Wendy is done with chemo. Done with chemo. Done with cancer.
Tomorrow she goes in for an EKG, CT scan, bone scan and x-rays. She will have these scans every three months for the next year, every six months the next year, then every year after that for the rest of her life.
Did I say she was done with cancer? Well, done with treatment.
A few months ago I was looking forward to this season being over; to chemo being done; to Wendy being strong and well; to returning to a “normal” life. But then my mind moved to the scans…to the next step after chemo. Scans every three months… My heart wrestled with the meaning of those words. Scans every three months for a year.
I had been so eagerly looking forward to the end of chemo. Looking forward to April, when treatments are over and we will walk through a different door, close that door and leave this challenge behind us. But as I thought about those words – “scans every three months” – it hit me that cancer and all that Wendy has experienced isn’t something we just leave behind us.
The cancer could come back.
I had to say the words with difficulty and out loud to Chris. I needed to say it to prepare myself for the possibility. I am not expecting doom. Yes, cancer could return and I need to be prepared for that possiblity or maybe we just have this experience and need to use it to help others going through it. But whatever it looks like, cancer is not something we will just walk away from.
How do I pray for Wendy…for all of my children?
Do I pray that cancer and side effects of chemo will not linger? Yes…but I have been praying that for many children I have gotten to know since September…and some of those children have died.
Did God not listen?
Did God not care about the suffering of those children or their parents and siblings?
What is it I am praying for in my children?
To pray that they will not be taken from me seems selfish. It is about my pain.
To pray that they will not experience sickness and pain – as difficult as those are, those experiences are inevitable and shape us – can shape us into great people.
I do pray the cancer is gone, never to return. But other parents prayed the same thing on the 9th floor of Children’s. During our hospital stays I would walk the floor, look at the names of the children behind the doors and pray for each of them. On one of our visits , the day after I did my normal prayer walk, one of the little girls died.
Was my prayer heard?
Yes, God heard my prayer. God is bigger than death.
So how do I pray?
I pray my children will each have a powerful purpose-filled life and will be filled with joy. I know with God this can be accomplished across a life span of 9 hours or 90 years.
So I walk through this life holding my children up with open hands. This can hurt, this is hard. These pains challenge and hurt my heart. They stretch my heart. I can let my stretched heart droop and drag my life down or I can circle it around more people.
Scans every three months means that we will not just walk away from cancer. But it does not mean I have to fear.
Scans every three months, then every six months, then every year means that we will always have connections with other families going through this difficult time. It means watching Wendy grow into womanhood, reaching out and caring for others in ways most kids will never understand. It means we can praise God through every scan. It means we can always be reminded to trust in our Heavenly Father who has great plans and purpose for us and who fills our lives with joy.
Chris here. Julie wrote out the post above in her diary and asked me to type it for her…since her left arm is currently broken. I want to take a moment to emphasize some of the thoughts she shared above that impacted me as I typed. God heard my prayers for Victor. But Victor died. God heard my prayers for Johnny. But Johnny died. God heard my prayers for Ameera. God saw Wendy take her balloons. God knew she was in isolation in her hospital room for 9 months, even on her birthday. God knew when they took her to the PICU. God was there when she hosted a nail salon. And God knows what happened to her next, we do not. But we are pretty sure.
So what happened? What happened to the infant who was born with a bad heart whose grandfather I met on the elevator? What happened to the infant who could not take a breath without assistance after we prayed with his parents next to the parking garage elevator?
I don’t know.
I will probably never know.
Julie and I tend to write about our “feels”. It feels like God didn’t answer our prayer. And that hurts.
It hurts a lot. It hurts to meet these children. To see them bored in a hospital bed for weeks at a time, receiving treatment that knocks down their immune systems, being hospitalized because of their weakened immune systems and recovering just in time for more treatment. It hurts to listen to the stories of desperate parents. Parents who have been told that their child’s brain tumor is terminal.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised! Bless the Lord, O my soul! “For I know the plans I have for you”, says the lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” How do I reconcile my belief in future prosperity provided by God when I watch a 9 year old child die?
Do I simply say “Thank God” when my 9 year old is spared?
That does not feel right.
Do I thank God or don’t I?
Is the Lord Great or isn’t He?
I was entirely blind to pediatric oncology before Wendy was diagnosed. It’s not that I didn’t care. It’s that I had no idea. And now that I have seen…now that I have experienced…now that I have felt it, I know I have a new purpose.
We will continue to serve families in need. We will continue to pray. We will continue to comfort. We will continue to listen and share. Because that’s where God put us. That’s what God called us to do.
But what God did not call me to do is to question him on why one person lives and another person dies. God did not call me to audit His answers to my prayers. Jesus summarized our purpose on Earth simply. Love God and serve people.
I feel the loss of friends. And that is a big feel. But I have faith and hope in an eternity that surpasses the loss. One day my faith and hope will be gone and I will be left only with love.
It is not about the feels. It is about love.