(Family Picture Taken in September -two weeks before diagnosis)
When we first received the diagnosis of cancer for CJ, I immediately remembered a friend who had recently battled breast cancer. I remembered the news of her cancer spreading fast and her saying she felt the need to be selective about who she shared the experience with. Who she 'allowed in' so to speak. I understood, agreed with and respected her decision. I was blessed to be of those she allowed in. I share this with you to say that in my overwhelmed state of receiving the diagnosis for CJ, I told God I was going to be selective too. I decided I would walk through this selfishly choosing who I would let in and what was best for me. I knew as soon as I said it something was amiss. Little did I know at that time that He would be calling us to live this out in the open before the world. I could not have fathomed doing this and putting our lives out here like this at that time. I assure you it has been selective, but it has been Gods select, not mine! We are amazed at how many people CJ has touched and thankful for those of you who have prayed for us and for those who have shared with us how this has affected or encouraged you. Your testimonies cast light on the mountainsides as we walk through this dark valley, and it draws our attention upward.
We have been asked by many of you about our family and the prayer needs for each of us. We are humbled that you are willing to pray for us as we battle this cancer in our home and in our lives. As most of you know, we are a homeschooling family of 6. Alibrandi is our oldest and only daughter who is 12. CJ is 9, Brett is 6 and Corey is 1. Our biggest challenge as a family has been trying to balance the needs of each child while still making the right decisions for CJ. We are trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in all of this, yet coming to realize that we have a new 'normal' and it is just taking time to adjust to it. CJ's health concerns require much of our attention but we also have concerns about the other three children. We have to be in tune to how this is affecting them, how to discern their needs and provide them with a sense of stability throughout this ordeal. We have been offered all types of resources, programs and counseling to assist the siblings. This only reiterates to us how damaging this can be for some families. We are learning that many children suffer life long and sometimes delayed symptoms as a result of this. We are grateful for all the programs available to us and may find ourselves taking advantage of some of them in the future but we strongly believe our greatest resource in this is prayer. So we humbly yet boldly ask for these specific areas of prayer for the siblings of CJ as well as ourselves.
Alibrandi has been a complete blessing to our family. She is everything I have ever hoped to be and she is only 12. She is God fearing, obedient, quiet, gentle, honest, faithful, submissive, pure, and silly! She is a product of God's amazing grace in my life and evidence that He gives you way more than you deserve. Her faith and witness and dedication to God's word astound me. She has faithfully read God's word daily for four years. Daily for four years! She has never missed a day! That is incomprehensible to me and I live with her. I sometimes look at her and think, "Who is this young girl and where did she come from?" Certainly not from some broken vessel like me! I was always thankful for her but I am even more thankful now. I remember once wondering why God gave me a girl first. I thought it would be good for her to have an 'older brother'. I don't question anything anymore. His ways are perfect and beyond figuring out. And having her through this trial has helped our family immensely. She never complains about anything we ask her to do. She completes her school on her own and on time. She is a huge help with her 3 little brothers and has been so kind to CJ. She has faith in his healing and has a quiet trust in God I wish I could grasp. Although I trust in God, mine is much more vocal and I seem to wrestle for every ounce of ground I gain. She just accepts and steps forward. The main thing I sense in her at this time is the need to do some of the things that she enjoys outside the home. One of the things she is passionate about is horses. Therefore, we have tried to be intentional about taking her out to be around horses whenever possible. This provides her with a form of release and she is able focus on something other than school and doctors appointments. My prayers for her are endless as my only daughter but I would ask for specific prayer for her that she would be open with us about her needs as they arise and that she would be strengthened as her responsibilities have increased due to this new 'normal' we are experiencing.
Brett is our 6 year old. Although Brett is our fun loving, carefree, non-stop, playful child, he seems to be struggling more than any of the other children. When we first settled back home from the hospital he had long bouts of crying tears that just flowed and flowed. No explanation, just tears and aching sobs. Chris and I just sensed a need for him to 'get it out'. He is at a tender age that is too young to fully grasp everything that is happening, but old enough to know something is wrong. He hears the conversations, hears the prayers. sees the tears and then has to comprehend all he takes in. He told me recently he did not want his brother to have cancer anymore because he wants to be able to play and wrestle and do all the fun things they used to do together. The changes in our home and lives have been more of a noticeable disruption to his routine than any of the other kids. The crying spells have eased but we still see he is easily overwhelmed and has difficulty communicating what he is feeling. Therefore, our prayer requests for him would be that he is able to communicate effectively all that he is feeling even if he does not understand it himself.
Corey is our busy and engaging 1 year old who needs constant supervision. He is in the full throws of obedience training at this age and that takes time, focus and patience on my part that is not as available as it was for the others. My prayer request for him would be that he would have an obedient spirit and a patient mommy. I must add that as challenging as he is, he is an unbelievable gift to our family at this time. He has the luxury to not have a clue that his brother is sick and just goes about life as a normal one year old. It is a blessing to have this little person who is clueless and carefree in regards to cancer in our home at all times. His ignorance is like a breath of fresh air when the tension sets in.
CJ has done amazingly well throughout this beginning phase of his treatment. We credit that completely to the Lord and to your diligence in prayer for him. He is able to complete his school work and his devotions and spend time enjoying the outdoors when his energy level allows. We have seen an increase in his obedience as well as a more playful spirit. We realize much of this has to do with not being in the amount of pain he was in prior to his diagnosis. Our hope and prayer is that he would remain strong and pain free. Our prayer needs are for continued healing of the cancer cells and continued health and protection against illness. We have recently become more aware about the risk to his internal organs from all the chemo he is receiving so we ask for specific prayer for his heart, liver and kidneys to remain unaffected and protected from the chemo. Please add this specific request to your prayers for CJ.
Chris is the amazing leader and provider of this family and home. He is my best friend and has been the love of my life since I was about 9 years old. It took him about 10 extra years to catch on but he finally did. He is the greatest gift God ever gave me besides giving me his own Son. One saved me from eternal death and the other from self destruction. Any and every good thing produced in me has come from those two men. He has an amazing burden on his shoulders in the area of responsibility to leading a wife and shepherding four children and I sense that it has increased tremendously since CJ got sick. My prayer for him would be that he realize the burden rests on God and not him. That he would always remember that God's yoke is easy and His burden is light. It is only when we try to rest it on our own shoulders that it becomes too heavy. In light of a phone call he received from the doctor today, I would also ask that you pray for his wisdom and discernment in decisions that need to be made in regards to CJ's treatment. The phone call notified us of more changes being made to CJ's treatment plans including squeezing in two more Spinal Taps and Chemo injections in the next 10 days beginning tomorrow. As well as a possible change in protocol for future phases of CJ's treatment. We pray these changes are God's leading and will bring about a better end result for CJ in regards to recovery and relapse as well as protection from toxicity. We ask that God give us peace in accepting these changes and wisdom to know when to resist them.
As for me, I just pray that God would equip me to be the mother and wife He would have for this family and home. My life is at His disposal. I have always dreamed that one day I would bow before Him and hear ,"Well done my faithful servant." I can never seem to add the word 'good' in there as the scriptures do. The word good does not belong to me, but if I could just stand before him faithful........Dayenu. (it would have been enough).
Thank you for your prayers. Your prayers for our family have surrounded us and hedged us in on all sides. I used to think the calm I felt was the eye of the storm but now it seems it is the wall of prayer that is surrounding us, strengthening us, and protecting us in the storm.
"Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place."
2 Chronicles 6:40