Twin Girls With Down Syndrome And Cancer: Does God Only Give Parents What We Can Handle?

I found out yesterday about a pair of four-year-old twins with Down syndrome who have cancer. Last February, Abigail Tillotson was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Eight months later, doctors discovered Natasha had the same kind of leukemia. ALL is a fast-growing cancer, and the most common type in kids ages 4 to 7. Most kids are cured after treatment, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The family, who live in Utah, have seven kids. In the last year, the twins have been to the ER department more than 30 times. I’ve been reading the blog their mom, Kim, writes, and I am amazed by her spirit. As she writes of a recent rush visit to the hospital with Natasha, “You would never know she was sick. Her blood levels look great, but her output is lacking. Hoping we will be out by tonight or tomorrow. Fingers crossed….”

This mom is managing to juggle it all and finding joy in the small pleasures of motherhood. “I am so excited because I got to give all three of my little ones a bath today,” she wrote back in April. She’s kept her sense of humor; in another post, she describes getting caught in a hospital room while she was in the midst of changing clothes. “Tasha’s male nurse entered to see me in my bra with my hands halfway in my hoodie…. I am quite sure he is scarred for life.”

Her blog’s name: Happiness Is How You Respond To Plan B.

I know what it’s like to raise one child with special needs. Two children with special needs and five more kids? Really hard to imagine. Two children with special needs and cancer and five more kids and financial hardships from medical bills? Completely beyond the realm of my imagination.

After my son, Max, was born, people used to occasionally say that God only gives you what you can handle. It made me mad to hear that. Really, I was angry that my baby had a stroke, and upset by people trying to make like things would be OK. I didn’t think so: My husband and I been told the worst about Max, leaving us with very little hope. I wasn’t sure how we would deal. As the years passed, the grief receded and acceptance came, along with much joy.

So did G0d only give me what I can handle? I’m not sure. I do what I can for my son. Sometimes I seriously stress out but I think I’m a pretty good parent. When I hear about stories like this, though, and how this amazing mom is keeping it together, it really does make me wonder about divine intention.

The family has a fundraising site, Help Our Twins, to cover medical expenses.


Screen grab/Twins fighting cancer together video

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  1. by Kim H

    On June 1, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I do not believe God gives us what we can handle. I believe God helps us handle what we get.

  2. by Jennifer Byde Myers (@jennyalice)

    On June 1, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I have always thought that phrase is so irritating. So maybe if I were less capable my kid would have an easier life? Is that how it’s doled out? Then let me be lazy and my son will be able to ride a two-wheeler with ease!
    Any time you add religion to anything the conversation will get sticky, but I tend to think that there is good and bad, and hard and easy and everything in between and more, in this world, and we have free-will to determine how we will interact with it all. He may know every hair on my head, but I decide how to brush it?
    It sounds like Kim has found the ability to focus on those things she can control, like bath time, and found humor in getting through the things she can’t. Her family is beautiful, and I wish them fortitude for what I am certain will be a bumpy road. Thanks for sharing their story Ellen.

  3. by Kimberly

    On June 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    1Co 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

    This scripture is often used incorrectly in my opinion. It is speaking of temptation, not hardship. We often in this life have what many of us would consider unbearable hardship. But I believe that God can sustain us, and use it for His glory.

  4. by Martine@themodernparent

    On June 2, 2012 at 2:34 am

    Whilst I am not a religious person, I would be extremely angry at him if God allowed myself and my family to go through the pain of losing a daughter and sister just because he thought we could handle it. Events such as that are completely random and you either handle them or you don’t. There is way to much injustice for there to be any well thought out plan. It is simply true that some people such as the lady you speak are better able to find the moments of joy amongst the stress and sadness.

  5. by Marcy

    On June 2, 2012 at 2:58 am

    God promises to be with us in all circumstances. He ALLOWS hardship in order to teach and mature us, but won’t allow more than we can handle with God’s help. We’re all still here, so that’s proof that what God promises is true.

  6. by Bethene

    On June 2, 2012 at 7:06 am

    Great post! Our pastor is walking through leukemia. Here’s a blog another friend writes and he spotlights his thoughts on this irritating phrase.

  7. by Christine Pointer

    On June 3, 2012 at 6:28 am

    If you read Revelation 12:9,12 you will see that the reason the world is in the state it is in is this
    9 So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.
    12 On this account be glad, YOU heavens and YOU who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to YOU, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”

    Very soon Jehovah God along with His son Jesus are going to remove Satan and his demons and all the bad things will be done away with. Then this will happen as shown in Revelation 21:3,4
    3 With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. 4 And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away. . .

  8. by Beatriz Franco

    On August 4, 2012 at 12:42 am

    I have a two and eight months old little girl with down syndrome and I thought I was not strong enough to handle my baby but I knew that God send her to me and my family for a reason. Now I think she is the best thing that ever happened to me. We love her and I know God gives me the strength I need every day to take care of her. So it is true that God sends you only what you can handle.

  9. by Shawnie Huff

    On September 13, 2012 at 12:27 am

    I have 4 children with Down syndrome. 3 biological & 1 adopted. Our oldest child died at age 1 so we only have 3 here now. We heard this phrase ALL the time when our son passed away or while he was hospitalized many times. I am with you, I hated it! One day a friend & I were talking about this mutually disliked phrase & she said, “Of course God gives us more than we can handle, otherwise we wouldn’t need Him”. I like that. What choice do we have when circumstances feel unbearable? We can walk away from life, become bitter & hateful or we can keep waking up each day & try to learn from it. Fake a smile until it’s real & learn from example by those like this wonderful family. Way to go Tillotson family!!!

  10. by Sapphire

    On February 5, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    “god doesn’t give you more than you can handle” is BS. Even ignoring the god part, which I don’t believe in, I see all the time parents who were given more than they can handle. I work in a NICU and I see parents that would probably have been decent to good parents to a typical child, but cannot handle having a special needs child. It could be emotionally, financially, or even physically. Who gets the shaft in those situations? The children unfortunately.

  11. by Kathleen

    On March 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    In a sermon our priest recently pointed out the following quote from the New Testament reading: “You are tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1Cornthians 10:13

    This is the verse that is often pointed to for the idea that “god never gives you more than you can handle”. The reality is: it’s not unusual for us to have to deal with more than we think we can handle. BUT we always leave out the second part of that verse: God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it. For me….it ends up meaning that I put my trust in doctors; or teachers; of whomever else can best help my kids (or me for that matter).