Sophomore Claire Stephens checks the eyes of a practice patient in Bethel’s nursing department May 11. Stephens had to practice many times for an assessment test. “I decided that I wanted to become a nurse mainly because of the nurses that I encountered at the hospital and their care that they gave to me,” Stephens said. | Photo by Grace Gaffney

A saved life saving lives

Claire’s journey in fighting a tumor and finding her calling.

By Grace Gaffney | Royal Report

Claire Stephens’ eyes locked onto her mom as she walked out of her room and down the narrow hallway. She was on the phone with the doctor. The same doctor they saw earlier that day for Stephens’ MRI. In a hushed, but rushed, tone her mom said, “We need to go to the hospital.”

The Children’s hospital staff was waiting for them. Stephens knew why, but didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She didn’t want to go. After all, tonight was her night to bring a snack to Gems, her all girls group on Wednesday nights. Her dad hurried home from work, they made the snack and drove to church to drop it off on their way to the hospital. Eight-year-old Stephens walked around saying, “Oh, I just found out that I have a brain tumor” to all of her friends as she passed out her snack.

Tears welled up in her mom’s eyes. Creases furrowed her dad’s brow. In the moments of her mom’s walk down the narrow hallway, Stephens found out that her life would never be the same.

The first visit to the hospital was the worst. She sat bored in a private room and watched movies in bed. As most 8-year-olds do, she got antsy. Her parents sat next to her and all she could ask was, “Why are we waiting around? What’s taking so long?”


“I’m definitely a different person because of it. One thing I think that, because of this experience, I really strive for to do with my daily life is helping others and serving.” — Claire Stephens, sophomore

The hospital visits continued despite Stephens’ boredom. On one visit before the surgery, Stephens sat with wide eyes on the floor of her doctor’s office. She watched him point out areas on the pinkish model of a brain. With her eyes on the brain and her ears hanging to every word, she saw where her tumor sat. She saw where he would use a shiny, silver scalpel to cut into her brain. And she saw what he was going to do. She still wasn’t scared.

Less than a week later in April 2004, Claire Stephens laid on a long surgical bed at the Children’s hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota as the doctor removed her tumor. The tumor that once sat on her pineal gland was gone. The same one that interfered with the flow of cerebral fluid causing high pressure on her brain tissues. And it hasn’t returned. But the fight wasn’t over yet. During recovery at her house, Stephens started to have spinal fluid build up in the back of her head. Terrified that it could pop out her stitches or cause damage to her brain, Stephens’ parents rushed her yet again to the hospital only to realize that the doctor had already known about the fluid and had been monitoring it.

Five months later in September, the complications with fluid buildup no longer caused her any more issues.


“My love for serving others stems from this experience. I decided that I wanted to become a nurse mainly because of the nurses that I encountered at the hospital and their care that they gave to me. They have left a huge impact on my life and have inspired me to want to give back in the same way that they helped me.” — Claire Stephens, sophomore

Sophomore Claire Stephens checks the reflexes in her practice patient’s arm in Bethel’s nursing department May 11. Going through the experience of the tumor was hard, but Stephens took it as a way to learn and grow. “I’m definitely a different person because of it,” Stephens said. “One thing I think that, because of this experience, I really strive for to do with my daily life is helping others and serving.” | Photo by Grace Gaffney

After these experiences Stephens knew her calling in life. To serve others with the same kindness that she was shown by her nurses at just eight years old. So she decided to become one herself. Fall semester in 2014, Stephens attended a single day of classes at St. Louis University. It was a Monday and Stephens was already homesick. By that Saturday, she packed up, drove back to Minnesota and moved in Bethel University, only 20 minutes away from home. She got accepted into the nursing program at Bethel.

Sophomore Claire Stephens checks the blood pressure of her practice patient in Bethel’s nursing department May 11. Stephen is enthusiastic about becoming a nurse because of the nurses that treated her. “They have left a huge impact on my life and have inspired me to want to give back in the same way that they helped me,” Stephens said. | Photo by Grace Gaffney

“My love for serving others stems from this experience,” Stephens said. “I decided that I wanted to become a nurse mainly because of the nurses that I encountered at the hospital and their care that they gave to me. They have left a huge impact on my life and have inspired me to want to give back in the same way that they helped me.”

As a child, Stephens did not connect God with her tumor, so she did not blame Him for what happened to her. Today, she says she rejoices in each day and appreciates how far she has come. She defeated a brain tumor.Now she serves others.

More about Stephens:

  • Hometown: Blaine, Minnesota
  • Favorite childhood movie: Titanic
  • Favorite current movie: Forrest Gump
  • High school: Calvin Christian High school
  • Siblings: Youngest with three older brothers
  • Favorite book: Speak — Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Hobbies: Drinking coffee

About brain tumors in the United States.

  • Brain tumors are the leading cause of tumor death in children under the age of 20.
  • There are over 120 different types of brain tumors.
  • Each year more than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with a primary or metastatic brain tumor.
  • As many as 69% of children with brain tumors will survive, but they are often left with long-term side effects.
  • Anyone can be diagnosed with a brain tumor. Tumors have no socio-economic boundaries and do not discriminate among gender or ethnicity.
  • SOURCE: milesforhope.org

More stats in the United States.

  • 78,000 people will be diagnosed with primary tumors of the brain and central nervous system.
  • 13,350 of that number are adult males
  • 10,420 of that number are adult females
  • 4,000 of that number are children and teens
  • SOURCE: cancer.net