Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Day of Broken Promises Redeemed

It was an experience our family will never forget. It was also a day I learned a very important lesson.....Never make promises you have no power to keep! I repeatedly broke promises to CJ that day until I realized I had better keep my mouth shut and trust in the only One who can not break promises.

Today is the one year anniversary of the day we sat in an office while CJ had a routine MRI that lead to the most unexpected diagnosis we could have ever imagined. I have never shared the details of how that day developed and lead us to where we are today although I have had lots of questions about it. I guess most people are curious about the process and our reactions and many never really knew how we got here. I though it would be therapeutic to write about it on the one year anniversary and also share with you how we plan to redeem a day of broken promises to bring Glory to the keeper of promises.

On September 12, 2008, one year ago today, we arrived to the outpatient center at our local hospital as you would for any routine appointment. I realize an MRI may not sound like a 'routine' appointment, but in the sense that we expected to have the test done, spend about an hour tops at the hospital, and head home, it was routine. We left our other three kids home with grandma and headed out. I had plans to begin teaching our first PE session for the school year to a large group of 5-9 year olds with our homeschool group by early afternoon that day.

CJ was nervous the morning of the MRI but he is a child who is persistently nervous so to be perfectly honest he was doing quite well under the circumstances. I do remember him having questions about the procedure in the waiting room. He was worried about getting shots and I looked him in the eye and said, "CJ, don't worry, I promise there will be no shots! All you have to do is lay still. The stiller you lay, the faster we go home."
That would be the first of a series of broken promises.

The MRI began as normal as would be expected. We were told to expect a loud machine, a cold room and maybe 30 to 45 minutes of laying still. We prayed with CJ before beginning and told him we would be right by his side the entire time. CJ entered the machine and Chris and I sat in chairs beside him bundled in covers and we each prayed silently for CJ's anxiety and comfort as well as for the results. We read for a while, prayed some more, and waited.

Please hear me when I say we did not want the MRI to find 'something wrong' with CJ but we did desperately want answers by that time. I remember praying as he was in the machine in a confusing sort of way, "God, please don't let anything be wrong with CJ, but I know something is wrong, so please reveal what it is so we can help him." Thankfully, we have a God who deciphers our messed up words and delivers according to our hearts and His will.

CJ reminded me of this one night not too long ago. I was in the office typing while he was in the bath after a long day of chemo. He called to me from across the hall, "Mom, do you think when we say the wrong thing when we are praying or we use the wrong words, God still answers the right way?" I told him "Yes! God listens to your heart not your words." And as I said it, I thought back to this day and my confused prayers.

I guess what I was thinking as I was praying for CJ that day was, what will we do if we are told, once again, that everything looks good and they see no problems or abnormalities. We did not know what the next step would be at that point other than starting over at step one, waiting for the pain to begin again, and heading to the Emergency Room for the fourth time to try to figure out why he was suffering. As we sat there, Chris and I discussed possibilities like bone abnormalities, a small overlooked fracture and even serious possibilities like muscular dystrophy or MS. But never once did tumors or cancer cross my mind. Chris, on the other hand, has since told me that he did allow his mind to go there, but he certainly did not share that with me at the time.

After an hour in the machine, I began wondering why it was taking so long. I stepped out to ask the technician when we would be done because I had an appointment to keep. The gentleman began to ask me a series of questions while offering no information. Did CJ have an injury? Did he fall? Did he have an accident? How long has he been in pain? This is when I knew they saw something on the MRI but they would not say what other than that they were getting lots of "good" pictures and they would send them to the doctor for review. I asked about my appointment and he said, "I don't think you will make your appointment so you may want to cancel it."

That is when things started spinning in my head and my stomach began to feel a little nauseous. To avoid thinking, I started making the calls and arrangements for the PE program I would now miss. I called grandma and told her it may be a while longer before we get home.and to pray for CJ. As I stood outside the room, I realized I was stalling because I was afraid to step back into that room and repeat to Chris what the technician had said. I did not want to cause him that kind of pain and I knew how desperately he would begin to worry at that point.

Finally, I realized I would not be able to keep it from him and I stepped back in the room and shared with him what the technician has asked me about injuries and said about canceling my appointment. His face betrayed my heart. We began praying immediately.

At this point, I am sure they must see an injury because why else would the technician ask me if CJ fell or had an accident? I thought there must be a fracture or severe bruising or scarring of some sort. I remembered thinking if they see some sort of back injury they they will want to immobilize him as a precaution when he is done and Chris remarked the same.

At well over an hour into the MRI, I remember praying it would end so we could just go home. Each minute felt like torture. It was hard to breathe and I was shaking. Another forty-five minutes later the technician comes in and says they need to take CJ out of the machine and give him a shot of dye in his veins so they can see better. I immediately cry out, "But I promised him no shots," somehow expecting the technician to say, "Well in that case we won't give him one." Instead, the technician stares at me blankly not seeming to care about a mother's silly promises and pushes the button to release CJ from his tube imprisoning him.

When CJ came our of the MRI tube, he was so amazing. He lay perfectly still for over an hour. The headphones they had put on him so he would have some music to distract him and help cover the loud noise of the machine did not work and although the room was freezing cold and they bundled him up, he was drenched in sweat. He looked so relieved, fully thinking it was finally over. He kept his end of the bargain. He lay perfectly still. I remember feeling so proud of him at that moment and at the same time devastated at what he was about to hear.

Then it happened. The tech told him they needed to give him a shot a take a few more pictures. He looked at me and immediately with a look of complete confusion and began to cry. I knew I had broken a promise and I knew he was just crushed because he went from being relieved it was finally over to hearing he had to now get a shot and go back in. My heart began to break right there. Little did I know just how much deeper it would break over the next few days.

I looked at my son and once again, I said, "Just one shot and fifteen more minutes in the machine and we go home, I promise." They let him sit up and gave him the shot and he immediately threw up. I can not express how desperately I wanted to scoop him up, tell everyone he has had enough for one day, and go home. It was an actual physical urge I had to fight. Intellectually, I knew I had to stay in order to help my child but irrationally I began to consider my alternatives.

We prayed with him and he began to calm down and went back into the machine. Fifteen minutes turned into thirty... which turned into forty-five. Worry and fear is really setting in at this point. We did a lot of praying and then I started replaying when they took him out of the machine in my head. I was wondering why they let him sit up so carelessly if he had some sort of back or spine injury. It did not make sense! I just could not understand what else it could be. I remember asking Chris,"Why did they let him sit up?" and he just started at me and shook his head. But the look in his eyes scared me.

Finally, the tech came in and took CJ out of the machine. I remember feeling so relieved for CJ until the man states, "We need to take him to a more powerful machine to get better pictures. It will be much quicker." And there's broken promise number two!

CJ again looks at me completely crushed and I feel terrible I lied again. Although he takes this better than the news about the shot, he begins to ask questions we can not answer and saying repeatedly that he wants to go home. We walk over to the new machine at another part of the hospital and the whole time we are talking to him to keep his mind distracted and play down the seriousness of the situation. I tell him, "Don't' worry, just one more machine and then we go home, I promise."

We finally get to the newer MRI machine and in he goes again. He knows what to expect at this point so he gets settles in quickly. Chris and I take up our stations beside him and begin praying and talking and praying and wondering and praying and waiting and praying. The waiting is physically painful. At this point there is a heavy ache in our chest that will not go away. Our minds are racing and we are having to do everything we can to lasso our thoughts with prayer and faith. We are both trying desperately to be strong for each other and at the same time remain strong for CJ.

A little over half hour later it is over and we think we are done and going home. The technician walks us back to the room where our stuff was and as I begin gathering our things he says he is going to speak with the doctor who referred us and then let us know what to do from there. This is the first time I actually think, "Wait a minute, we may not be going home." Instantly, I can see the look on Chris's face change and I realize he is really worried now and trying to hold it together.

I am still thinking they found an injury or they would not be holding us like this but at the same time I am wondering why in the world they are letting CJ walk around on his own if there is some sort of spinal injury. Wouldn't they immobilize him? Why do we need to wait for the doctor to call? There are so many questions running through my head at this point and no answers to follow.

Once again, the waiting is extremely difficult. Chris and I can not really talk to each other because CJ is sitting there with us so instead we just sat there and listened to our thoughts while trying to silently stay connected and in tune with each other.

Finally, what seems like hours later but in actuality was more like 20 minutes, the tech comes in and says to pick up the phone because they have the doctor's office on the line. I will never forget this moment for as long as I live. I can picture it clearly. Chris and I are side by side with the phone held in between us so we can both hear what the doctor says. We are clinging to the phone and to each other in more ways than one. CJ is sitting in a chair in front of us. A woman from the doctor's office is on the line and says, "Mr. and Mrs. George, the doctor has reviewed the films and he sees 'something' on the MRI. CJ is going to be taken to the emergency room and then transferred by ambulance here to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. The doctor will meet you there." And along with my heart, there goes promise number three.

My head was spinning, I was so confused. What is 'something' on the MRI? I was scared for CJ and scared for Chris. I was thinking, 'what are we going to tell CJ and how in the world are we going to stay calm in front of him'? My heart was racing and my stomach was churning and I felt like I may throw up at any minute. Chris was fighting off panic internally, but externally holding it together for me and CJ. Looking back to that moment, I am so thankful we were there together. I can not imagine what that experience would have been had I or Chris been there alone with CJ.

We began walking down the hall of the hospital towards the Emergency Room, blindly following the technician. If felt like we floated there. Everything was going by so fast and I remember just wanting to slow down. I was thinking 'stop, just stop a minute'. But I couldn't seem to make it slow down so I could make sense of what was happening.

For Chris, the phone call was his moment. When he heard the words, "we saw something on the MRI," he knew how serious it was. Not me! I was still confused and thinking it would all be okay if we could just sit down a minute and talk to the doctor or someone who could explain what was going on. However, when we walked through the doors of the ER, I realized instantly how dire this situation really was. It was written all over the faces of every nurse in that room. I wish I could explain the looks on their faces. Every nurse looked at us with the strangest look in their eyes. Pity? Is that pity? From an ER nurse? It was nothing like a typical emergency room experience where no one even looks your way because they are so busy and they have seen it all before. I knew they knew something more than me and I wanted to scream, "What? What is wrong with him? What is going on?" Some looked liked they pitied me so much that I almost wanted to assure them that everything was going to be okay. It really was a strange reaction on my part I suppose, but I felt it none the less. I had never seen a nurse look helpless or in shock before but that was what I saw. I tried to read their faces. I remember locking eyes with one and begging her woman to woman, mother to mother to help me. With no words whatsoever. I really did. And it worked.

Within a few minutes she came in the room and set a file down wide open next to Chris on the counter and went over to examine CJ which I don't think she needed to do in the first place. Chris said he looked down at the file and saw a hand written piece of paper right in the open that said, "spinal tumors". Of course I am assuming her motives and in all actuality it could have been a mistake, but somehow I seriously doubt it. She was an experienced nurse. But she was also human and I believe she could see that we desperately needed to know something.... anything.

Within minutes a doctor stepped down to tell us the same news. They saw tumors wrapped around CJ's spine on the MRI and we would be transported to Joe DiMaggio where a biopsy would be performed as soon as possible to determine what it was. Oddly enough, I still never thought of the word 'cancer'. It just was not part of my vocabulary.

As we began to tell CJ what would happen next, understandably, he was very upset. He had not stopped crying since he found out he was not going home. It was more of a desperate whimper and plea for help from the only two people he trusted. Me and his dad. Once again, I was tempted to make him promises about what would happen over the next for days to reassure him. They formed in my mind but before I could utter them I realized there was only one Promise Keeper and I am not Him. And I was going to need to trust in His promises myself before I could make any to CJ.

I could never have imagined on that day of broken promises one year ago, that we would spend the anniversary recounting the true promises of our Lord, but that is exactly what we will be doing. CJ and his sister Allie will spend, September 12, 2009, the one year anniversary of that fateful day, not remembering my repeated broken promises and all that it lead to, but instead, reciting the True promises found in Scripture, as they participate in the National Bible Bee Local Competition that will be held all over our country on this special day. In this way, we will redeem a day of broken promises by standing on the promises of the One who is faithful.

Pray for CJ and Allie as they participate in this great event. Pray the Lord will bring to mind all they have memorized and studied over the past six months. But most importantly, pray they will hide and cherish His word in their hearts!

For all of you who love our lack of co-incidences, but rather, God-incidences. Check out the website to the Bible Bee. You will be completely mind blown at how it was started and who/what it was started in memory of. I signed up before I realized this. And of course, it just happened to fall on this date of all dates! Hmmm!

"My comfort in my suffering is this, your promise preserves my life."
Psalm 119:50

"Your promises have been thoroughly tested and your servant loves them."
Psalm 119:140

Quick Update:

Although they kept him isolated in a private room because of his cold, CJ's doctors allowed him to have his full dose of chemotherapy and spinal tap on Friday. He did really well and I was very proud of him. He had some special visitors in the form of two golden retrievers that he adores and adore him. One in particular met him a year ago at diagnosis and took a liking to him right away. The feelings apparently have not waned at all, as once again, she climbed right up into his bed, stretched out to full length, and went to sleep with CJ close at her side. Precious!

Some of his doses have been increased on his meds due to higher blood count results than they would like but nothing that should cause too much change or adjustment for him. Unfortunately, he did experience the itching again as a result of the chemo but was able to handle it with less frustration this time.

The Bible Bee also went really well. He wished he had studied more and memorized more verses but he decided to go without regrets and do his best on the written and oral portion of the tests regardless. We prayed before we left and headed out to redeem the anniversary day of his diagnosis on year ago today.

We received a call this afternoon that CJ placed 3rd in his age category on overall score of the written and oral tests combined at our local testing site. That was very special news and we give all the glory to God! We are thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a great event locally with the knowledge that kids all across the country were participating in the same event at the same time. It was really neat! Thank you for your prayers and support!


Unknown said...


I am speechless! Once again, my heart is so heavy and saddened by reading what you guys had to suffer and endure through. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. I am so amazed by the Bible Bee and who and what inspired it! I pray today that you as well as the children will hear and cherish the only promises that will NOT be broken, HIS PROMISES. As a mother my heart breaks for you as I have been called a promise breaker by my own son and have had to have many conversations with him on this subject. I pray that I never have to go through what you and Chris experienced that day as parents, but, if it is in God's Plan for me, that I can be as devouted and obedient followers of Our Lord and Savior and carry out His complete plan for our family as you have done. Your obedience, endurance, persistence, consistency, and focus has allowed the Lord to work through you for HIS GLORY. Thank you once again for your openess.

I love you, and will spend the day thinking and praying and paying attention to what the LORD wants me to do and hear and take from this.

Your sister in Christ and tears,


Anonymous said...

Wow, I can't believe its been a year! and I can't believe all God has done.

Thank you for sharing Dawn, its such a blessing to see the spiritual footprints of hearts seeking God.

I was crying remembering you guys!!!!!


andrea said...

It is so cool that the Bible bee could be on this day! I have been praying for Allie and C.J. to do well on the questions, i hope they have a great time glorifying God with their sweet memorizing skills! :)
i love you George family and also was crying through this post, it has been amazing to see the different things God has done in your life, thank you for sharing with me. Have a wonderful day full of redeemed promises.


Anonymous said...

We will never forget Sept 12....thank God He goes before us & with us.
We love you and are standing with you in prayer for CJ and your family! Aunt Karen

Break the Mold said...

I was talking today with my mom day about how we have those days we will never forget.

I remembered when I was growing up my mom would tell me how everybody remembers where they were when Kennedy was shot.I did not really understand it and could not comprehend how all those years later they could remember it like it was yesterday.
I though maybe she was weird because she said the same thing about when Elvis died.

The closest I came to understanding was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded when I was in elementary school. There was a boy that was so affected that he was never the same after. It was like his world changed in that one event. I was affected but not enough to change from it.

Then 9/11 happened and I realized what it was like to have a day etched in your brain instantly that you will never forget that changes who you are. I will NEVER forget where I was when that plane hit the first tower. I was a young, naive (politically and globally) stay at home mom happily playing with my little girl and baby boy when I watched the events unfold and happen live right before my eyes on TV. My whole world changed that day and I woke up to a reality I never knew existed. It was a reality that had been there all along of course, but not to me, not until that day.

Sept 12th is the same for me as well. I will never forget the events of that day. I wrote about them here but I doubt I will ever need to look back for reference. I woke up to a whole new world that I never knew existed. It was there all along, but not to me, not until that day.

Break the Mold said...

We received this email from a little girl somewhere in the US. We wanted to share it with you because it meant so much to us. Thank you for sending us this message!

"I am 10 years old. I really admire CJ and his faith in God. I am doing the Bible Bee competition too! I just wanted to say that I really REALLY admire him and I pray for yall every night. :)"

Martha Rivero said...


Congratulations to CJ in getting the 3rd place!!!!

I was very touch with what you wrote explaining or most describing what you felt when CJ was diagnosed. Waoo what a difficult moment, and how God has used this situation to touch many lives, one of those life's mine itself!!

We will continue to pray! God will hear our prayers. Here I leave you with one of my favorites promises:
"I am with you always, to the end of the age." Mathews 28:20

With Love, your sister in Christ,


Kevin Abegg said...

So much has happened in your lives it's hard to believe that's only a year ago. Thanks for recounting God's faithfulness over this journey and congradulations to both Allie and C.J. on the Bible Bee!

Kevin Abegg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CeCe said...

Wow, I never knew what really happened!


Anonymous said...

Congratulations CJ. Aunt Penny is so proud of you and how you have handled all these ups and downs over the past year. People three times your age cannot compare. Each anniversary date will be special for you and your family because it marks another year that you all share your love with each other and the Lord. I love you lots little buddy...I'm waiting for you to smack a homerun in baseball.

Anonymous said...

As soon as I saw, CJ placed third, I thought, "Of course, that is no coincidence. That is CJ's number!" :)

Break the Mold said...

It's funny that you mention that. The other day he said to me..."Mom, the three thing is really weird lately." He thinks it is like his little comfort and sign from God and he is noticing it a lot. He said when he was nervous in Orlando about the cancer camp classes he realized he was placed on yellow team number #3, when he was nervous about playing baseball he not only got the number 3, but he plays 3rd base.
It reminds me of a lady who painted him a beautiful painting when he first got sick who says God always gives her triangles as a sign He is with her. (Notice they have 3 sides)
God gives CJ 3's. Thanks for pointing out the 3rd placement! I didn't catch that one.