Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Survivors Lap

Survivors Lap

Do you notice a survivor missing from that line up in the purple shirts? That would be CJ. The Relay for Life was more difficult for him than we expected it to be. He was unwilling to wear his purple shirt, would not go to the stage to his medal, and did not walk in the survivor lap pictured above. The more I tried to encourage him to participate and the more I tried to explain what would take place, the more he backed away and shut down.

This may be my fault as I did not realize that he would be asked to do those things so I did not prepare him very well. Still, it was surprising that he was so closed to the idea of going forward to receive a medal. He could not explain why. I told him I really wanted to understand why he was struggling so much. I asked him to share his feeling with me and to help me understand but he told me that I can't understand what he is feeling and backed away from me. I told him I really wanted to try and he said, "I don't want you to understand." (Enter the knife into the mother's heart!)

As a result of this unexpected reaction, we participated 'anonymously'. No one there, other than our friends and family, knew he was a survivor or knew the battle we faced these past eight months. There was an odd, aching feeling in my chest as I watched the survivors receive their medals and take the victory lap all unified in their stand against cancer. I had to hold back tears. I was happy for them and felt I knew a little of their experience. But I also felt CJ was missing in that lineup.

As I stood there feeling all alone in my pain, I continued to tell myself that I was not anonymous to God. He knows what I am feeling. He understands, and more importantly, He cares. He understands why I needed to be a part of this and He understands why, for some reason, I was not going to be a part of it in the way I had hoped.

I wondered why it mattered to me whether he walk in the survivors lap or not. I know most people would say, "It does not matter if CJ participated in those things," and in some ways I agree. I wondered if I wanted it more for me or for him. I believe I wanted these things for him. I wanted CJ to grasp just how blessed he is to be among the survivors. I wanted him to be proud of how well he fought and to encourage others to fight. I was painfully aware throughout the night that I could just as easily be at this walk standing over a candle lit bag 'in memory of' instead of 'in honor of' CJ. I knew his story was powerful and I believed it would affect and encourage a great many people there. But it was not to be.

The evening continued and at sundown a prayer was said and we lit the sandbags. As I reached in and lit his bag, I struggled again with my emotions. As I made my laps around the candle lit bags, I felt like no one understood what I was feeling. Then suddenly, I realized that is exactly how CJ was feeling; alone in his struggle, like no one understands or even can understand. I found it strange that we were both struggling with the same thing and yet it manifested so differently and we were unable to comfort and understand each other.

He found comfort and safety in hanging with his friends and tossing the football and keeping his heart distance from the event. I found comfort in drawing close to the event and taking in my surroundings and realizing I am a part of something I never would have dreamed I would be. Yet I am, so I want to experience it to it's fullest. I wanted to talk to the survivors. I wanted to talk with their mothers. I wanted to share CJ's story. I wanted to purchase bags for all of the cancer patients we had met at the hospital. I wanted to tell all those who thought this had nothing to do with them, like I did last year, that it could and it does! However, I did none of those things. I only felt them.

I took in the events of the evening and worried about CJ. I kept looking over at him as he played with his friends and wondered how this would all turn out. Would he ever want to be a part of these type of events as a cancer survivor? Would he turn his back on it once it was behind him? Would I be able to let this be a brief period of our lives that lives in the distant past and grows fainter and fainter with time, if that is what he chooses? Would I be able to influence him either way? Would I ever be able to understand the way he wants me to and would he ever be able to understand the way I want him to? I wondered and worried about all of this.

Then, at one point, CJ suddenly did draw close the event. He came up to me right before the bags were lit and asked if there was still time to purchase bags. He wanted to buy one for his Aunt Penny who has been an encouragement to him throughout this struggle and is also a cancer survivor. I told him yes and took him to the table where they sold them. He picked out a bag, added the label with his aunts name on it, and watched as the girl filled it with sand and handed him a candle. Then he placed the bag next to his. As I knelt there beside my son and looked at the bags I thanked God for this one brief moment that we could share in this event together even if it was not how I had planned.

The next day after the Relay I woke up full of regret for the things I did not do at the walk. For not sharing CJ's story even if he himself did not want to. For not planning better, for not preparing CJ more, for not expecting less. I had regrets for the bags I did not purchase that I should have. Regrets for not understanding more and trying to be understood more.

Before I was completely crushed with all the regrets flooding my mind, I dragged myself out of bed and decided to dump all my regrets off of my chest and into God's lap, along with a few tears. It was a lot lighter load to carry that day. And when a new regret popped up throughout the day, I went straight back to the dumping grounds and unloaded it.

After having the load removed from my view, I was able to see more clearly. My focus slowly shifted from the clouds of regret to a ray of hope. I realized CJ may not have worn the purple shirt or walked in the survivors lap at the Relay for Life. He may never walk in a survivors lap. That is his choice I suppose no matter how differently I may feel about it. He can avoid it if he is not ready for it and I can learn to respect that. However, there is one survivors lap he will walk and a robe he will wear that matters more than any purple shirt or candle lit path in this life. It will be that final lap on the narrow road that leads to the gates of Heaven.
That is the survivors lap that really counts.

"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life
and may go through the gates into the city."
(Rev. 22:14)

CJ is doing really well. He had a great week last week and was excited to not have to go in for counts on Friday. That was a real treat! Instead, he was able to participate in a really exciting field day with all of his friends from the PE class he has been unable to attend this year. He also got to attend a picnic on Saturday with his friends from church. He has been spending lots of time riding his new bike and scooter outside and even practicing jumping his ramp and learning new tricks. He is doing really well in taking his medications at home and never complains about them. He has been steadfast with his devotions and bible reading and seems to be growing a lot in this spiritual discipline.
Our prayer requests at this time are for his continued healing and protection from any long term effects from the medications. And that God would help our family to understand each other in a way we have been unable to do so as of now.

Thank you for staying the course with our family and continuing to pray. Although we seem to have come through the most physical challenges this trial has dealt us, we now sense the most emotional and spiritual challenges being the hardest to contend with. I used to wonder how families split apart after walking through such serious trials together. I thought it could only strengthen them and draw them closer together. But the enemy stalks and knows when to pounce. There is much more to say on this but for now I just beg you to continue in pray for our family to have wisdom and strength to stand against the enemy.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
(Ephesians 6:10-12)


Anonymous said...


My heart aches for you. Please don't let the enemy get a foothold. You mentioned being worried so many times in this post that my heart just broke for you, as a mother and your sister. But, remember, Our Lord says not to worry or fear in the bible over and over again. Stand strong and firm in your faith that the Lord will see this through. He will protect CJ and continue to heal him. He will not foresake him or abandon him. All that time spent in "worry" is wasted time. Spend it being grateful, joyful, thankful, helpful. Block out the worry or continue to pour it on HIS lap. It truly is HIS to deal with, not yours. As a mother, I am so sorry you have to have those type of conversations with CJ. I would be heartbroken to have to have those talks with Kevin, where he tells me he doesn't want me to understand. I do know that those conversations probably do lay in the future. I love you and am sorry for the heavy heart you had to carry and the pain you have had to endure. But, you truly are an example of what we as Christians should strive for. I still see you crawling after our Lord reaching up at him as He walks slowly and steadily ahead of you. Your knees and palms are all bloody from crawling so long. But, you are still crawling and reaching out to HIM. And you want HIM more than anything. This is my vision of you that the LORD has placed on my heart to describe you. I have learned so much from you. Thank you for your diligent study in the Word as it as helped me so much. I will continue to pray for CJ and the rest of the George family. Trust in the Lord with all your heart your mind and your soul!



Anonymous said...

How nice it is to have a BIG GOD to talk to and unload our problems and our cares. Thank you for sharing that you hurt too and that sometimes you have to back off and remember CJ's wishes. God gives mothers the wisdom and the peace to use that wisdom, sometimes when we don't want to. Encourage yourself in the Lord. He is faithful! We love you and continue to keep you all in our prayers and we are claiming the healing not just of CJ's illness but of our hearts as you go through this. Remember, Jesus said He would bring us through. We would not have to dwell there stagnantly. Wishing God's best blessings.
Love, Because of Christ,
Mary B. & Family

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,
I don't know if this helps explain CJ not wanting to participate, but I remember that the young patients with cancer that I took care years ago had many times when they just wanted be 'normal', especially when friends were around, and they would do everything they could to fit in and not be singled out as different. We used to send in teenage volunteers to their rooms to play video games with them and pretend that everything was all right - it gave their minds a break from burdens young children are not meant to carry. You and Chris gave CJ a wonderful gift by allowing him to play with his friends and forget about his cancer, and you carried the emotional and mental burden for him at the event. You did exactly what CJ needed at his young age, and that's what makes you and Chris such wonderful parents and so perfect for CJ! You are very attuned and sensitive to his feelings and his needs, and you knew immediately when he needed emotional distance from the event. You allowed him to cope the way he needed to cope at that time. So don't be so hard on yourself - you did exactly what you, his parent, should have done - you stood in the gap! What a wonderful gift you gave to CJ that day! We love you and we are praying!! aunt Karen

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,
Thank you again for making the time to share your heart and thoughts. May God continue to give you comfort and wisdom.
Your friend,

faith2pray said...

Thank you...

Tammi said...

Dear Dawn,
I'm so sorry that you are struggling so much. You are such a good mommy and I love you so much. It kills me to hear how bad you are hurting. I am also so sad for CJ. Who can know his mind? Only Jesus.

I love you all so much, I will keep praying, kiss CJ for me
Aunt Tammi

Martha Rivero said...

Dear Dawn,

I commented on Little Did I Know post a few minutes ago, and I started to read this post which as all the others is amazing, and I decided to comment on this one also. I just want to let you know something I learned from my trial, and it was that regrets are one of the enemy favorite tools, it is great that you let everything to God, only he can comfort us in moments in which we battle with ourselves. I thank The Lord CJ is doing so well, and I will keep praying for you and your family. Thank you for the update!!!!

With Love


Anonymous said...


Thanks for deciding to take God for his word and not going by what seemed to be happening that night. It encourages me to be still and know that He is God. Faith in Him in the midst of the pain is what can overcome the world. I trust you sense His heart in the loving fire he refines you with right now--by having things not turn out ideally. Not one degree of that melting heat goes to waste. It's just hot enough to melt away the dross. Yes, the Lord may help CJ participate more and embrace survivor events in the future, but I think He's doing an even greater work in your heart right now, giving you the chance to let Him decide the outcomes, and embracing it :]

Love you guys,
and high fives to CJ for making the bag anyway!


Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,

I think your Aunt Karen's comments made a lot of sense. I know that sometimes I just want to hide from my problems and act as though they dont exist!

What really struck me from your post though were your feelings. We forget sometimes how any illness can affect the family. You might feel alone Dawn, but He is always with you and though we can only imagine your feelings we are all with you too. When we ptay its not just for CJ but for all of you. The Prayer Warriors as you call them Dawn are with you and your family too.

Love, Nicole Ana & Alberto

Anonymous said...

I just had a chance to read your blog. First and foremost I want to thank you so much for my survivor bag. Thank you for thinking about your aunt. I have to share a really, really BIG secret with you though. I too feel just like you did that night. I know I have had cancer, I know that I live with it everyday but I never want to be the person that "has" cancer. I want to be strong and get out there and play with my friends..just like you did that night. I want to forget about medicine, or if it hurts, or the scars that look not so pretty, and I just want to be with my family and friends but not as a cancer person but as "aunt penny" or "mommy" or someone's "wife" or "friend" I'm sure a lot of other people don't understand why you don't want to wear that purple shirt but I do...the survivor lap is not for that night....it is for every morning when you get up and every evening when you lay your head down to say your prayers....that you make that survivor lap and while all the kids are there to play with...play with them sweatheart. Enjoy every minute that God gives you and let other's need the purple shirt. I understand you totally CJ...and love you very much too.

Unknown said...

I believe Penny's post is correct. She understands CJ and true to form CJ did not want attention for himself that night but he thought of his Aunt Penny and wanted to do something for her. When Penny was in the midst of her biopsies, surgeries, radiations, we were all there in our hearts but couldn't walk it for her. When CJ was diagnosed though Penny was mad, really mad, ready to fight for this little guy. CJ is quite the same. Like Penny said every day is a purple shirt day for CJ. That is why yesterday when I was at your house ofr the earrings and visiting with the kids when CJ came out of the room I looked at him, my heart squeezed, I wanted to comment on his hair, give him an extra hug but I didn't. I know he doesn't want to stand out. I know, I'm sure, that when CJ is completely cured and he has time to breathe after that he will be an advocate for other sick children. He has been this way all his life even before going through this. He won't stop.

I also as your Mom feel pain when I know you struggle. I know that night was hard for you as you tried to express it to me the next day. I'm sure you have many days like that Dawn and we all have to remember to pray for the rest of the family too because each one of you is going through your own struggles in your own way. I think Corey is the only one that doesn't feel it. Thankfully, you all need a Corey around.

I'm so grateful that after a night and morning of pain you went to Jesus and gave all your burdens to him to bare.

I love you guys so much. I'm a little like Nicole, I try to ignore pain and situations but your way is better. Unload it. By the way Nicole we are praying for you too and your family right now.

We are all complicated that is for sure.

I love you guys.


Poppa Jerry said...

Hey there Family:
Poppa has been sick with a virus that ended me in urgent care on Saturday for antibiotics. I am better today finally, but I have been out of the loop.
The blog has updated me and all I can say to both you and CJ is that I am sure by now with your Anunt Penny's, Grandma Paula's, Aunts Jackie and Tammy and Karen’s input you, have surely figured out what the circumstances of CJ's behavior indicated. But Aunt Karen and Aunt Penny were on the money.
Anyway, it's nice to know that we, as family can be so very empathetic to each other but don't let it stop there! There's a world of hurt out there and we are just a little grain of sand on its shore.
CJ: Whatever you do, you can do no wrong in Poppa's eyes. Just try to remember Poppa's three rules (which still echo in your Mom's and Aunts TJ and Jacks heads): "You can do anything you want as long as:
(1) It doesn't hurt yourself
(2) It doesn't hurt another person and,
(3) It's not against the Law
(wherever you may be at the time)"
And, of course, always use the Bible as the rule book.

Thanks for the prayers, you are all forever in mine....always.....I love you!