"For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living." Psalm 116:8&9

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Unexpected Response

I so desperately want to share with you what God did in my heart during the time between William's biopsy and when we got the second opinion back that his tumor was benign. It is not a pretty story. In fact, it is the darkest time I have ever experienced. And it is not an easy thing to share - no one wants to admit their weaknesses. Hopefully, this will all make sense...

When Barry was in the hospital and in the days after he passed away, I had never felt so loved and covered by God. I realize that may sound crazy, but it is true. In the weeks prior to his death, God had stripped me down and revealed a major idol in my life that I had been blind to. It was excruciating, but God was showing me through the pain just how much better He was than even the best things in my life. As I said goodbye to the man I loved most in the world, I felt the arms of God wrap tightly around me and carry me through everything. Please don't misunderstand - the grief was incredibly painful. During those first few days, it was not my goal to make it through the day or even the next hour. I was just trying to survive the next five minutes. But in that pain, I knew God was there, helping me breathe, helping me hold on. I wasn't angry. I did not doubt that he loved me. I knew He was taking care of me.  

As the weeks and months passed, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the generous way that God was working in my heart and life. I was confident in Him and His plan for me. I faced a lot of challenges in the months since losing Barry, but God has protected me and continued to carry me through them. So, when William fractured his leg, I wasn't afraid or overwhelmed. I knew God would take care of him. And when the cast came off and the doctor told me there was a tumor, I wasn't afraid. I knew God would take care of him. And when William had his MRI, I wasn't afraid. I knew God would take care of him. But when the oncologist started talking about cancer and chemo, the fear came rushing in. To be honest, it was specifically when they told me about putting in the port for future treatment that I began to really be afraid.  

I don't think any parent is surprised that I was afraid. And I wasn't embarrassed to admit that I was afraid. But lurking underneath the fear was something that I did not want to admit was there. Not to myself or anyone else. I was angry.  

It had been nine months since Barry had died. Nine months. We were getting ready for Christmas. Christmas was supposed to be hard - it was our first Christmas without Barry. It was not supposed to be hard for fear of cancer in my 4-year-old. I spent a lot of Christmas wondering if it would be my first without my husband and my last with my son. Hadn't I suffered enough? Sure, I knew that life would have more suffering, but could it wait a little while? Like another month? Year? Decade? A very quiet anger was gnawing at my soul.  

But I didn't want to admit I was angry. Because I knew where that anger came from and I hated its source. My anger came from the sin of entitlement. I felt entitled to a little peace and comfort. Not comfort in the way most see comfort. Not in money or things. But I did feel entitled to the comfort that comes from not being in the middle of grief and crisis for a season. And I asked the question that I hated myself for asking, "Does God really love me?" Because, in the midst of my anger and pain, I doubted His love. What a slap in the face to the God whose very nature is the definition of love. Thankfully, He's big enough to face my ridiculous, insulting questions.  

God, being rich in mercy, only allowed me to think my son had cancer for three days. I know there is much more going on than what I can see right now. God has been working all of this for His glory and for our good. One thing I do know, one of the reasons He allowed for us to have to wait on biopsy results and then receive bad results was to show me some areas of sin that needed to be removed from my heart. And as painful and ugly as it has been, I am thankful that He didn't just allow me to stay stagnant in my sin. That's real love...

On the night the oncologist called to tell me the tumor was benign, I was on my way to have dinner with two of my closets friends. I called them on the way there to tell them the good news. We met. We celebrated. We had a good time. But they were confused by my countenance. I wasn't bubbly, excited and cheerful. I was thankful and relieved. But I was also very aware of what I desperately needed to do next. I needed to fall on my knees, confess the sin that was torturing me and allow God to heal me of it. It was not exactly what you would expect a response to such sweet news to be.  

So why am I telling you this? My pride would much rather me keep it to myself. But I know two things: First, there is freedom in honesty and confession. I do not need to confess my sin to you. But in letting light in on the dark parts of my heart, I continue to put sin to death and heal. Secondly, what I have faced in the last 10 months is nothing compared to what others face. Yes, I am a widow. Yes, we face some challenges. But so many people out there face so much more. And so many face tragedy without the hope and love found in Jesus.  

So, for those of you out there just trying to make it through the next five minutes...
For those who are angry...
For those who feel abandoned and alone...
For those who wonder, "Does God really love me?"...

He loves you. He sees your pain. He knows your fears. He knows your sin. And He loves you. We are not entitled to anything but death and separation from Him. But God, being rich in mercy, gave us Jesus and salvation. Trust in the cross. Find your comfort in the cross. Find your confidence in the cross. If you look to the cross, you will find all you need.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I LOVE YOU." (emphasis mine)
Isaiah 43:1-4

Friday, January 7, 2011

William in November

On November 2, William fractured his femur. On December 3, his orthopedic specialist told me he had developed a tumor that we needed to see an oncologist about. On December 13, we met with the oncologist who told me he was "very concerned" and wanted William to have an MRI. On December 14, William was put under general anesthesia and had an MRI. On December 18, the oncologist scheduled a biopsy to determine if the tumor was benign or malignant. On December 22, William again underwent general anesthesia to have the biopsy. If the tumor was malignant, a pediatric surgeon would place a port in William's chest for future treatment. The biopsy result were inconclusive, so we waited for 7 days for results.  

On December 28, we met with William's oncologist for the results of the biopsy. By this time, I was in a very dark place. I suspected the tumor was malignant. The pathology report told us that William had osteosarcoma, bone cancer. I was absolutely heart broken. Nine months earlier, my husband had died. Now, the doctor was telling me my son had cancer. Really?!?! My mind immediately clicked into action mode. Time to fight. But the doctor wanted a second opinion. For some reason, he was skeptical of the diagnosis. He sent everything to the Mayo Clinic and told us to wait another (ANOTHER!) week for the results.  

On December 30, at 6pm, my phone rang. It was the oncologist. The second pathology report had just come in and William did not have bone cancer! He told me we would meet the next week to discuss treatment.  
William has heterotopic ossification. When he fractured his femur, his body responded to the trauma by producing bone where there should not be bone. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to treat it for the next 12-18 months. If we tried to remove it during that time, it would just come back. So we wait. For a year. Then, William will have surgery to remove all of the new/unwanted bone.  

After being told your son has cancer, I think they could have told me that he had an alien living inside his leg and I would have been overjoyed.  I am thankful.  Thankful that he doesn't need a port and chemo. Thankful that we don't have to fight cancer. Thankful that God heard the prayers of hundreds of people and had compassion on us.  

During the last year I have become very confident in two things: First, my God is big and he is generous. He is sovereign over all that has happened and generous to walk through it all with us. He gives strength to face challenges and brings healing.  Second, my little man is a fighter. During the next year, he will continue to have trouble walking, running and playing like most kids. But he will face those challenges with joy and determination.  

William's teacher emailed me on Thursday to tell me about William's week. She shared the following with me:
"I wanted to tell you the story, so you know how “determined” your little daredevil is….  He was trying to climb the rock wall at recess on Tues but was having trouble pushing himself up with his hurt leg.  I was standing behind him in case he fell.  It seemed as though his injured leg didn’t have the strength to lift him up so I helped him down and suggested he wait a couple weeks and let his leg heal a little more.  Before I knew it, he was headed up the wall again.  I positioned myself behind him (I am a bit of a nervous Nelly!) but did not help.  He climbed all the way to the top with a big smile on his face. J  He was not about to let his leg get in the way of reaching his goal."

Thank you for walking this crazy journey with us. Thank you for your prayers for William - God heard and answered so generously. Please continue to pray for us. Pray for William's tumor to shrink in size. Pray for him to adapt well. Pray for our hearts as we continue to grieve the loss of Barry and walk this road without him. We all miss him so much. Pray against fear.

We will continue to learn to walk in the land of the living... laughing at the irony of it all.