I took CJ to the hospital for his blood counts this past Friday and they are back up so we are resuming chemotherapy and getting back on schedule. Since his counts were up, we walked over to the main building to visit his Poppa Enzo who had just had a port surgically placed his chest, began aggressive radiation, and will be starting chemotherapy very soon. The port that his poppa got is the exact same one CJ has so he wanted to show his Poppa how it works and talk about what to expect. It was really something to see this little guy with his big Poppa sharing something that no one else in the room can fully comprehend. CJ drew him a picture and I noticed he wrote, "Welcome to the club!" on it. I guess it is a club no one really wants to be in and yet we are all finding ourselves in it in one way or another.
My daughter Alibrandi, who is 13, wrote her grandma a letter this week that I think really expresses "the club" well. It reads..."I know you may be very afraid of everything going on. Your body is not fighting cancer, but you are in a different way, from a different perspective. Poppa can not fight this cancer alone, nor could CJ, but he has God and you and all of his family on his side so Poppa can fight, and even beat this cancer... "
Until I read that in her own handwriting I guess I never realized that she looked at herself as 'fighting' cancer too on behalf of her brother. And yet deep down I know that is exactly what she has been doing. I can not express enough how much cancer is a family disease. Ironically, it simultaneously devastates and unites a family in ways nothing else can.
The siblings sacrifice, suffer and struggle like you can not even imagine. The grandparents ache doubly for their suffering grandchild and their hurting child. The relatives wrestle to be supportive and understanding. The child who is sick copes with the balance of fighting to survive and fighting to forget, even if only for a little while. The parents....there are no words adequate.... it is always with us. It hurts always and in all ways.
With all that I have seen this last year through CJ and all the families we have had the privilege to meet and help, I am always amazed at how deep cancer pervades. This week we were doing a little project with the kids and as we asked them to tell us a little about what this past year has been like for them. Neither Allie nor Brett could get through it without crying the whole time. Chris and I were stunned. We knew that it has been hard on them of course but to see them like that was unexpectedly heartbreaking and painful.
Only time will tell how deep cancer will pervade into our life. CJ is still in the battle for the next year at least and his Poppa is just entering the arena. I pray earnestly that our family we will land on the "unite" side when all the dusts of devastation settles. No matter how much I lose and how much pain I experience, I take great comfort and courage that no matter what cancer can take from me it can not separate me from the love of God. "For 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." (Romans 8:38) The man who wrote those words went on to say in the very next sentence that he had "great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart." I can testify to that. I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. I feel like I have taken so many blows recently that the eyes of my heart are swollen shut with the pain.
Thankfully, God performed a HUGE UNDENIABLE MIRACLE in a friends life recently who also has a child battling cancer and it allowed me to open the eyes of my heart just enough to gaze upon His unmerited and bountiful goodness to us in the midst of terrible and devastating circumstances. He is at work!
So when I am overcome by what I don't know and don't understand, I cling to what I do know. I know that God is with me! I know that God is Good! I know that God is just! I know that God sees! I know that God is in complete control even when I am holding on for dear life. I know that God has already secured the victory and conquered death so that I may live. I know that God loves me always and in all ways. I pray that you know this too as you navigate your own obstacles. Forget what you don't know. Cling to what you do!
I can never thank you enough for the words of encouragement that you leave for our family in the blog comments. You can not understand what they mean and what a a lifeline they are until you find yourself in the midst of something like this.
Update: CJ is doing well as he resumes his chemo. He will have chemo through the port this Friday at the pediatric oncology office. We pray he does not struggle with side effects and does well with the port access.
His poppa is also home. For those who have asked...he will have radiation for the next two weeks followed immediately by aggressive chemo. This is a bit unusual as they typically allow time in between but his cancer is too advanced for that. We surrender him to the Lords healing hands and ask for a steady recovery just as CJ has experienced thus far. I pray no one else in our family will join their club.