by marlys good
Sometimes there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
For Shalyn and Chad Kiernan of Billings that “light” is their 8-pound, 19-3/4-inch long baby boy, Gavin Michael, who came into the world Sept. 4, to complete a family circle that includes his parents, grandparents, Michael K. and Lyna Smith, Jeraline Bachman and Kenny Gilbert, all of Greybull, and Autumn and Wade Kiernan of Billings, and great-grandparents, Marie and Don Gemmell, also of Greybull.
The miracle story began in November of 2011. Chad and his father-in-law had enjoyed a successful hunting trip, bagging two cow elk, which they had to drag out of a draw. Chad felt tired all the following week but attributed it to just “being out of shape.”
Turned out to be a bit more than that. The following Thursday he noticed a lump on his neck. A trip to a specialist diagnosed his problem as Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chad underwent surgery immediately and was facing six months of chemotherapy which was scheduled to start the day after Christmas.
The young couple was in shock. They had wanted to start a family and knew the chemo would make that impossible. They decided to stop birth control and Shalyn became pregnant soon after.
To make sure the baby was normal, doctors started ultra-sounds “ultra-early.” The couple hit another snag when doctors found a lime-sized tumor on Shalyn’s ovary when she was three-months pregnant.
Specialists performed surgery to remove the tumor and the ovary. The baby survived. After a week spent in the hospital doctors said no further treatment was needed and Shalyn was dismissed, cancer-free.
The next six months dragged by. Shalyn suffered through terrible bouts of morning sickness the entire time, but kept eating a little each day, fighting to give her baby every chance.
Meanwhile, Chad finished his chemo in early June, was doing well and was in remission. They removed the port from Chad’s chest in early July and the family had a real celebration.
The 10 months of worry, wondering, hope and prayer came to a happy ending on Sept. 4 when Gavin Michael arrived at the Billings Clinic. The new father said Gavin’s birth left him “overjoyed. I can’t explain how I felt.”
Although the family calls Gavin a “miracle baby” the miracle actually began 10 months ago, the lowest point being when Chad was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Chad said if he had not been diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemo, the decision to start a family would probably have been postponed; the ultrasound would not have been taken, and Shalyn’s “borderline malignant” tumor, would not have been discovered. Both Chad and Shalyn know there were a lot of “what ifs” before they welcomed their new son.
“He’s growing fast,” Chad said proudly. “He’s a pretty needy lad right now,” he laughed, referring to the sleepless nights and restless days. But he and Shalyn relish every moment.
“Everything happens for a reason,” said Shalyn. “Someone was definitely looking over us the whole time. I am so thankful that Chad is in remission and that Gavin was born healthy. We just feel really blessed at this moment.”