Teen keeps her faith through cancer battle

  • Jenna Bodiford
  • Family, friends and supporters of Jenna Bodiford join hands in prayer Oct. 21 at Collins Park in Barnwell. Bodiford was diagnosed with cancer in September and is currently undergoing treatment. Pictured in the center are Jenna’s father Brett and other family members.

A cancer diagnosis has not dampened a 14-year-old’s faith or smile.

Jenna Bodiford, a freshman at Barnwell High School, was diagnosed on September 18 with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer made up of cells that normally develop into skeletal muscles.

Jenna and her family originally thought she had pulled a hamstring because she was having leg pain after exercising one day. Multiple doctors’ appointments left the family with no answers; however, a trip to an orthopedic doctor led to the cancer diagnosis, said her father, Brett Bodiford.

Brett was standing behind his daughter when the orthopedic doctor made the cancer diagnosis after discovering the mass. “She said, ‘Daddy, it’s going to be OK,’” recalls Brett of seeing how his daughter is very mature for her young age.

Faith is an important part of the lives of the Bodiford family. They attend Crossroads Church in Aiken where Brett preaches every fourth Sunday.

Brett asked the doctor if he is a Christian. After the doctor replied yes, Brett told everyone in the room they needed to pray.

Jenna is now at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta where she has undergone 10 rounds of radiation and four weeks of chemotherapy to battle the cancer, which is in multiple parts of her body with one large tumor on her spine. She is scheduled for a total of 54 weeks of chemo, said Brett.

Though she has a long road ahead of her, Jenna has already exhibited strength.

He said he didn’t realize the amount of pain Jenna was in until numerous medications did not help ease her pain, even though the nurse said she administered the largest dose of morphine she’s ever given a patient.

The family has also seen God at work.

Brett said one of the doctors informed him and his wife Becky that the type of radiation Jenna required can leave people unable to walk permanently if they are not walking within a couple days after treatment. However, Jenna has walked across the room several times with the use of a walker.

“Just a sign from our maker that all would be OK,” he wrote on the Facebook page, “Prayers for Jenna Bodiford and Family” where updates and fundraiser info are posted.

Even though the past month has been difficult on his entire family, Brett said they are not going to stop lifting God up. He’s been using his time in the hospital to talk to others and offer prayer. Brett said many people have accepted his offer.

If just one person comes to know Jesus as their Lord and savior, Brett said the entire situation will be worth it. “Through Jenna’s pain and however this turns out, it’s our desire and hers that God gets the glory.”

“She’s taught me a lot about faith and depending on God,” said Diane Bodiford, Jenna’s aunt.

From fundraisers to making sure Jenna and her family are cared for, including with meals and a wheelchair ramp for when she returns home, the community is rallying around the teenager. Brett said the movement isn’t something the family organized, but one that people have offered to do as God moved in their lives.

“People complain about simple small town life. If they could only see what small town life really is. I have literally never seen a community rally together like our small town has done for Jenna. God is hearing every prayer and is seeing every tear that falls as he has already started his work on Jenna and he’s far from done and never stopping,” said Stephanie Hutto Ray in a Facebook post.

A number of churches are also participating. That was evident at an Oct. 21 prayer and worship service at Collins Park in Barnwell as residents and pastors from more than four churches united in prayer for the Bodifords.

While many people think of the church as a building, Brett said, “What the community is doing now is the true church of God. It’s what the church was designed for.”

Brett said he, his wife Becky and their family are extremely grateful to everyone for the support. He hopes the unity and compassion won’t end when their need is over.

“Long after our situation is over we need to continue to work together,” he said of people using their gifts to help others in the community who are in need.