I first heard about “Courageous Caitie,” from my daughter who lives abroad. It was a social media page that went viral about Caitie Lucas, a 3-year old who was suffering from a sickness that doctors couldn’t identify. What struck me when I first followed this page were Caitie’s parents’ vulnerability, their honest account of their emotions and their strong faith in God. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Caitie’s mom, Feliz Lucas, and hear her story.
Feliz and her husband, Jay Jay Lucas have 3 children, Caitie, Ethan, and Calea. Previously, Feliz was a successful fashion stylist and merchandiser, but she gave up her career to have more time for her family. Currently, she is helping her husband with his business. This job gives her flexibility to take care of her family and household. Feliz has always tried to learn everything about how to have an ideal family,and they were doing well until September 2015.
In September 2015, Catie became sickly. She was 3 years old. The doctor diagnosed diarrhea, insect bites, fever, cough, co1d, and gave appropriate treatment. Then, Caitie started to have lesions on her foot. Eventually, the lesions spread to her legs, then to her thighs, and body. Feliz was worried and the doctor tried to find out what was wrong. After some blood tests, the doctor ruled out leukemia, but there was something wrong, and Feliz determined to know what it was.
“We went to different oncologists and other doctors.” Feliz recalls, “Sabi nila, there was nothing to be alarmed of. Lahat sila, they said it was not leukemia pero nung pina-ultrasound siya, lumalaki ‘yung spleen niya. We brought her to the Emergency Room on New Year’s Eve (2016). Ayun maraming blood test. They had Caitie undergo bone marrow aspiration. It was difficult for us, kasi may leukemia ba o wala? Meron? Wala?
“The night before she was scheduled for her bone marrow aspiration, I was praying and the story of Abraham and Isaac came to my mind so I thought maybe God wanted us to go through this so He could use our story to bring people to Him. I was hopeful so we just waited for her to be tested, so many tests, paulit-ulit din na bone marrow aspiration. Wala pa ring diagnosis.”
Despite their own uncertainties, Feliz and Jay Jay resolved not to let their pain go to waste. They visited other children who were confined in the hospital. They let Caitie give out books to the children.
They cheered them up and did activities with them.
A few months before Caitie got sick, Feliz had had a sudden urge to share the Gospel with her. “She was around 2½ years old at that time. We had a bracelet that represented the Gospel and she became really interested. I explained it to her and afterwards, I asked her, “Do you want to pray with Mommy and talk to Jesus and tell him that you believe in Him?” She said, “Yes.” So, we prayed together and I will always remember that morning. After that I did follow up; like we would do activities about the Gospel.”
The doctors still couldn’t find what was wrong with Caitie so in February, 2016, Feliz and Jay Jay flew her to Singapore to seek medical help. But even the doctors in Singapore had a hard time diagnosing Caitie’s illness.
Meanwhile, Feliz maximized her time with Caitie. She home schooled her so she wouldn’t lag behind in her studies if she got well. She continued to strengthen her faith in Jesus. She said, “I needed her to know that Jesus will always be in our hearts, that Jesus also loves the other kids in the hospital. At night, we slept on a small couch in the room or sometimes on the floor, but it was one of the best memories I have because it was then that I knew I needed to love Jesus more than I loved my daughter. I had to fix my eyes on Him whatever we were going through because He is the One who decides the future, and it was going to be exactly how it was supposed to be. If I was teaching my daughter to love Him more than anything, I need to live up to my teaching and love Him more than I loved her. I know God loved Caitie more than I could ever love her.“
Feliz was amazed that people they didn’t know came and visited them. These people had learned about Caitie through their social media posts. There were Indians, Singaporeans, Chinese, Filipinos, Americans, and other nationalities. They brought food, beddings, books and other things they needed. There were also instances when the situation was reversed. Feliz said, “I don’t know why they shared with us what they were going through and we would end up praying for them, but I saw it as an opportunity to share Jesus. People knew we are Christians. We didn’t really hide it naman. While waiting for medical results, we gave gospel tracts to other patients, nagbigay kami ng mga kids’ books, kids’ activities and even gave some people a little bit of monetary help.”
When there were fundraising events for Caitie, Feliz and Jay-Jay made sure that the Gospel would be shared before they accepted monetary help. On Caitie’s part, she lived a life of obedience so her response to sickness was different. She did not complain.
As weeks passed and there was still no diagnosis, Feliz was desperate. She said, “During that time, I was a bit angry with the Lord. I wanted God to tell me if Caitie was going to die? Was she going to have leukemia? But God was silent. I even debated with Him, ‘Lord, how will people believe that You are powerful if she dies?’ We had sleepless nights reading the Bible kasi we wanted to know what He wanted to happen.”
Finally, it was confirmed that Caitie had JMML, a rare juvenile cancer. Feliz and Jay Jay had Ethan flown to Singapore and had him tested for the bone marrow transplant that Caitie needed. Caitie’s health was failing. The doctors wanted to intubate Caitie (a procedure where they put in a breathing tube). Before Caitie was intubated, Feliz got the result of Ethan’s test. His bone marrow did not match Caitie’s; their son could not be a donor for the bone transplant procedure that they had hoped would save Caitie’s life. Additionally, it was an ordeal making the decision whether or not to push through with the breathing tube. The doctor said there was a chance that she wouldn’t wake up anymore.
Feliz said, “I was looking at the monitor, bumabagsak na talaga her stats. Parang God is saying no to her to continue here on earth.”
Finally, Feliz spoke to Caitie. “Caitie, they need to intubate you.” Caitie said, “No.” I said, “Remember when they removed a part of your skin and you had to go through the pain? It’s just the same thing. You have to go through a little bit of pain so that you will be healed.” She said, “Okay.” I said, “It might be that when you wake-up, you might not be able to see mommy. But if you hear mommy, I want you to press my hand.” She said okay. “Do you love mommy?” She pressed my hand. “If you shout “Mommy,” and mommy doesn’t come, I need you to shout “Jesus.” I’m sure that He will be there. You just go with Him, okay? There’s a possibility that you will die, but you don’t have to fear death.” Direct to the point lang kasi if I sugar coat, that’s not love. Tapos, sabi ko, “OK Caitie, one last time, let’s take our picture.” Caitie smiled.” And then she closed her eyes. I told her, “Caitie, I’ll just be outside the room. I love you.” So we left.
The doctors had a hard time stabilizing her. After 4 hours, I said, “Doc, it’s okay, we’re letting her go.” It was March 31, 2016 when Caitie passed away.
Feliz says, “When we said we’re letting her go, parang tanggap na namin. But after that, it was hard. It was so painful, parang we lost ourselves. I asked God, ‘Why? Wasn’t I good enough? Didn’t I love You enough?”
Later, the doctor told Feliz and Jay Jay that their bone marrow test also didn’t match Caitie’s, although it showed they were her parents as it had shown that Ethan was her sibling. Feliz said, “The circumstances were really a closed door. That was closure for me na hindi ako nasayangan kasi makikita mo God really said no. It was God’s plan for her, her going through this unknown disease; He closed the eyes of the doctors to find out kung ano’ng sickness. I mean, we went through 30 doctors, and still the circumstances did not work out. So her life was lived exactly as it should be. Hindi siya kulang, hindi siya sobra, sakto lang. So, the moment that you accept na we are only God’s stewards of our children, your perspective will change. Teach yourself to say, ‘Jesus, I love you more than Caitie.’ Honestly, for a mother it’s hard to say that. Hindi mo man lang siya ma-verbalize, but the more you say it, that’s what loving your child is. Teach your children to love Jesus more than you. You are willing to allow the One who can love her more than you can ever love your child to accomplish His will.