Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Tamela, Demario Davis share how God worked through daughter's bout with eye cancer

Demario Davis’ public image is on display for thousands to see on Sundays as he anchors the New Orleans Saints defense from his middle linebacker position. But fewer fans know what he and his wife, Tamela, have quietly endured behind the closed doors of hospital rooms amid the chaos and noise of 2020.

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In May, Demario and Tamela brought their youngest daughter of four children, Carly-Faith, to the hospital in their hometown of Nashville due to a slight glint in her left eye. Soon, what was supposed to be a one-hour appointment turned into nine. The conclusion at the end of that marathon of a day was one that every parents dreads: cancer.

Specifically, Carly-Faith was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in her left eye, a rare form of eye cancer which had progressed to its highest stage. Carly-Faith, only nine months old at the time, was already blind in that eye and immediate surgery was scheduled.

The surgery left Carly-Faith with bandages around where her eye should have been. For weeks, the Davis family sought to come to terms with the fact that their future depended on the results of a few tests.

Yet in late July, Tamela posted on her personal blog, The F Word, that the cancer hadn’t spread to Carly-Faith’s brain or right eye and no chemotherapy was needed. Carly-Faith was cancer-free.

It was a whirlwind trial for the Davis family, and one in which Tamela said she saw God at work as clearly as she ever had.

 

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In a recent episode of the “Recalibrated” podcast with Mallory Brown — which debuts Thursday as part of the Sports Spectrum Podcast Network — Tamela spent much of her time detailing the trial and what God was doing in the midst of overwhelming pain and uncertainty.

“(After being told of Carly-Faith’s diagnosis,) I remember my body literally starting to weaken. Tears started to fall and I was weakening from my head down to the tip of my toes,” Tamela said on the podcast. “… Before I could get my first question out, I felt God strengthen me from the bottom of my toes back up to my head.”

She added, “As we began to journey through this, I felt His presence. I felt myself clinging onto so many of His promises. Like, so much of His Word started to make even more sense than it already made in my life.

“It was like, ‘God, I’m not going to question You. I’m not going to doubt You. You are still on the throne. You are still who You say You are, and I believe that and I am going to press into that. I don’t know what this journey is going to look like. I don’t know if she’ll lose her eye or if she will lose her life, but whatever it is that You have during this season of life — whatever this trial may be — I am going to walk boldly and courageously through that trusting and believing in You. Trusting and believing in Your Word and promises and knowing that at the end of the day, regardless of how this story ends, I will still give You the ultimate glory. The enemy will not win.”

Demario carried a big, black study Bible with him into the hospital on the day of Carly-Faith’s surgery. The couple made sure to talk to the doctors about their faith in God and belief in His power for miracles. They prayed with every doctor and nurse. As Tamela explained, sometimes even strangers noticed Demario’s and Tamela’s faith and paid a visit of encouragement.

“[Carly-Faith’s cancer diagnosis] has opened up so many windows and doors for us to share,” Tamela said on the podcast. “… We were able to represent Christ and present Him to other people. Had that not happened, we wouldn’t have encountered these people or the different opportunities we’ve had to just share her story.”

Carly-Faith is now back home in Nashville with a prosthetic eye and her same cheerful spirit.

Carly-Faith’s father is now back at work, leading his New Orleans Saints to a 7-2 record through Week 10 in 2020 and first place in the NFC South. Coming off a 2019 season in which Davis earned a first-team All-Pro selection, he again leads his team with 59 combined tackles for a defense that is giving up the fourth fewest yards per game (308.2).

And even as his team chases a Super Bowl appearance that has eluded them the past few years, Davis can be found flying home after every home game to be with his family and, especially, Carly-Faith.

Saints owner Mickey Loomis and head coach Sean Payton worked with the NFL behind the scenes to ensure that Davis could make the trip without being in violation of the NFL’s coronavirus protocol.

Tamela and Demario, a frequent contributor to The Increase and a well-documented believer who helped to start the “Man of God” headband trend, know that good is not guaranteed in a relationship with Christ. Yet when good comes, His glory shines all the brighter.

“Not all things will be good, but they will work out for His good,” Tamela said on the podcast. “It’s just showing how much grace God has and how He’s able to restore and how He’s able to redeem. And whatever it is that we’re walking through in life, He can work it out for good. Not that it will all be good, but it will work out for the good. In that, it gives Him an opportunity to display who He is. It gives us an opportunity to speak our experience how God has walked us through whatever trial or whatever trauma we’re going through, and I think the world is just really able to see His goodness, see His grace, see His mercy and see how something that could be deemed the worst of the worst can work out for the good.”

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