bone in my leg (fibula) but they said we should just watch it and it was nothing to worry about.) So there I was...Laura Vining, age 24, being shipped off to a hospital in the middle of nowhere to get x-rays and confirm that my leg was broken right in the middle of a massive tumor that had grown on and into my shin.  The ER doctor told me I needed to see an orthopedic specialist right away, so that night my dad and our youth pastor came to pick me up and drove me all the way home. It was at least two hours away and in our family, we didn’t have a car that was reliable enough to get all the way to Mount Union, PA. Todd Pearage, who had just gotten home from visiting Mount Union earlier that day, he got back in his car offered to drive my dad, and they came and picked me up. That was the first instance where I knew that, God, no matter what, He would provide for whatever may come our way in the next few weeks/months.  I met my first Doctor (Dr. Keneally) at Rothman institute where he ordered an MRI and CT scan - warning me there was a large possibility I had cancer but he wanted to be completely sure, so he ordered a biopsy for July 7th. Meanwhile, fear overtakes me and I want to cry all the time, all day long.  On July 7th, I meet the doctor who was going to perform the biopsy & he informs me that he has seen this kind of tumor a lot and not to worry because he was pretty sure it wasn’t cancer. That is what I needed to hear, God knew, the doctor knew, and immediately I felt as if a weight was lifted. I went through the procedure and I would know the results in a few weeks. Well, a few weeks is a long time if you’re waiting to see if you have cancer or not. It feels like months & years, but only a few days actually pass. Eventually Dr. Keneally called my mom to let me know I DID NOT have cancer, but I did however need to get that massive tumor removed from my leg & it needed to be dealt with surgically. Dr. Abraham would perform that surgery. He let me know that I would need to let my leg heal first and then he would perform the surgery to scrape my bone, remove the tumor, and stuff it full with bone graft. From July to August I was trying to make my very weak bone heal well enough for surgery to take place.  

Surgery + Diagnosis: Adamantinoma

Monday, August 28th 2017 was the first major surgery I have ever had. It went smoothly and there was nothing to report. Dr. Abraham let me know he would be doing some tests on the tumor but he told me not to worry because of the biopsy, he just wanted to make sure there were no surprises. To this day, that surgery was the most painful one out of all of them. September 20th 2017 I received a phone call from Dr. Abraham letting me know I had a VERY rare type of bone cancer: Adamantinoma.  He stated that I needed to undergo an intense surgery that would require both of my legs being out of commission, but he would get rid of it. Shock, horror, fear, anger, despair, anger again, and then numbness. Those are all the emotions I felt in a matter of 3 minutes. After hearing the procedure, my parents and I decided we needed time, and a second opinion.  Foregoing the Surgery that Dr. Abraham scheduled, we drove up to New York City on October 20th, 2017 to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center where I met Dr. Nicola Fabbri. Dr. Abraham had told him my story and that I was looking for another option - he o. She will drop whatever she is doing and come see me, call me or just encourage me. As for my parents, I am forever in debt to them. I can ever repay them for all they have given up. I am in debt to my entire family. God has blessed me and continues to do so. He is so very good, and He constantly reminds me that He sees me and that it is okay if I am scared, I just need to remember to trust Him. Lauren Dialge said it better than I could: "Your ways are always higher, Your plans are always good, There's not a place where I'll go You've not already stood".ould be fairly mobile after this surgery, so whenever I felt well enough I could start walking on it. It was awesome. I was walking without assistance by January 15th. 

Infections & Bumps in the Road

March 7th: All of a sudden I can no longer walk & I can’t put any pressure on my leg, I'm in pain and there was a huge, ugly skin rash all over my leg. Something was wrong. We traveled up to NYC, and Dr. Fabbri said he had never seen the skin infection that I had all over my leg, but he sent me to a dermatologist, and they were going to take care of me. This testing and worrying went on for a month and half till Tuesday, May 15th 2018.  I was informed that I was scheduled for surgery on that Friday (May 18th) to remove the rod from leg because it had become infected in the operating room but my body fought off the infection until March - giving me false hope when it came to feeling healthy.  Dr. Fabbri is the head of his department - he knows all the best doctors and solutions for all sorts of problems that can arise. He told me that after Friday I would be in the hands of his associate, Dr. Daniel Prince. Since there was no time for a pre-surgical consultation, I didn't meet my new surgeon the day of surgery, May 18th. He immediately makes me feel comfortable and he tells me repeatedly that I will be fine, and I will not lose my leg (which is still my biggest fear). To this day I don't’ think any of my doctors know the impact their words and their kindness have had on me. Dr. Prince tells me he’ll see me in the operating room, he leaves and they do final prepping for surgery. In the operating room they then apply an External Fixator on me. An External Fixator looks like a cage surrounding your leg. It stabilizes your leg so you are able to walk, run, drive, perform normal human activities while growing bone in your leg. Once I get the Fixator off, it will allow me to have a completely normal shin with no metal in my entire body. I wake up from surgery with the Fixator on my leg and I just cry. My life is over. This makes me look like Optimus Prime. I feel ugly and undesirable in this cage, people look at me and grimace, kids run away, my nephew won’t hug me anymore. I feel like a social piraya, but Dr. Prince told me the fixator would only be there until about September. Life went on, I was back on crutches and not able to drive, and completely dependent on my parents. As summer progressed, I did not, I noticed that my leg was constantly swollen, and I was still unable to walk or put any sort of pressure on my leg. By August I was frustrated, because I still couldn’t walk, and I was still heavily dependant on crutches. Dr. Prince kept saying that he was concerned with the swelling but everything looked normal, so I shouldn't worry too much. On August 16th I woke up with two huge blisters next to my incision, and they were leaking some fluid out of them. We sent pictures to Dr. Prince and he told us to go to emergent care at MSK to get an ultrasound and a CT scan, to make sure I didn’t have a blood clot or anything more serious than that. We left for MSK Friday August 18th but we were supposed to leave for family vacation Saturday August 19th. My mom and I spent the week of family vacation in the hospital in the middle of New York City. I was admitted for a common infection that shows up when you have an External Fixator. Dr. Prince assured me once again that I wasn’t going to lose my leg, and that I needed to remain calm because he was going to take care of it, and he did. This infection has pushed back my healing until May 2019, and the cage will remain on until then. 

I tell you this story not to evoke pity or make you cry. I tell you this story to show you how big my God is. There are a lot of details not included in this story, and a lot more examples of how God provided but if I told you all of those, we would be here ALL DAY LONG. Right from the beginning He prepared my heart with that song, to Trust in Him. He provided Todd Pearage to my dad and I when we needed him. He provided the seamless transition from Rothman to Memorial Sloan Kettering. He allowed the first infection so that in the end I would be in better shape, with just bone and no metal. He provided people who ministered to my family and I through meals, cards and financials. When it comes to my family He used them to minister to me to offer me encouragement. My oldest brother and sister-in-law invited me over and prayed over me, and gave my scripture references to look over during these trials. My second oldest brother video-chatted with me & had two people from Columbia pray over me in English and in Spanish. Then there is my big sister, my hero. She was just there all the time, and still is. She will drop whatever she is doing and come see me, call me or just encourage me. As for my parents, I am forever in debt to them. I can never repay them for all they have given up. I am in debt to my entire family. God has blessed me and continues to do so. He is so very good, and He constantly reminds me that He sees me and that it is okay if I am scared, I just need to remember to trust Him. Lauren Dialge said it better than I could: "Your ways are always higher, Your plans are always good, There's not a place where I'll go You've not already stood".

So, after six surgeries (more to come, a major surgery this month), two infections, and battle of fear and the unknown, God has shined His light to this Daughter of the King, and I will forever be working to constantly put my Trust in Him.

-Laura Vining

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