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Averi Mading's family: mother Erin, sister Olivia, grandmother Kristal, cousin Zoie Germain and sister Isabella visit at the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Averi Mading's family: mother Erin, sister Olivia, grandmother Kristal, cousin Zoie Germain and sister Isabella visit at the Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida. / Amy Bennett Williams/news-press.com

How to help

The Mading family would like prayers for Christmas, and financial help would be welcome too. Donations can be sent to the Averi Mading Fund in care of the Anchor Christian Church, 11651 E. Terry St., Bonita Springs, 34135, or made at the family’s Facebook page: facebook.com/TheMadingFoundation by clicking on the yellow “Give” box.

Day 12

The holidays are a time for giving, and the needs in Southwest Florida are great. For the last 12 days, The News-Press has featured the wishes of 12 families and people in hopes neighbors can help their less fortunate neighbors.

More

The girl has her mother’s hands, long-fingered and graceful as any Botticelli maiden’s, and at this moment, one rests in her mother’s gentle grip, its pallor emphasized by the woman’s rosy tone.

The girl is Averi Mading, 16. Her face is hidden by tubes, straps and a plastic mask, but her head rests in a golden corona of hair on the hospital pillow and her mother smooths it from her brow. Averi haltingly raises her free hand to fumble with the mask; her mother gently peels her fingers from it, eases her hand back onto the sheet.

Watching this silent battle in the intensive care unit of The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida are Averi’s sisters, grandmother and first cousin. Her electrical contractor father is working. Her older brother died two years ago of the same cancer that now has Averi in its grip. Her 6-year-old sister, who’s been diagnosed as well, has been through two surgeries. “We don’t talk in terms of time or prognosis,” says Averi’s mom, Erin, a nurse-turned-stay-at-home-caregiver. “Every day is a blessing that could bring us closer to a miracle.”

What the siblings have is called Lynch Syndrome/Turcot, a genetic mutation that causes the cancer, which generally strikes the young, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Averi, who wants to be an actress or a model, was loving her freshman year at Estero High School before she got sick.

“She was just a regular teenage girl, and she had her moments, for sure,” her mother says. “Since she’s been sick, though, I’ve watched her just blossom. I know that sounds strange, but she’s becoming an incredible young woman, so caring and compassionate. She nags me if I don’t get enough sleep. She forces me to eat.”

During Averi’s most recent hospitalization, she developed an abdominal infection. Her small intestine ruptured. A lung collapsed. The grim litany goes on but Erin refuses to despair. She posts wry Facebook updates from the battle front and writes her blog, “Cancer R U Stupid?” Team Mading perseveres, sleeping in shifts in Averi’s room.

“Faith is everything to me, and I know God’s will will be done,” she says.

Her mother-in-law calls it “singing praises in the storm,” and they’ve had to get good at it.

Cody was 17 when he died after 11 months of high-dose chemotherapy and radiation. When Averi got sick, the family decided to pursue alternative treatments, traveling to the internationally known clinic of Dr. Raymond Hilu in Spain. “They did so much for her there,” says grandmother Kristal. “I know they bought us more time with her.” They also went to another clinic in New York before returning home.

The family has been financially devastated, but their two Bonita Springs churches, Anchor Christian and Harvest Community, have offered monetary support - not to mention spiritual solace, Kristal says.

“We’re hardworking people, and it’s very hard to accept help,” she says. “Usually, we’re the ones giving it.”

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