Meridian Star

May 5, 2013

Beating the odds

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Ca'Zaundria "Zai Zai" Holder is 16 years old.

    To many people that may not seem like a big deal but to Holder's family it is huge considering in August of last year the young woman was not expected to reach this milestone.

    But there she was Saturday at a big birthday party, a "Sweet 16 Gospel Bash" in Cuba, Ala,, surrounded by friends and family who were celebrating along with her.

    "She loves Gospel music," said her mother, Cassandria Clemons. "Whenever the singing starts she just smiles and moves with the music."

    Zai Zai has been in a battle with a brain tumor, metabolic myopathy and mitochondrial disease. She also was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was six months old. Despite all she has been up against in her short life, she has fought through all of it to get to this point.

    Clemons, who has seven other children, said the family used to be prepared for the inevitable. But as her daughter kept hanging in to fight, the family has rallied around her even more than before. Clemons believes God has created this "little miracle" as Zai Zai is sometimes called, in order to bring the family closer. She believes God told her one day when Holder was having an especially tough time, "You haven't seen anything yet."

    "We can never know what God's intentions are," Clemons said. "We just have to accept what days he gives us and those around us who we love. We have been taking each day with Zai Zai and rejoicing in her still being here with us."

    Clemons said her daughter has her good days and bad. But no matter what, Clemons said she talks to her daughter as much as possible. Clemons said others in and around the family do their parts as well.

    "Zai Zai has really good grandparents, my parents, who have been strong supporters," Clemons said. "There is also her stepfather and a lady in Quitman, Helen Conner, who just fell in love with Zai Zai. She calls Zai Zai every day."

    Zai Zai can't speak very much any more. But she communicates with her eyes. Clemons knows those looks, those winks and the way her daughter bats her eyes. They are in tune with each other.

    Clemons isn't blind to what lays ahead for her daughter. She will not contemplate a time table being placed on her daughter again. Zai Zai has proven, with what Clemons credits along with the grace of God, that she can outlast the prognosticators.

    "Just as God has brought our family closer, He has also created a miracle in Zai Zai," Clemons said. "Now that she has turned 16, we will continue to cherish every moment with her that He will let us have."