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This is a story of time and life and money and love and a mother and son and passion

and loss and power and deliverance and prayers answered and unanswered and sickness and death.

Angels

DemoNs

Words: Cynthia Hubert Images: Rene C. Byer


53 Issues November 2011

Cyndie carries her exhausted son, Derek, to a limousine after he spent the day with NBA star Chris Webber at the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nev. Webbers publicist Erika Bjork, left, had just let Derek drive a golf cart for the first time.

C
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yndie French sinks into the s o f t b l u e cushi o n s of her living room sofa and reaches for her son Derek, flashing her fuchsia fingernails and her bravest smile. Derek, the boy who once was the pride of the Bridgeway Island Elementary School dodgeball crowd and Cyndie, a single mom of five the master of his multiplication with a size 4 figure and platitables, scowls back at her. num blonde hair, sighs deeply and begins massaging Dereks He knows that he is sick, that shiny scalp as his eyelids start his sickness is the reason that to close. he can no longer go to school, the reason his little sister had Sometimes we have to sufto leave their home, the reason fer, she says, referring to the the power company shut off the biblical story of Job. Cyndie gas the other day. And he is anknows about suffering. She gry. Leave me alone, he tells was abused as a young child, his mother, scooting away from adopted at 8, out of the house her side. by 17. She has raised her children mostly on her own and has

struggled at times to pay her bills. But as she sits here today, suffering has a new meaning. Where, she wonders, will it lead her this time? June 2005 Cyndie runs a K Street nail and tanning shop, and she looks the part today in her tight jeans and cotton Hard Rock Cafe top, her manicure du jour featuring pink polish flecked with gold. She is a few months short of 40, but she still turns heads, and she loves it.

With one hand wrapped around a tall white chocolate mocha with mint and the other on Dereks shoulder, Cyndie smiles at passing strangers in the corridors of the UC Davis Medical Center and flirts with about half of them. Wow! she says, fixing her blue eyes on a man in a white laboratory coat. Is everyone around here this handsome? Breezing through a hallway painted with pastoral images of mountains and birds, she enters another world. It is a world of scalpels and
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Derek kisses his mom Cyndie after the Relay for Life benefit, as his 6-year-old sister, Brieanna, stands by.

syringes, of radiation and medicines that inflict misery and inspire hope.

she says. No one can. But I wont cry in front of him. I have to be strong for him.

This is where doctors are waging war on Der- She prays that things will go smoothly today. It eks neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer is, after all, one of the most important days of that starts in the nerve cells and already has their lives. invaded his bones and internal organs. Doctors are going to punch a hole in Dereks hip, trying to capture bone marrow that will tell erek is 10 years old. He is a gangly boy them whether he is eligible to undergo a blood who walks on his tiptoes, prefers his stem cell transplant, his best hope for beating pants baggy and wears his Shaq high-tops neuroblastoma. It will be a gruesome task, and unzipped. He is all about Star Wars and video Cyndie is sparing Derek the details. games, and not at all about the chemotherapy and radiation and CT scans and operations Theyre going to put you to sleep, and when that have defined his life since his diagnosis you wake up it will all be over and youll feel last Thanksgiving. better later, she tells him. Cancer has changed Derek, his mother says. When he is feeling good, he is soft-spoken and quick to share sweet treats with his brothers, tender and playful with his little sister and his mom. But lately, on too many days, his pain and fear become too much for him, and he erupts into uncontrollable tantrums. Cyndie saves her tears for late at night after Derek and her other children have gone to bed. I cant imagine what hes going through, Thats all? he asks. Thats it, she says. To Derek, the hospital represents misery, and Cyndie had to beg and cajole to get him here. They are a few minutes late. How long will this take, Mom? he asks. How long will we have to wait around? I hate waiting around! God, I hate it! Dereks hands have curled into tight fists.

Get in, she tells Derek, and he sits down.

Here comes one of her beloved boys meltCyndie kicks off her suede flip-flops, grabs the downs. Soon, unless Cyndie takes action, he handles of the chair and starts to push Derek will be stomping his feet and the F bombs will down the mostly empty corridors. start flying. Faster and faster. As they enter a hallway leading to the waiting area, Cyndie spots salvation in the form of a Over and over. wheelchair.

After learning that a hospital check-in has been moved back four hours, Cyndie frantically tries to arrange a way to get Derek to UC Davis Medical Center while avoiding one of his meltdowns. How can anyone maintain a nine to five job and do this? she questions.

Derek is comforted by his brother Micah Moffe, 17, left, and mom Cyndie French , right, as he gets a tattoo in preparation for radiation therapy at UC Davis Medical Center. Micah often accompanies Derek to treatments even though his schoolwork suffers.

Cyndie and Derek embrace after learning he needs surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his abdomen.

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{ When Derek awakens in


As Derek, 11, has a final burst of energy after days of Cyndie keeping vigil at his bedside she helps her anguished son walk.

This time, they give in. onathan Ducore, a pediatric cancer doctor fondly known as Fozzie Bear, is holding a long, narrow biopsy needle, which he is about to push into Dereks hip. The doctor is trying to find out whether Dereks chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which were so harsh that they took his hair and his eyebrows and his lovely, long eyelashes and destroyed his normally ravenous appetite, also have killed all of the cancer cells in his bone marrow. If so, he may be eligible for the blood stem cell transplant, a difficult, risky treatment that could wipe out his cancer for good. If not, his odds of survival are 30percent or less. Ducore looks into Cyndies wide eyes.

just kind of a crude procedure. Cyndie begins to softly hum. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, she sings. It is a tune she and Derek have shared since he was a baby. Through a hole in the skin covering Dereks hip, Ducore starts to drive the needle into the bone, and Cyndie sings a little more frantically. Her perpetually ringing cell phone is clipped to her jeans and buzzing softly. You make me haaaaaaaaaappy, when skies are gray. Youll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please dont take. My sunshine. Away.

the recovery room, his hips are radiating with pain, and people in blue scrub suits are all around him.

After about 20 minutes, Ducore holds up two syThere is nothing subtle about this, he warns. Its ringes filled with cranberry red marrow. Weve got
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Cyndie leads Dereks casket to burial with assistance from her sons Anthony Moffe, foreground, Micah Moffe, opposite him, and Vincent Morris, who is not visible, as well as several friends.

Cyndie tearfully rocks her dying son Derek as the song Because We Believe plays. Cyndie sings along with Andrea Bocelli in a whispery voice. From left, family friends Ashley Berger, Amy Morgan and Kelly Whysong offer comfort as Cyndie tells Derek, Its OK, baby. I love you, little man. I love you, brave boy. I love you. I love you.

worker maneuvering a gurney clears her path and lifts his eyebrows in mock amazement. A pair of painters give her a thumbs up. Her blonde hair flies behind her, and perspiration starts to bead on her forehead. Go, Mom! Derek says, squinting his eyes and lifting his arms in ecstasy. 59 Issues November 2012

Go! Go! Yesssssss! Derek is unconscious. He is lying on his side under the glare of fluorescent lights, his wiry body draped in a blue cloth. Sitting in front of him is his mother. Cyndie has talked her way into this treatment room, despite her own squeamishness. I absolutely have to be with Derek, she tells the doctors. Where he goes, I go.
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