Sunday, December 27, 2009

I Want To Be A Separatist


Merry Christmas to all of our friends and family who so faithfully follow CJ's story here in the blog we have kept for him since he was diagnosed with cancer back on September 2008. We are so grateful that so many continue in steadfast prayer and encouragement for him and our family. It is your love, encouragement and willingness to help carry our burden that has enabled us to extend that care and help carry the burden for others going through this.

I pray that somehow in all the business of the season, the demands for your time and energy, and the temptation to get caught up in the routine of it all, you were able to remain focused on the only lasting gift we will receive at this time of year. One of the things I reminded my kids this year on Christmas morning right before we set out to wake up the baby and begin our Christmas morning routine and eventually tear into the presents awaiting them, was that every gift they were about to open would eventually ruin. Most would be gone by the end of the year even.....broken, lost, rusted, replaced. But the true gift of Christmas....The fact that God sent His Son to earth in human form to live and die for us would never ruin. It is ours to keep...forever!

I had personally lost focus of the joy of that gift as I was overwhelmed by pain from the loss I had recently experienced. I was focusing on what was taken from me and continuing to be taken from so many families I continue to meet that I had to cry out like the Psalmist, "Restore me to the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing Spirit to sustain me." Psalm 51:12. And He did that by providing families for us to serve. It wasn't what I expected when I asked for joy, but I realized quickly it was exactly what I needed.

Last year at this time, CJ was so freshly diagnosed and we were still so uncertain of so much of our future, that I remember just staring at him as he opened his presents and thinking 'what if this is his last Christmas with us.' I wanted to engrave that morning on my heart and mind forever. I would never have dreamed that it wasn't CJ I would lose within that year, but my father instead to a tragic and premature death. I would never have dreamed that the Lord would use those experiences one year later to allow our family the privilege to serve other families facing that same deep pain and fear of losing someone they love.

The Lord brought two families to our attention. One we met in Orlando back in September on our family cancer camp trip. You may remember seven year old Andrew Broomfield from a previous blog, who is currently on hospice at this stage in his battle. He is at home awaiting the healing that will come, whether it is here on earth through a miraculous healing, or in Heaven when he stands healed before the Lord. Then, the week before Christmas, the Lord brought us a sweet 5 year old little girl named Mackenzie who has just experienced a relapse of cancer to her lungs that has left her with minimal treatment options available. Thankfully, I was reminded today that the Lord doesn't have 'minimal treatment options' available to Him. (Thank you Katrina for that reminder!)

We were privileged to be able to provide these families with Christmas gifts for their children as well as monetary blessings and gift cards we collected on their behalf through our non-profit organization we began back in the summer. What I thought was us blessing them really served to bless us and everyone involved in making it all possible. I saw it on the faces of the people who helped wrap, deliver and donate to these families. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive and you will never experience the blessing and healing that come from it unless you get out there and start giving so that you can receive.

On Christmas Eve our family drove to Lake Worth to deliver the gifts to Mackenzie's family. Her mother Sue asked me how I am able to do this while I am still going through it with my own son and I am sad to say I was so caught off guard by her question that I did not really have an answer. I think I mumbled something about it helping us focus on others instead of ourselves. But I have thought about that question a lot since then and the only answer is... The Lord! There is no explanation for what we have done. When I look back over this month He is the only explanation. My children and I have all been sick the entire time. Really sick! We have been completely heartbroken and grieved over the loss of Poppa Jerry. We have been through loss and pain that is overwhelming at times. Yet God still brought these families to us and asked us to provide for them and assured us He would provide the strength to do it. What I did not realize when He asked this of us was that it was a precious gift to our family and a part of our healing.

He allowed me to be sick so I would have to depend on others for help. As a large group of volunteers sat on my floor and wrapped presents for a few hours last week I realized I could never have done this alone. My head was so clogged I could barely think straight. It kept me very humble throughout the entire time. When I calculated all that came in for these families with one simple plea for help...I was overwhelmed at what can be done to help others who are suffering. Thank you to EVERYONE who helped make this Christmas a blessing for these two families. We are humbled and grateful to have been a small part of what you did!

Recently, CJ said something funny while we were driving back from an event and talking about all we had to do to meet the needs of these families and organize the gift collecting, wrapping and fund-raising. He was in the back seat and he said, "Mommy, I want to be a separatist for you." I asked him what he meant and he said, "You know, help with phone calls, and take notes and help you." It took a minute to realize he meant to say "secretary". We all got a laugh at that and then we reminded him what a separatist was and talked a little about the Puritans of the 1600's. Then it hit me that in many ways that is really what he already is. A separatist! I guess we are all separatists in God's economy. It's just a matter of sides. We are either separated from God by our sins or separated from the curse of sin and death through Christ.

Before...
"...remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12)
After...
"For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
"Therefore come out from them
and be separate, says the Lord...
...I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.""(2 Cor6:17)

My little separatist will bring in the New Year with chemotherapy. That is right! He has a spinal tap, intrathecal, and chemotherapy on New Years Eve. We pray that all goes well and he is able to be home early enough to rebound enough to enjoy the evening with his family and friends. We are thankful for his continued progress and boldly ask for your continued prayers. CJ has been sick for some time now with a steady cold and some sporadic vomiting that we believe is related to the cold and not a result of the medicines or cancer. But we need him to get better so he can tolerate the chemotherapy and continue to fight the battle within. We desperately need overall healing in our home. We have been dealing with illnesses and severe colds since September.

As the new year approaches I can't help but look back at all this year brought into our lives. We are so saddened by the pain of loss we experienced this year personally and the loss we witnessed again and again in the world of childhood cancer. "Yet we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." (Romans 5:2-5) I pray that no matter what you have experienced this year you too can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God! If you are able to do that, then you just may be a separatist too!



Stockings, Cards and Presents Collected for the hospital





Volunteers Wrapping for Mackenzie's family




Mackenzie with CJ and Allie and her sister Alicia






CBC and the Miami Dade Mortgage Fraud Task Force with Andrew


My beautiful babies on Christmas morning
CJ Corey Alibrandi and Brett

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Vote For CJ!


Vote for CJ!
(See bottom of this post!)


Here's a tip..... The next time your kid has a chemotherapy appointment coming up...be sure you don't mention it to him until the last possible moment!

We told CJ he had his chemotherapy and spinal tap appointment yesterday to prepare him for today and it basically ruined two days for him instead of one. The closer the day drew to a close and the closer the appointment drew near, the more he sulked. He did not want to go. Understandable! We tried to reassure him. We reasoned that it was Thursday instead of his usual Friday appointment and that would allow for him to have a longer weekend and recoup in time for his first Flag Football game this Saturday. We told him he would get to see the nurses he has not seen in so long and maybe some of the kids. None of that seemed to work.

When it came time to put CJ's numbing creme on his port before we left the house so he would be good and numb when they accessed him for chemo he really became uncooperative. He complained about the tape and how much it itches. So we used press-n-seal instead and he complained about that. I wish I could say I gently came along side my son, reassured him, and prayed with him. But I didn't! Instead I told him, "Fine! Go without the creme and see how that goes over when it is time to access you." He scowled at me.
"It itches!" he whined.
"No it doesn't!" I countered.
"How would you know?" he challenged.
And that was it.....I ripped open the press and seal and start sticking it all over my chest as well. His eyes revealed his pleasure at that even though his scowl remained.

It is so difficult having a child you feel sorry for because they have to endure all of this and yet you can not allow disrespect or disobedience because you are still training them. It's easy to think that since they have cancer they get a free pass on attitude and disrespect and responsibility but it doesn't work that way unless we want to pay a huge price later. I have actually had other cancer moms warn me, "Whatever you do, don't stop training them! We created a monster and now that it is over we don't know what to do." I certainly don't want to create a monster and yet I certainly don't want to have to spank my child right before heading out the door to chemotherapy.

I know...I know...you all probably think we are crazy or at the very least, cruel. My mom will be calling to let me have it before she even finishes reading this post. Just so you know mom, it was daddy who almost had to do the correcting. Lucky for CJ, Daddy's a lot more patient than me. I am gald to say that instead of spanking, we resorted to reminding CJ about some of the kids we have met recently, like little Andrew! I told CJ to consider what Andrew and his family would give to be ABLE to go to chemotherapy and have a fighting chance against this disease. Then I reminded him of 9 year old Truman who just had his leg amputated in an effort to save his life. What would he give for chemotherapy to be enough to eradicate his cancer? I know comparing others problems doesn't eliminate our own, but it does help put things in perspective a little sometimes. After thinking about these other children, CJ seemed to soften a bit. Plus I think he liked the idea that I had tape all over my chest too.

Anyway, once CJ and I got under way things eased up and within about 10 minutes I could see more than just the back of his head. He did well with his nurse and the port access and the spinal tap. It was a long day but Chris brought our other three kids up to the hospital and that was nice. It was good for all the kids to be there again. This has become so much a routine in our lives that I worry they will minimize the significance of it all. Being there surrounded by all the kids that are struggling and fighting this disease really helps keep things in perspective for us.

CJ is doing well and not reacting too badly to the chemo. He did well with the spinal tap. He got the itchy face he always has to deal with and a headache which is common after a spinal, but other than that he seems okay. His CBC (blood counts) were in a fair range so he is not increasing his meds or decreasing them at this time. He is at about 75% dosing. They like to try to work them up to 100% dosing while keeping the counts in a good range but for now we will hold where we are. Today he starts his monthly steroid regiment and that should help boost his counts a bit as well as his appetite!

Thank you for all the prayers and we ask that you continue to pray for his continued healing.

We also want to ask a favor. Would you please take one minute to Vote for CJ on the C.O.L.E. Foundation website. (See link below.) They are having a Christmas Cash Giveaway to the kid with cancer that gets the most votes before December 15th. So hurry and get your vote in and spread the word to all your friends. It is very easy to do. Just enter your email address (they only allow one vote per email and this is how they keep track of who votes) and select CJ George from the long list of cancer kids. I must warn you the list is a little depressing to see but it is a reality. All these kids are fighting cancer. I am sure it will be great for whoever wins but we would love CJ to see how many people support him and vote for him.



Thank you again for your prayers and support. Keep praying for CJ's continued physical battle and the spiritual one as well. The enemy wants this boy my friends. I can tell you that boldly and confidently as his mother. He has tried to destroy him in more ways than one but we are not going to give up or give him a foothold in his life. Thankfully, the enemy is no match for the One we serve.

"The enemy boasted,
'I will pursue, I will overtake them.
I will divide the spoils;
I will gorge myself on them.
I will draw my sword
and my hand will destroy them.'

But you blew with your breath,
and the sea covered them.
They sank like lead
in the mighty waters.

"Who among the gods is like you, O LORD ?
Who is like you—
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?

You stretched out your right hand
and the earth swallowed them.

In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling."

(Exodus 15:9-13)





Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Real World

After two weekends in a row attending family cancer camps in Orlando, we are now back home and attempting to settle in to everyday life. We spent the last two weekends with other Florida families who are also battling childhood cancer. We laughed with them, cried with them, played with them, and prayed with them. We feel at home with them because we understand their world and they understand ours. However, as similar as all of our stories and lives are, they are also uniquely distinct because of the vastness of this disease and this creates an unexplainable gap that is impossible to close.

As we arrived home after the first weekend, I looked at Chris and remarked, "Well here we are, back to the real world".....and then it dawned on me....,"Or was what we just left the real world?".....then I became confused......,"Or is the real world somewhere in between?"

We almost canceled these previously scheduled trips after my father passed so suddenly but after rethinking it and realizing the kids would need it now more than ever, we moved forward with them. I was a little nervous about how refreshing spending the weekend with families who have children battling cancer at varying degrees would be, but felt that even the time away from home and the everyday routine was very needed and would bless our family.

The first weekend was particularly refreshing because we were assigned three family pals that assisted our family the entire weekend, (ie: played with the kids)! This allowed for Chris and I to get some rare small bursts of free time together and take walks and have talks that were very needed. We met a lot of nice families and engaged in a lot of fun activities as a family. However, it was never far from my mind what we were coming back to.....a house overflowing with Thanksgiving boxes that need to be checked, completed, decorated, organized, and then distributed to hospitals and families with children battling cancer before a quick turn around and another scheduled family cancer camp. I am not quite sure how these trips ended up back to back but that is how they fell and we decided to go with it.

We had already delivered 25 before we left to Gildas Cancer Club in Ft. Lauderdale. We drove down as a family and created a human chain with the volunteers there to transfer boxes from our cars to the basement in Gildas. While we were there, I noticed 5 small precious children coloring at a table with a volunteer. I asked what they were there for that night and was told they were children who had recently lost a parent to cancer. The other parent was upstairs attending a bereavement session. Now that's a whole other connotation to Children Battling Cancer now isn't it?

As expected, we came home to a house overflowing with boxes. By Monday night there were over 100 boxes in our home and I must confess there were more than a few moments I wondered what I was thinking when we started all this. But by the time we did our first home delivery on Monday, I remembered why. CJ, and CBC, was featured on CBS4 this past Friday for that first home delivery. If you missed it here is the link.......


.....it is a fantastic piece and we are very grateful to CBS4 for featuring CBC. and to little Leah and her family for allowing us to show up with the news to deliver a box. Just in case your wondering ow it came about, it all started when CJ was featured on the piece for Spirit Jump a few weeks ago. Jorge Estevez, the reporter, spotted a few of the boxes in our home and asked curiously, "What are those for?" Before we knew it we were doing a piece on CBC!

Before we could leave for the second family cancer camp, we delivered 75 boxes to the Joe DiMaggio Pediatric Oncology Unit. CJ and his friends went up and down again and again with loads of boxes. CJ made a pit stop in the lab for some quick blood counts and before you knew it he was back downstairs helping bring up boxes. We are so proud of him and his siblings and all their effort with this project. What a way to get the focus off yourself and placed squarely on others where it belongs. Thank you to all who helped deliver and distribute! We are also so extremely grateful to everyone who took the time to make a box. I wish each and every one of you could see the faces of the families and hospitals as they were delivered. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing in this project with us.

Please share with us how this affected your family to make the box. Many of you have already but we would love to hear from more of you. In turn, we want to share with you some of the impact your boxes have had on the families who received them:

One family that received a box told the social worker through tears that they would not have had a Thanksgiving if not for this box. They were planning to skip it this year.

Another family that received a box just lost their daughter to cancer two weeks prior. The single father is still raising two sons and said this box is a huge blessing to him. He would not even have been able to do the shopping.

This past weekend, while at the cancer camp, we overheard families share that they received a Thanksgiving Box. They did not know it was our family that organized this and that was just as well. It was just great to hear they got one and how it blessed them.

So thank you for your support and please know it made a huge impact on each family that received one. For some it was a financial impact, for others it was the reminder and comfort of knowing they are not alone and not forgotten. For many it was both!



As I said when I began this post, we are home and attempting to settle in. I must confess, I am not sure what the means or looks like anymore. The closer we got to home today on our return, the more my heart was aching painfully for my father and what this coming week in particular would mean without him. I honestly do not see a way through it and just have to depend on Him to carry me. I am feeling forced into a season of giving Thanks to God when I am more positioned before God in a state of desperation. I am unable to enter into the 'giving thanks in all circumstances' phase at this point. I am not thankful for my father's tragic death and for him being painfully ripped out of my life. I am desperately confused and more sad than I ever thought was possible.

I think this second trip helped increase that confusion. The location was beautiful. It was a property covered in towering trees dripping with moss. The weather was beautiful. The lake was serene. The food was plentiful. The activities carefully planned for families with children battling this life threatening disease called cancer. But none of that could drown out the reality that a sweet seven year old boy named Andrew, who was there with his family, was terminal. He was sent home on hospice just a week or so before this trip. This was to be their last family vacation. The weight of that and the implication it has in all our lives was thick throughout the weekend. It made the reality of what every family there was facing all the more real. It also bonded this group of 15 families in a very special way. We clung to little Andrews sweet presence. We hung on his every giggle and sound. (He can no longer speak.) His laugh was infectious and would often cause a domino effect throughout the room. His smile was radiant. We prayed with and for his family and begged God for mercy.

During a session of sharing openly, his mother who was deaf, poured her heart out before God and our group. Her husband, also hearing impaired, who was the only one who could translate, was too distraught to interpret for her. The grandmother sat helpless to interpret. The room was eerily silent as she spoke passionately in silence. You could literally hear each heart in that room shatter as she poured out her heart through her hands. I have never begged God to give someone in the room the gift of interpretation more desperately than at that moment. Sadly, nothing came. We all just sat there stunned in silence and cried for her and with her.

Then we broke for lunch.......Welcome to our world.



CJ and Andrew



We do wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving. Take some time to be grateful for those around you. Had I known last year would be my last Thanksgiving with my dad I would have cherished it so much more and told him how thankful I was for him. This will be Andrews last Thanksgiving with his family. Hug your kids tight. Take a moment to appreciate something as simple as the sound of their voice, which sweet Andrew lost.

We are very grateful for all of you who have prayed for CJ and our family and have stuck by us these past 14 months. This year, even through our pain, we will be giving thanks for all of you!




Thursday, November 5, 2009

Spirit Jump

SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM OF THIS POST!


CJ was interviewed today on CBS4 as a part of a piece for a program called Spirit Jump. It will air tomorrow (Friday 11/6) at the 6pm broadcast. Please tune in to see an incredible piece on an incredible organization. We are honored that they chose CJ to be a part of this interview.

Spirit Jump is a non-profit founded by Meaghan Edelstein, a terminal cancer survivor. In other words, a living miracle! And you know it when you are around her. It takes someone coming that close to death to be so full of life.

Meaghan was diagnosed with stage 3b cervical cancer in 2007 and given little chances of survival. Meaghan fought back and won! Not only because she is a survivor, but because she is a survivor using her experience to bless others and there is no greater victory than that! Meaghan credits God with her physical survival but she credits the cards and letters and kindness of others she received during her battle with helping her in the daily fight against this deadly disease.

In an effort to help others battling cancer, Meaghan founded Spirit Jump which pairs up 'Spirit Jumpers' with Cancer patients all over the world. A spirit jump is simple....it's a card, a letter, a note, a small gift or a postcard sent to someone with cancer to lift their spirits. And believe me, it works! CJ is a Spirit Jumpee. He receives Spirit Jumps in the mail from all over the country thanks to Spirit Jump. And they lift his spirits every time. And to be honest, they lift mine too!

I encourage you to check out their website at http://www.spiritjump.org/ Sign up to be a spirit Jumper. It is as simple as receiving an email now and then and deciding which person you would like to send a jump to. CJ especially loves the Spirit Jumps that come from other children so allow encourage your kids to color a picture and drop it in the mail. You get to choose who to send a jump to.

Thank you Meaghan and Brian for allowing us to be a part of this! We had a lot of fun.

Don't forget to tune in Friday November 6th at 6pm on CBS4 for the piece!
Here is the link if you missed the airing.
CBS4 Spirit Jump


CJ has chemo tomorrow morning. He is doing well adjusting to being back on the meds after two weeks off in an effort to get his counts up. We are anticipating his counts still being in a safe range to move forward with chemo tomorrow. Please pray for his spiritual peace and physical comfort as he moves forward with treatment.
Please pray for us to make the most of every opportunity and be aware of those around us continually in the hospital and at the oncology office. I never want to grow so complacent or even comfortable in this that I overlook the hurting families all around me.

Please pray for our family to have wisdom as we move forward with our own non-profit Children Battling Cancer, Inc. We pray God will grant us wisdom and discernment as we seek to serve families battling this devastating disease in a way that honors and glorifies Him above all else.

For those of you I asked to pray for 15 year old Amanda Blake; Amanda went home to be with the Lord this past Sunday. Please continue to pray for her father and two brothers as they deal with her loss.


"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves received from God."....
(In other words....'if you have received a SpiritJump, give one in return') (paraphrase mine!)
2 Cor 1:3-4

Go to the website and sign up to be a Spirit Jumper and let them know we sent you!
You will see CJ there as a Jumpee! He would love to receive a spirit jump too!
www.Spirit Jump.Org

And remember you lift my spirits when you comment here on the blog and let us know you are still with us on this amazing journey.



Update: CJ did great with the chemo Friday. His counts were still high enough to move forward. He was a little antsy about the port access and seemed more uncomfortable than usual during it but it seemed to go well overall. His nurse and I were chatting away and catching up on things so we were not sure if he was just squirming and whining because we were not paying full attention to him. So we started teasing him that he was just jealous that we were talking about things other than him. I had to laugh at myself later that I could sit and chat with the nurse while CJ was getting his port accessed and squirming around. I guess I have come a long way too!
He was happy it was what we call a "fast chemo" day. No spinal tap, no getting put to sleep, and no fasting! That was a blessing. He was a little tired after all the meds but still managed to pull off going to the Panthers Hockey game with his friends Adam and Emily. Thank you sooo much Adam and Emily for taking him to this. I can not tell you what an amazing milestone that this is in the life of a little boy who has suffered from intense anxiety and would typically walk away from opportunities like this rather than go, allowing fear to control him. This is truly no small thing that happened last night by him going with you two and we are grateful to you and very grateful to God for providing him with the strength and courage to do so! Or better said, for being his strength so he could go. I find it interesting that this progress coincided with him spending a faithful amount of time in his devotions and Bible reading lately. He has even taken up reading the Bible to his little brother Brett at night and it is so sweet to overhear.

And...as you two are about to discover as soon to be first time parents...this was no small accomplishment for mommy and daddy as well to let him go! So thank you and please know that it speaks volumes about how we feel about the two of you!

Today CJ has closing day ceremonies for his baseball season. We are so grateful he got to play that one last game last week when his counts finally rebounded. And it was the All Star game! And........he got a big hit to right field for a double. I am taking credit for this one folks! I sat on those bleachers and prayed- prayed- prayed that the Lord would let him get a bit hit after all he'd been through. I knew he wanted it so bad he could taste it and it would be the perfect end to a difficult and yet blessed season.
Guess what folks! CJ's team did not win one game all season....BUT they had more victory that any other team out there because of what it meant for CJ to step on that field and play his little heart out.


"You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great!"
(2 Sam 22:36)

Sorry I can't walk away from this post without commenting on what a beautiful picture this small little verse paints of what God has done has for us. I love the image of His "stooping down" to make us great! As a father stoops down to help his small little child when he struggles, so too our great Heavenly Father stoops down from the very throne of heaven to shield us and provide the victory we so desperately need.

In our case, it wasn't the victory in battle that the Psalmist David is referring to above but an even greater victory. He stooped down to provide us with the victory over sin and death by tasting and overcoming sin and death for us and washing us clean! Praise be to God for the victory we receive through Jesus Christ! My friends, this is the equivalent to a final world war where the ultimate battle between all the counties of the Earth takes place and the Mighty, Strong, Valiant, Deserving Victor wins the battle and then stoops down and scandalously hands the victory to the weakest, most undeserving, pitiful, destroyed nation that had no way of saving itself. Wow!

Sorry, I know that was a 'guy' analogy. I have war on the brain lately. I guess its the war that takes place on a daily basis for my heart, my mind, my obedience, my faith. But it is a battle that has already been won! God already holds and provides the victory! He will stoop down and make me great!



Friday, October 30, 2009

Thank You for the Cough Drops


After a sudden plummet in counts last week and a complete halt on all chemotherapy and other medications, CJ's had his blood counts done today and they are finally back up. Praise God! They shot up high enough for us to restart all meds again and continue with his chemotherapy schedule. They are actually higher now than they should be for this stage of his treatments so we will begin to try and get them back down to the correct ranges.

What a relief after worrying that every cough or sneeze would infect him. What a blessing after having been bottled up in this house for two weeks that he is free to go! He is hoping to at least be able to play his last game with his team this week! That will be one happy third baseman let me tell you.

Thankfully, we made it through the low counts without CJ getting sick and only one visit to the Emergency Room because of a fever. I was at youth group with Allie on Sunday night when Chris called and to let me know that CJ had a fever and I should head home. After everything that had happened the previous week, I thought he must be joking. He wasn't! After hanging up I remember just feeling frozen in time as I wondered what more could possibly happen.

Chris took him in late that night fully expecting an overnight stay. CJ did surprisingly well. He did not complain or question anything when we told him he had to go to the hospital. I think he has learned to roll with the punches, for lack of a better expression. Or maybe he was where I was by that point....to weak, broken, and sad to even put up a fight or shed a tear.

Once there, they immediately accessed his port and withdrew some blood for testing. After administering some strong antibiotic through the port, the fever had subsided and they allowed him to come home. This was a blessing considering most fevers require a 3 day minimum hospital stay. So we were grateful for the outcome.

As Chris and CJ were getting ready to go to the hospital that evening, the worry coming off of Chris was palpitating which only served to increase my anxiety. I contemplated where God was in all of this. It seemed like life was spiraling out of control. And I am not referring to my control mind you! I relinquished control of my life to the Lord a long time ago and prefer it much better that way. But these past two weeks I began to wonder whose control it was under. Was it under the control of the Lord who is close to the brokenhearted and who has numbered every hair on my head? The God I love and serve who will not leave me or forsake me and is interested in every detail of my life? Or was it under the control of the far off God who the world teaches is out there somewhere but doesn't come too close? As they were packing to leave for the hospital my mind replayed the last two weeks....

....First my dad and his wife found dead; then CJ's counts plummeted to almost nothing; then I became sick with a terrible throat infection at the worst possible time with CJ at high risk; then my daughter's cat was found outside all torn up from a neighborhood animal; then we received news about another death of a cancer child, and another relapse, and yet another one going home on hospice, and now......CJ has a fever and has to go to the hospital. I just stood there feeling defeated and exhausted, asking....God, are you in all this? Do you care? What more can we handle right now?
Even as I stood there thinking it, I had this sudden urge to check my email. It was almost like autopilot. It was almost 10pm, my husband and son are getting ready to leave for the hospital, CJ is getting his port numbing creme on, Corey is wanting to be put down to sleep, and I sit down and check my email....strange! Within seconds I knew why I had checked it. God answered my question and calmed my anxious heart before the thought could take up residence in my mind. Yes, God sends emails my friend! (But just so you know, he makes no promises or threats whether or not you forward them or not to 15 people so don't confuse His with those.)

I sat down and there was only one email. It was from my friend Becky who had served me a meal that week. I had emailed her earlier to thank her for the great meal and to thank her for the cough drops she dropped off with the dinner. You see, I had a nasty sore throat on Thursday night and could not sleep. I asked Chris to look for some cough drops but we did not have any. We always have cough drops! Not this time. Nothing! I was hurting but took some medicine and went to bed. Then Friday I had to handle some banking issues for my fathers estate. I wanted to stop at some point while I was out to get some cough drops but my emotions were still so raw that I could not bring myself to enter a store and face a cashier in fear that I may burst out crying right there in line. So instead I did the banking and went home.

When I walked in the door that evening, the dinner my sweet friend delivered was on the counter and right next to it was a bag of cough drops. I saw them and immediately said, "Cough drops!" as if I had spotted gold. Chris said they were dropped off with the food, to which I replied, "How did she know I needed cough drops?" Chris answered, "I thought you told her."

As I sat down to read the email from my friend, my heart soared as she explained how the cough drops were actually for her husband. She stopped to pick them up for him but had "accidentally" left them in the bag when she dropped off the food at my home. After realizing what she had done, she was too embarrassed to come back for the cough drops so she had to stop again and buy more for her husband. She had NO CLUE I had a sore throat and was desperate for cough drops. It was that word I don't believe in....coincidence. Amazing that just when I was asking God if he cared about all these disasters happening in our life, he answered by saying..."My sweet child, I care! I care about every detail. I even care about your sore throat! I sent you cough drops. And if I care about your sore throat, then I certainly care about your son's fever, your daughter's cat, your dad's death, and your families broken hearts."

Thank you Lord that although I accuse you of being far off and for lack of faith I question your Sovereignty, you still come near to me anyway. Thank you that you don't treat me as my sins deserve. Thank you that you protected CJ from getting sick while his counts were down. Thank you that his counts are back up. And thank you for the cough drops!

Thank you all for your prayers for CJ and our family. Keep praying! Please pray that we will get CJ back on the correct dosages of all his meds so he can complete this last year of chemotherapy on schedule and according to his treatment plan. Please pray fervently that this cancer never comes back. Please also pray for all the kids battling this deadly disease. Brave 9 year old Truman who just had his leg amputated in an attempt to save his life from this disease, and barve Sam who is recovering from his amputation, and Amanda who is now home on hospice, and Ji whose bone marrow transplant failed and is still fighting for his life, the 5 families we know of who already said goodbye to their precious children this month because of this cruel disease, and so many many more. You know, I am really starting to hate this disease. I never used to give it even that much emotion because I did not want it to have any piece of me but I REALLY, REALLY HATE Cancer, and I am becoming thoroughly convinced it is authored by Satan. It is just like him...deceptive, destructive, and deadly.

If you have not already registered our website www.childrenbattlingcancer.com please do so today and please take a moment to join the facebook page at www.facebook.com/childrenbattlingcancer
Please share it with all your friends and join us in the battle against this disease on behalf of these children.




Friday, October 23, 2009

CJ's Blood Count Results

When CJ had his counts retested today he was even lower than last week. He is now down to a .1 ANC (absolute neutrophil count).

At this time they are stopping all medications he receives, not only the chemo meds. The doctors think the Bactrim (an antibiotic he has taken since day one) may be the culprit and hope by stopping this drug he may rebound. On the bright side, the doctors felt there is a good possibility due to the indication of other numbers in his counts that he may already be on the rebound. I don't understand it all but what I do know is he is lower this week than last, so if he is going up now, it must have happened very recently.

I copied this from a website to help you understand the importance of the ANC:

Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) of 1000-1800: Most patients will be given chemotherapy in this range. Risk of infection is considered low. (Mild neutropenia)

Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) of 500-1000: Carries with it a moderate risk of infection.

Absolute neutrophil count (ANC) of less than 500: Severe neutropenia - high risk of infection.

CJ was somewhere around 269 last week and now is at 189 this week. Therefore, he falls in the Severe neutropenia category and is at high risk for infection. To top all that off, I am sick! I have a severe throat infection that is very painful. I do not like that he stopped the antibiotic while I am sick and in such close contact with him. Having the added concern that CJ is at risk while I am sick has caused me to consider possibly staying away from the home until I get better. We have not made that decision as of yet. As of now we are isolating me from him as much as possible within the house. Please pray I don't infect my child!

As CJ has basically no ability to fight against infection we are grateful to serve a God who has every ability to fight against infection on his behalf. We are completely dependent on Him as we are stripped of dependence on any other means. So let's storm the throne of grace once again and beg for mercy in our time of need.

When Chris called from the hospital this morning to tell me the news of CJ's counts, I went into hyper-disinfect and clean mode before they could get home. All the instructions we received back at week one of diagnosis warning us of all the risks of neutropenia and infection ran through my mind. In many ways, these results put us back to those first days of isolation and separation that we thought were far behind us.

Cancer is really such a cruel and deceitful disease! It teases you by letting you make progress only to regroup, reappear and attack all over again. We recently lost two little girls (both CJ's age) that both went into maintenance and were "cancer free" at one time before this monster pounced again. At the same time, our sweet friend Ji (also CJ's age), who was making progress towards recovery, now faces the set back of a second bone marrow transplant.

I realize CJ's counts plummeting don't qualify as comparable to these situations in any way, but it all demonstrates the cruelty of this disease that lets you think the worst is behind you and then betrays you.

But even as we are surrounded by the effects of this cruel disease we give thanks to God that His word assures us he is unchanging, cannot lie and no deceit is found in Him!

"...(we have) a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time..." Titus 1:2


In regards to my dad, today was a rough day. I dealt mostly with anger and frustration for the massive mess he left us by leaving us this way. So much is unsettled for us emotionally because of the way he died, and then having to deal with so much unsettled legally, is just an added burden. Burden...that really is the key word here. We had appointments with the bank today and emotions are still so raw that it is difficult to 'do business". But it must be done! As we were trying to make sense of the mess, I could not help but think we should not be there and it is all some big mistake. Surely there was an explanation for all of this somewhere. I kept half expecting my dad to walk in and straighten the whole mess out for us.

Based on our experience this past week and especially today, my advice to all of you is to express your wishes to a loved one before they have to make these very personal decisions on your behalf. Write them down and by all means necessary get your will and estate planning in order NOW! The kinds of decisions we are having to make and the disaster we have inherited is not necessary for anyone to go through. We inherited a burden of grief and a burden of legal matters. There are so many ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from this. I realize, it is never pleasant to talk about these matters, but one thing I can guarantee every one reading this is that you WILL die one day, and it WILL be painful for those left behind no matter the circumstances, and the least we can do is make it as easy as possible by settling these issues now. In light of all we have experienced, Chris and I have talked to each of our parents and plan to revisit our estate planning.

Of more importance, please hear me when I say the state of your soul is of the utmost importance in planning your death. Settle that account first my friend! Kneel before your maker and humble yourself and surrender your life to His sovereign control and accept the payment already submitted on your behalf.

Humor me for a moment.....If you broke a law and went to pay the fine, (which you could never cover anyway), only to discover someone already paid it on your behalf, the only thing that can keep you from accepting it is PRIDE. Foolish pride! Humble yourself and accept His payment on your behalf. You could never pay it anyway. And once again, only pride makes you think you can.

After you have settled that account first, then take care of your other matters. Your kids, your home, your investments. Get good advice. Know the facts and the differences between wills, trusts, beneficiaries, etc. You will not only have peace of mind but you will not leave a burden to your loved ones at an already difficult time.

Forgive me for being so forward and I apologize for all my venting on this matter. I realize our circumstances are unique and they bring added emotion and legalities compared to most deaths. But like I said, we will all die one day and leave behind the details to our loved ones in one way or another. Choose the better way! However unwelcome, this tragedy has afforded me the rare opportunity to experience these delicate and difficult matters first hand. If me sharing about our mess can save one family from going through this, then so be it.


As I end this post, I once again reiterate our plea for prayer for our precious CJ. We pray for his physical protection as a matter of high importance, but we also pray for his Spiritual protection as he deals with the outcome of his low blood counts. We see his struggle in submitting to our authority and trusting our decisions whether he likes them or not. He "feels" good so it is difficult for him to wear a mask and be told he can not participate in his playoff games after a long and hard season with his team. He misses them and he misses playing. We understand but we can not change the facts.


Thank you for bearing our burdens once again, and in so doing, fulfilling the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Humbly yet boldly,

Dawn



Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our Final Goodbye

(CJ drawing for his Poppa)


Thank you for your outpouring of love and support through this blog. This is the second time the comments have helped our family through an unexpected trial. We do not know what to say or how to adequately express our sincere gratefulness in words. The comments, the meals, the cards, the love, have all been received as if you were handing us air to breathe and sustain us. It has kept us going forward moment by moment. Thank you!

It has been one week since we found my father and his wife dead in their home from a tragic murder suicide. The funeral services are over. I can not believe one week can bring this much change. One week and it is all over and life keeps barreling forward.

After discovering my father's body last Wednesday morning it seemed like nothing stopped. The pain never ceased and the tears only dried for brief moments as we found ourselves in a flurry of activity having to plan and attend the funeral service.

Then, I woke up this morning and everything was still. There was nothing to plan, nowhere to go, family members had left, and friends went back to work. I just laid there wondering how this could happen. How in 6 short days, my father could die, be buried and it's over.

There are so many questions swirling around in my head and so many emotions fighting for position in my heart. After 6 days of grief and unrelenting pain, that duo finally gave way to anger. As anger won out for position, I let that emotion rule the roost for a little while. It felt good. Anger did not hurt as much as grief did when it was ruling my heart. Anger introduced me to blame. I liked blame but I did not trust blame. Although anger and blame soothed me in a medicinal sort of way, deep down I knew they were no true friends. Like a drink that goes down smooth, they would be sure to betray me in the end.

A new emotion greeted me this morning. I awoke to the fog of confusion. I liked confusion. Confusion slowed things down. I could not see clearly. I liked the blindness offered by the fog of confusion. A good excuse for ignorance of what is really right in front of you. Blame got lost in confusion and anger was nowhere to be seen. But I felt lost in the fog. I did not want to stay there.

Finally, the cloud began lifting with grief vying for control again. Grief gave way to the tears that seem to have a limitless reservoir. Anger still sits in its corner offering distraction and blame, while confusion promises no need for answers. I am sure they will continue to battle for position and maybe even take up residency a time or two, but I will only surrender my heart to One. He already owns it anyway. And like the grand orchestra director...He will make sense of the noise and mess going on there.


CJ and his sister Allie seem to spend their spare time journaling and drawing. I believe it is therapeutic for them and they feel close to Poppa Jerry when they sketch because he loved to draw and sketch as well. As I read what CJ is writing in his journal about his Poppa's death I am saddened and stunned that a child so young should have to contemplate things so tragic. First the realities of cancer and now this.

As far as the realities of cancer, in the past couple weeks, three children we have been following lost their battle against this unkind disease. Or maybe they won it...I am never really sure which way that goes. Either way, they are no longer in it. Then last night we find out that another little boy, who we have come to dearly love, his bone marrow transplant failed and he faces another risky surgery this week. There are no words...only prayers.

As a mother, I am heartbroken for CJ, and the rest of my children, for all they have had to experience, know, and contemplate at such young ages. These are my first real exposures with any sort of tragedies of this magnitude and I am 35 years old. As a child, I certainly never heard of kids dying of cancer, murder-suicides, or half of the tragic things my kids have seen. But just maybe, in some odd way, they are the blessed and fortunate ones. Once again, I am never really sure which way it goes. Regardless, they are learning at an early age to "consider it a pure joy when they face trials of many kinds because the testing of their faith is developing perseverance."

We still do not know anything about CJ's counts yet. We will have his blood redrawn Friday and go from there. In the meantime we have held back all his chemo he takes daily at home to help boost his strength. So far he seems infection free, Praise God, because he did not want nor did he cooperate with wearing a mask at the funeral services. We have limited our exposure otherwise and praying for a strong comeback in his blood counts.


I would like end this post by sharing a little about Poppa Jerry with all of you to honor his memory. I shared this at his funeral and my husband has asked me to post the words that I spoke here. Click here: Poppa Jerry to learn about the legacy of this wonderful man who God redeemed and restored through forgiveness. It will remain our final goodbye until we meet again in glory. For those of you with estranged loved ones... I pray this blesses you and increases your faith in the miracles God can perform in a willing heart.

Thank you for letting me share my father with all of you in this small way.

As the sun rises on Thursday morning....I want to be the first to say, Happy Birthday Dad! Although I am desperate for you here and my heart is aching from your absence....I am sure you are experiencing a much better birthday in heaven than earth could ever offer.


My Father and I at Passover Seder 2009


Friday, October 16, 2009

Desperate for Prayer


Please pray fervently for CJ and our family! We are in a whirlwind of confusion and grief.

CJ's poppa Jerry (my father) was found dead this week in his home in a tragic and unexpected death.

We were very concerned because my dad was not answering calls all day Tuesday. By Wednesday morning we headed to his home in Davie to see what was wrong. My husband and my sister's husband are the ones who found him. Although they are both policemen, they said nothing could have prepared them for what they found and what they felt upon finding their father in law like this. Unfortunately, my sister and I and our children were all waiting outside at the time and could not be shielded from the tragedy of the situation.

Our family is struggling to accept and deal with this devastating news. We are grieving sorely and deeply and yet we are clinging with all our might to our faith and hope in the resurrection. Even in our sorrow, we are deeply grateful that my father was a believer in the Messiah as his Savior and only hope. Our only comfort in this tragedy is that we are certain that he is resting peacefully in the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord. Unfortunately, the pain and confusion he left behind is overwhelming beyond belief for all of us. It felt like a bomb dropped on our world and we have been on our hands and knees trying our best to pick up the shattered pieces.

Today my children felt they needed to see their Poppa's home one last time. I took them there to see if it would help them in their grieving. CJ sat and wrote him a picture that said, "Poppa Jerry, we will be together again," and laid it on his Poppa's favorite chair. My daughter sat and stared confused and heartbroken, cherishing every little piece of her Poppa still there, whether it was in his sheet music, his poetry, his drawings, or his pictures. Brett hugged me tight, too young to fully grasp anything except that his Poppa is gone and in heaven. I sat in the floor in the spot my father died and I grieved for all my children lost in this tragedy. I stared at the stains that will never be able to be removed from the tile and realized this tragedy has stained my heart in a way that will never be removed as well. I just don't know how you move forward and yet somehow I got up and we left the home to head to the funeral home to drop off my father's clothes.

As we were grieving together in the car, another bomb fell unexpectedly. CJ had blood counts done earlier this morning and I received a call that his ANC (the important number in his blood counts) came back extremely low. In fact, they are lower than they have ever been. He is at an extremely high risk for infection which can be very dangerous for him. I thought it must be a mistake. We are in a state of double shock and wondering what God is trying to do and why He is allowing us to be stretched to this extreme. CJ took the news very hard and started crying and asking God "why, why, why, now?" He will only be able to attend his grandpa's funeral in a mask and none of us can understand why? He needs the comfort and presence of his friends as we all do at this time.

As we have been planning the funeral these past couple of days and family and friends have come to our home to support us, we realize we have already exposed CJ at a high level. We are torn as we desperately need to be with our loved ones at this time and work through this grieving process and yet we have to protect our child's life faithfully.

Stunned from the additional news to an already overwhelming situation, I came home immediately and scrambled to disinfect and clean the house . I was feeling an awful sense of urgency. I remember feeling disoriented that I was scrubbing toilets just a few short hours after desperately trying to get through the process of writing my fathers obituary and sitting in the spot he died.

As a result of CJ's blood counts, the doctor ordered us to immediately stop all of CJ's chemo and watch him closely for fever upon which we would have to head to the hospital immediately. I can not even imagine sitting in a hospital room right now. It is hard enough being separated from our extended family and friends during this time at home. Please pray that we will make the right decisions for him at this time while walking through the process of my father's death. Please pray, pray, pray that CJ will be free from infection and God will supernaturally protect him. Please pray we will be able to get him back on his protocol and up to his accurate dosing. He was already down to a 50% dosage level due to low blood counts. This is just all so unbelievable.

































Dad,
I love you and miss you desperately. I pray and trust you are in perfect peace and rest in the presence of our Lord. God, help me cling to that truth and rest in the hope of heaven and in Jesus' finished work on the cross as we try to work through our confusion and grief. Dad, I am so thankful for your life, your words, your wisdom, your wit. You have blessed my life in so many ways. I miss you terribly. I will do everything in my power so that your death will not be in vain.
Oh God help us please. Send your spirit tenfold into our lives.
Your daughter and your daughter,
Dawn

_______________________________________________

Funeral Arrangements for Poppa Jerry are this Sunday October 17th beginning with a family reception and viewing at 2pm at the Vista Memorial in Miami Lakes, Florida 14200 NW 57 Avenue. Service will begin at 4pm. The internment will be the following morning, Monday October 18th, at 11am at the same location with a reception immediately following at the home of Colleen and John George 8121 NW 186 Terrace Miami, Fl 33015.



Please note: As a result of this tragedy some upcoming events for CBC (Children Battling Cancer) have had to be canceled or postponed. Please see the website for updates www.childrenbattlingcancer.com

Monday, October 5, 2009


I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But I am also convinced those things will try like hell to anyway.

As CJ lies in the next room struggling with his stomach, after having thrown up, I sit here struggling with guarding my heart and mind and clinging to the peace that passes all understanding.

We were doing his school work this morning when the routine we face almost everyday began..."My stomach hurts, mom." As part of the routine and for lack of knowing what else to do, I typically send him off to the bathroom. Usually this will solve the problem and we will continue through our day with minor complaints of stomach problems on and off. Some days are better than others. I confess, this creates an uneasy sense of Deja Vu for me as I flashback to last September just before he was diagnosed. School time was full of bathroom breaks, stomach aches, and bowel issues. I remember sitting at the table one morning, unable to complete a lesson because he was on his third trip to the bathroom and demanding, 'This is not normal'.

Today, as usual, I found myself half way through a math lesson when he declared his stomach hurt and off to the bathroom he went. When he returned, we continued our lesson. As I taught him I was fighting conflicting thoughts and emotions the entire time. They go like this.....

"What difference does any of this make? He has a problem, Dawn. Who cares about math and memorizing the prepositions or Latin 1st and 2nd declensions. Let him enjoy whatever time God has given him. It is limited."

Then my rational side reasons, "All our time is limited, yet we must work and live. Besides, he may very well live a long and healthy life. He will need to know how to do math."

Then the other side follows up with, "Imagine how you will feel if he relapses again, or worse, he is not here a year from now and you wasted all this time doing school while he wasn't feeling well."

Rational side, "Imagine how you will feel, if he lives a long healthy life and you did not teach him how to conjugate a verb. Besides, what is the alternative? Sit around and play all day, or live in Disney World?"

Mind you, this all took place in my head in the small amount of time it takes to teach a lesson on measurement equations. All the while, I could see the sour look on his face and the obvious discomfort mounting. As his physical discomfort increased, my spiritual battle escalated.

Finally, I surrendered to the compassionate side that wants to throw all this school work out the window anyway and suggested, "CJ why don't you go lay down for a bit and when you feel better come back out and we will continue." Then I secretly asked God if I was doing the right thing? He answered as CJ threw up all over the bathroom.

Once again, the dialogue begins, "It is just a stomach bug, Dawn. Don't jump to conclusions".....
"No, there's something wrong with this child. Demand answers! You are his mother, be aggressive and find out what is going on."

So I sit here and share all of this with all of you not to admit I am crazy . That is undeniable. Instead, I boldly ask for prayer for CJ. I honestly struggle to do this because I am aware of so many other children in desperate need of prayer who are battling this monster called cancer. Yet, I realize God has provided all of you as CJ's prayer team and I humbly and gratefully accept.

Tomorrow he will see a neurologist and I just ask that the Lord will provide her with wisdom and exceptional insight into his little body. Please pray that we will articulate his struggles clearly and that some light will be shed on his struggles. My heart says that they are all interconnected somehow. His speech issues, his walking issues, his shakiness. They are all signs of a lack of muscle control which lead me to suspect the control center, which is the brain. I have the same desperate feeling in this area that I had before he was diagnosed and I knew there was something more wrong with this child than anxiety and back pain.

Thursday he has chemotherapy, a spinal tap, and intrathecal (chemo injected directly into the spine). Please pray that this stomach issue will be resolved before then and will not interfere with his chemo. Pray that I will articulate clearly to the doctors the struggles I am seeing in him.

Thank you is not enough, yet it is all I have. Thank you for your prayers for this child; my child, God's child.

__________________________________________________

On a lighter note....CJ performed in a talent show this Sunday evening. He was an actor in a dramatic skit set to the Casting Crowns songs, Here I go Again. This song is about fear. Specifically, fear in witnessing to our friends. It talks about how we allow fear to hold us back as we dance around the truth, knowing time is not their friend.

This skit holds a special place in our hearts and was a blessing to see complete and performed by CJ, his little brother, big sister, and friends, because CJ and I wrote this skit on the way to chemotherapy last year. We were discussing fear and this song came on. It seemed like God just gave us the skit. When the skit originated in our minds, we had fun discussing it and talking about all the characters, but I honestly did not even know if CJ would be here to perform it. I thought maybe it was just meant to be a distraction for the fear of chemo. It sat on the shelf of our hearts for a while until the opportunity of the talent show came up and we started practicing. What a joy to see it come to fruition. Even more so, to hear CJ pray yesterday that he wants be more bold with his friends on his baseball team just like in his skit. I know I personally experienced conviction as I watched it performed and the Lord brought specific people to mind that I have danced around the truth with.

Thank you again for allowing us to share our lives with you this way. Please pray for the above requests. I will try to post the video of the skit here or attach a link to it.



Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Than Pleasantly Surprised

Sometimes I seriously wonder why God is so faithful to me when I am so faithless to Him. I wallow in the murky waters of doubt, confusion and low expectations so often. I struggle to discern his voice and yet listen to the lies of the enemy so easily. Sometimes I think my faith and expectations of what God can do are so low that He must get a kick out of watching me be surprised over and over again.

CJ was recently invited to a Marlins game with a program called New Era Caps for Kids. This is a program that provides a signed cap for a child with a life threatening disease from someone they admire. Knowing CJ is a Marlins Fan, they matched him up with the Marlins and sent us to a game. We were told he would get to attend batting practice and there would be an on field ceremony where a player would come out, take some pictures with him, and sign his cap.

Although extremely grateful for the opportunity, I confess I was more than a little worried how the night would play out. I pictured CJ surrounded by half naked cheerleaders (that is being extremely generous on my part) and a player coming on the field who is indifferent to CJ's situation and just doing his job. I was worried the night would not glorify God and would misrepresent our ideals and values. I prayed silently on the way there that the cheerleaders would not be anywhere around. I asked God to give me the courage to politely ask them to step out of our family pictures if they were and the wisdom to know when to keep my mouth shut.

We arrived and were greeted by a Marlins representative who escorted us to the on field batting practice where we were told to stand behind the marked lines and watch. We were instructed not to call out to the players or seek autographs unless the players come over to us.

We watched for a bit and Hanley Ramirez walked over and signed some autographs. That was very exciting for the kids. As we stood there CJ said to me, "Mom, Brett Carroll just waved at me." I asked him which one was Brett Carroll and he pointed him out to me. At this point, all I knew about Brett Carroll was that, according to CJ, he could throw anyone out from anywhere on the field. (I thought that was a pretty impressive baseball statistic and one you don't hear very often) I also knew that I liked his name having my own little Brett. Add to that that he waved to my kid...and I was becoming a fan.

Another Marlins Rep standing close by heard us talking about Brett Carroll and asked if we liked him. I shared with the Rep my three fascinating reasons for liking Brett and he found them to be quite interesting. He even questioned me, "You like Brett Carroll because you like his name?" I told him that we have players we like for various reasons but in our family we tend to wait until we know what kind of person they are beyond their playing ability before we decide how much we like them. Promoptly, the Rep said, "I will tell you what kind of person Brett Carroll is.....he is a man of great faith and recently spent over and hour sharing his faith with me while we were on a road trip." Add that to my three fascinating facts and now you have a true fan!

As I stood there, I suddenly felt very strongly that the Lord was asking me to share with this gentleman why we were there. So I took a deep breath and told him why it meant a lot to me that Brett Carroll waved to CJ. I told him about the Cap for Kids program we were there for that evening and why CJ was chosen for it. We spoke about CJ's diagnosis and treatments.

This man, Peter Kahn, was obviously affected by CJ's story. His face registered compassion and kindness. He looked at CJ fondly and it almost made me cry. It wasn't a look of pity that I often see but a look of understanding. Through conversation, I came to discover that this gentleman had three sons of his own, all similar ages to our three boys.

Once again, we watched the batting practice and chatted excitedly with the kids. In an amazing gesture of kindness Peter said to me, "I can't make any promises but I made eye contact with Brett and hopefully he will be coming over when he is done." Trying not to set ourselves up for disappointment, we waited eagerly and hoped he would come. I told CJ that if he did come over he could offer him a Pray for CJ bracelet.

Brett did make his way over to the kids. CJ handed him a ball to sign and the first thing CJ asked him was while he was signing it was,"How did you get your arm so strong?" The first words out of Brett Carroll's mouth were, "It's all the Lord! It's a God given strength." CJ looked back at me with huge eyes. I smiled at him knowingly. At this point, I am a certified fan. They chatted a bit CJ handed him a bracelet and told him, "I heard you were a Christian like me so I wanted to give you this and ask if you could pray for me." Brett took the bracelet and said sincerely, "I sure will." We took some great pictures with him and said our goodbyes.

As we stood there, I had an opportunity to thank Mr. Kahn for initiating that meeting and we spoke a little about faith. Once again, I got the feeling the Lord wanted me to share more with him but I wasn't sure what. As we talked about CJ's illness and faith and he shared that faith was important and that "faith was faith." Not sure what he meant, I offered that my faith was in the Lord. He then shared that he was Jewish. A little late on the uptake as usual, I was beginning to realize God was busy at work in this situation. I explained to him that I was also of Jewish heritage and that I was a believer in Yeshua, Jesus, as my savior. I shared with him that my father is a Jewish believer as well. As we spoke, I remembered that he said Brett Carroll had recently shared his faith with him. I knew that God was definitely up to something in this man's life. Peter asked me if he could have a pray for CJ bracelet too. Honored that he would ask and accepting his offer to pray for CJ, I gave him a bracelet and we said our goodbyes.

As we were lead into a room to await the on field ceremony to begin, I was feeling a little rattled like I failed somehow to share what God wanted him to hear. I was really excited for CJ and so grateful God lead a Christian player over to us but it felt a little incomplete and I was inwardly wondering if I should have been better prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in me and once again found myself wishing for a second chance.

As we waited and cooled down from the intense South Florida heat our appointed representative came in with a bag of goodies for the kids. There was a t-shirt jersey for CJ and somehow before I even pulled it out I knew what number it would be....and I am sure by this time if you have been following this blog for any length of time you do too......you guessed it..... number 3. CJ's number! God continual reminder to CJ that He is with him. None of us were surprised but I will admit I was beginning to realize that God was more involved in this night than I originally expected. The Rep handed him a hat and reminded him to take it with him when he was called over to home plate so the player could sign it. We said thank you and were told to relax and wait until they came to get us.

While we were waiting, Peter Kahn unexpectedly walked in the room with a bat in his hands. He was looking for CJ. He walked over to him with the bat held gingerly in his hands and told CJ, " Brett Carroll came and gave this to me and asked me to be sure you got it. This is his personal bat." As he handed it to CJ we could see that is was still sticky from just being used moments before. We looked down at it and saw the handwritten inscription:

"CJ, May the Lord give you strength! Praying for you and your family. God Bless, Brett Carroll Gal 2:20"


As Peter Kahn stood there with us, CJ looked at me as if to ask what verse it was and thankfully I knew it. As I recited it for him I was acutely aware that the verse was for Peter as much as it was for CJ. This is one of my favorite verses and I realized I was getting that second chance I had asked for to share God's words with him. Since I can not be trusted with my own words, God put me in a position to share His instead.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."

Stunned, we all sat around holding the bat and talking about how amazing everything had been so far. In our minds, the on field hat ceremony could not even come close to this. Having met a Christian player who we believed would honestly be praying for CJ, a Jewish brother who God is obviously seeking, and holding a bat with scripture on it from Brett Carroll would not compare to a hat signed by the most famous player in the entire MLB association. This is where I failed to realize that God does more than we can even think or imagine and our minds are so little.

Within a few minutes we were lead back out for CJ's on field ceremony at home plate where he would receive the signed hat. We asked our Rep if she knew who the player was and she said no. CJ was lead over to home plate by the Billy the Marlin Mascots (no cheerleaders in sight, praise God!) and we were asked to wait and watch from afar or watch the jumbo screen as it would all be broadcast overhead.

CJ was a little nervous when he realized he would be going alone but you can imagine how that just completely melted away as Brett Carroll stepped out of the dugout wearing CJ's blue bracelet. CJ was ecstatic! He looked at Brett and said, "I knew it would be you!" What he was really saying was that he was hoping it would be. They chatted, posed for pictures and Brett signed the hat. CJ had a smile from ear to ear. The rest of us watched everything from the jumbo tron just amazed at God. I wish I could adequately express our emotions and I hope I am faithfully painting a picture for you of that special night.

After the ceremony ended CJ walked back over to us and handed me the hat while boasting, "Wait until you see this!" The hat read,
Brett Carroll #25
Romans 8:28

I just stared at it and silently prayed, Father forgive me for doubting You or confining Your hand to 'religious' events. I realized again that God is so much bigger than I give Him credit for. He is faithful when I am not. He meets my low expectations with His highness. I was more than pleasantly surprised as He turned an event that I was worried would be secular and unedifying into a God glorifying evening. We walked out with a hat and bat not only signed, but signed with Scripture. Praise be to God!

There is so much more I could share with you about that evening and how God has been working since, but let's just say that since that night our family has been actively praying for Brett Carroll's career as well as for Peter Kahn to come to faith in the Messiah.

Last night Brett Carroll had the winning at bat that ended the game after trailing by 3 points for majority of the innings. He walked over to the microphone and praised the Lord openly twice on National Television. I pray for faith like that! God make me a faithful steward of Your word. And thank You for Your second chances when I fail.
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Tomorrow CJ will go in for blood counts to see how he is reacting to the chemo. He has been feeling well and has recovered from the cold we all picked up in Orlando.

I ask for prayer as we continue to try to find out why he is still dealing with the limp, increased shakiness at times and just a general lack of muscle control that effects him overall. Although we hope and pray these are only side effects to the medications and will all correct itself in time, we will be seeing a neurologist in two weeks to follow up.

Lately I have struggled a bit as CJ has looked at me more often and said, "My stomach hurts." I have to allow that to bounce all over my heart and through my head and then just say okay and offer him water or send him to the bathroom. But I confess that the flashbacks and fear that these reactions will turn out to be regrets like they were when he got diagnosed is always with me. But what choice do I have? I can't run anywhere and find out if the cancer is growing again or affecting him every time his stomach hurts. I just have to trust in God, believe God knows and will reveal to me anything He feels I should know in His due time.

Thank you for letting me share our journey and thank you for your prayers!







Brett Carroll with CJ, Allie, and Brett




Peter Kahn and CJ after presenting the bat




CJ and his good friend Adam at the game