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Fight for Finn Schafran

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Thank you for visiting this site! We hope to share Dan and BrandiLee Schafran's story to raise awareness and offer encouragement for this beautiful family. Please join us in prayer and support for them during this time.

Their story . . . 

Dan and BrandiLee met in college in New York state and were married in May 2006. When they found out they were expecting their first child—a boy—they were thrilled and couldn’t wait for his arrival. But after the traumatic birth of their son Gavin in August 2008, life changed for them. Gavin was born not breathing. He had very little oxygen for an hour and a half during birth and was in the NICU for two weeks following. They weren’t sure how or if this would affect him long term and his doctors told them, “Only time will tell. We’ll check in at six months.” At four months, Gavin was already struggling. He didn’t nurse well. He had severe reflux. And he would extend his arms and roll his fists inward. He qualified for therapy and feeding at that time, but they still didn’t have answers for why he wasn’t thriving.
At Gavin’s six-month NICU appt, BrandiLee and Dan first heard the words "Cerebral Palsy" (CP), but it was still too early to confirm this as a diagnosis. It wasn’t until Gavin's one-year appointment that they got an answer. An MRI showed scarring on Gavin’s brain, confirming a diagnosis: mixed-tone Quadriplegia (spastic and dystonic), one of the most severe types of spastic cerebral palsy (CP), a neurological condition that affects motor function and communication.
After coming to terms with Gavin’s diagnosis, BrandiLee and Dan became advocates for CP and special needs kids. And although they would have not wished this on their son or themselves, they adjusted to their new reality of physical therapy and all that comes with having a child with special needs. Gavin is now ten years old and uses a wheelchair to get around (which he controls with his head) and a special computer to talk. His condition requires around-the-clock care for BrandiLee and Dan—to move him from his bed to his chair, to feed him, and to dress him.

In January 2013, four and half years after Gavin was born, BrandiLee and Dan welcomed a second son Everett. Then, just under two years later in December of 2014, they welcomed a third son Finn. They settled into life with one special needs child and two typical children and began dreaming about their future.
Then in June 2016 after much prayer and seeking, BrandiLee and Dan packed up their home and three boys and moved to Nashville—far from family and friends—to start a new life together. They dreamed of owning land someday where they could run an accessible farm and provide respite weekends for families with special-needs kids.
But shortly after their move, their one-and-a-half-year-old son Finn got sick. He was in constant pain and one night they found blood in his diaper. BrandiLee took him to the ER, then to a urologist, but doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. Finally after multiple tests, an ultrasound revealed something: a mass in Finn’s bladder.
In August 2016 they got the horrific news. Their youngest son Finn had a rare form a cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma (a soft-tissue cancer). There are only 350 cases a year. Mostly kids. And noone knows why or how they get it. Tumors can be anywhere in the body with rhabdo. Finn’s was in his bladder, and though rare and aggressive, doctors were hopeful that they could effectively treat his tumor.
Then shortly after Finn’s diagnosis, BrandiLee and Dan’s middle son Everett was attacked by a friend’s dog. BrandiLee saw the attack happen and when she grabbed Everett and picked him up, she saw that the right side of his face had deep, gaping wounds. BrandiLee remembers holding Everett after the attack and asking God, “WHY? Why us? Why this on top of what we are already going through?” After a three-hour surgery to repair his face, Everett was on the road to healing but with permanent scars. 
And the Schafran's shifted their focus to the long road of fighting Finn’s cancer. After 43 weeks of chemotherapy, coupled with 28 days of radiation, Finn finished his primary treatment. Unfortunately, only three weeks after treatment ended, Finn’s initial symptoms came back and tests showed that the cancer was back with a vengeance.
In September of 2017, Finn underwent a major surgery to remove his bladder and prostate, leaving him with a urostomy bag. Though the surgery was successful, Finn had a roughly 85% chance of relapse if an additional chemotherapy regimen was not taken. In November of 2017 Finn began a standard 35-week-long relapse chemotherapy regimen, but tragically while still on chemotherapy a routine scan in February 2018 revealed a new tumor—this time in his abdomen.
Finn’s doctors sat BrandiLee and Dan down and said, “This is really not good.” They told them their options: clinical trials, chemo regimens, and a match study. Finn’s oncologist said the target for a cure was still out there. It was just really, really small and they didn’t know what it was. So Finn's doctors left it up to Dan and BrandiLee's to decide the next course of action.
In March of 2018, BrandiLee and Dan took Finn to the Mayo Clinic for additional opinions. BrandiLee said, “You go to Mayo for hope when your doctors have given up.” There, Finn underwent another major surgery, removing most of his rectum, front pubic bone, nerves, and muscles. They also created a colostomy. So now he had two bags: a urostomy and a colostomy—and a completely altered anatomy.
After a two-and-a-half-week stay at Mayo, the family returned to Nashville where they started another chemo regimen, requiring 3- to 5-day stays at the hospital every three weeks. They would swap out, BrandiLee staying in the hospital with Finn during the week so Dan could work and watch the other two boys, and Dan staying with Finn on the weekend so BrandiLee could spend time with Gavin and Everett. There have also been emergency hospital stays for fever, illness, or an additional surgery. During these hospital stays, there’s the constant changing of the guards, BrandiLee and Dan passing each other for 30 minutes at a time. One headed to the hospital. One headed home.
And this has been their reality for two years. Two years of doctor visits and hospital stays. Of juggling calendars and kids. Of wires and ports and chemo drugs. Of falling to their knees in prayer, begging God to cure Finn. Of worrying that their other boys are getting the leftovers of their time and energy. Of worrying about Everett who is stuck in the middle of two brothers who both need so much care.

Yet through it all, BrandiLee and Dan keep pushing forward, always fighting for Finn. Always hoping that they will wake up and this will all be a terrible nightmare. And that’s what they will continue to do. Every single day. Every hour. Every minute. Fight and hope—knowing that God is sovereign and is at work in Finn’s life and in theirs.

***** UPDATE *****

On Monday, October 22, Finn underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic to remove two new tumors in his abdomen. When Finn's surgeons opened him up, they discovered that the cancer had spread everyone in his abdomen, covering scar tissue, muscle and organs. The doctors could not perform the surgery as hoped. To have done so would have risked catastrophic bleeding and collatoral damage that would have meant a much longer recovery. 

The Schafrans are now in a race against time. They are still praying for a miracle, still hoping for some helpful treatment for this evil disease. They will be at the Mayo Clinic long enough for Finn to recover from the surgery and then their plan is to return home to Tennessee. 


So, how can you help the Schafrans? You can pray. For God’s mercy on this beautiful family. For their marriage. For their three beautiful sons. For a cure for Finn and every child fighting rhabdo. For encouragement and hope. And for peace.

And you can give. By sharing this page. By donating any amount—no gift is too small. By leaving a message of encouragement. And if you are local, by stopping by their home or the hospital with a coffee and an hour to listen. 

Help us love them and support them. Help them not to have to worry about money for Finn's care. Help BrandiLee not to have to think about cleaning her home at this time. Help them pay for babysitters and extra hands to make their lives just a little bit easier. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for giving. 

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters." —1 John 3:16

For regular updates on Finn’s story, go to

[Photos by Crystal Freemon Photography]



  • Matt Ho
    • $20 
    • 5 yrs

Organizer and beneficiary

Jennifer Maynard Gingerich
Franklin, TN
Daniel Schafran

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