CJ finally had the opportunity to spend some time with a special kid this week. His named is Patrick Pedraja and he is also the son of an officer with the Police Dept CJ's dad works for. Pat is just 14 years old and the week we saw him he had just completed his last round of chemotherapy after three and half years of treatment for Leukemia. We had been hoping to get CJ and Pat together ever since CJ's diagnosis back in September but this was the first opportunity. God's timing is perfect!
It was moving to see CJ and Pat together and listen to them converse about things no young boys should be able to chat about so naturally. The discussed the similarities and differences in their treatments. They talked about their ports and their experiences with chemo. They talked about things and used words that would be foreign to most adults. They certainly were to me less than a year ago. As I sat and watched them and I spoke with Pat about his future plans, I realized God was giving me an amazing "do-over". I had prayed for this "do-over" but never expected it to come.
You see, our family met Pat about two years ago while visiting briefly at a friends home. He had come to visit the family while we happened to be there. We were told he had Leukemia. I confess I did not really know anything about Leukemia at the time and I am ashamed to admit, I did not make any effort to try to find out more about it either. I did not even realize it was a type of Cancer. I thought it was a blood disorder of some type. All I understood was that he was sick and was receiving treatment for it. Of course, that should have been all that it took for me to try to understand what he and his family were going through and offer my sincere compassion and heartfelt prayers. I do remember being told he was receiving treatment at the time and I remember him having to go inside and lie down after only a short time of playing. It wasn't ignorance that kept me from understanding what he was experiencing that day. It was selfishness. Unfortunately, I was so consumed with my own struggles and feelings that day (which now seem so insignificant) that I did not take the proper time to "....not only look to my own interests, but also tot he interests of others." Phil 2:4
Within a year of meeting him, CJ was unexpectedly diagnosed with Lymphoma, another word I knew nothing about. As we entered the world of cancer and chemotherapy, I learned rather quickly what Pat's world was like and what he and his family were going through. It is unfortunate that it took that turn of events in my life for my eyes to be opened. Needles to say, I have deeply regretted that day of first meeting Pat ever since, and on more than one occasion have wished I could do it all over.
I wish I could say that since then I have not struggled with this. On the contrary, now that my eyes are opened to it, I only see it all the more clearly. I have been continually shocked at the level of selfishness I am able to demonstrate again and again. I truly believe selfishness runs deeper than many of us realize. The root of all sin is pride. And selfishness is pride on full display. I am convinced that it is this very thing that keeps us from truly serving others as God intended and from demonstrating Christ's character in this world. Selfishness, after all, is the antithesis of Christ. He laid down His own life for us. There is no more selfless act than that.
In and odd twist of fate (or more likely, God's desire to make sure this hardhead truly learned the lesson) the majority of CJ's treatments are in a bed at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital lying under a roof tile with Pat Pedraja's name on it in big, bright, blue letters. I am not kidding! You do realize by now that this his how God deals with me again and again! To enlighten you as to just how unlikely this is please consider the following: Pat only had about a month of treatment at Joe DiMaggio before being transferred to St. Joseph's in Tampa for the remainder of his care. The majority of kids treated at JoeD in this unit do not even paint a roof tile. There are 100's of roof tiles placed all over the unit, many of which I will never see unless I am placed in those particular beds. There are over 24 beds in the unit and CJ just happens to spend the majority of his time lying under Pat's tile. You already know I do not believe in coincidence so I suppose that is enough said about that.
I remember staring up at it one day as I sat by CJ's bed while he received chemo. I was praying and confessing that I had been selfish the day I met Pat and wishing I could have that day to "do-over" so I could be more compassionate towards him and his family. So I could at least make an attempt to understand and leave that day committed to praying faithfully for him as so many have for CJ.
Although He forgave me, God did not give me that day to go back and "do over". However, He did graciously give me a different day! Seeing Pat the other day, in the same home I first met him, and knowing his treatment was complete was such a blessing. I was truly able to understand. I was able to talk to him and care about him and attempt to understand what he was experiencing.
It brought me a lot of joy to see him and CJ playing together in the yard. It was the first time CJ seemed completely at ease in a group of kids at physical play. He knew Pat had a port in his chest just like him. He knew Pat knew exactly what he felt and understood his private thoughts and fears. Pat was able to understand the frustration CJ feels when his lower body does not cooperate with his upper body. The limp was not awkward or unfamiliar to Pat. He understood the tightness in his joints that CJ struggles with because he deals with it himself. Most importantly, CJ was able to look at Pat, now at the end of his treatment, and see the end of his own treatment maybe just a bit more clearly.
Permit me to share something with you. After our visit with Pat and watching him and CJ interact together, I had a picture of a race. There were lots of runners. The race was long and hard. None of the runners had ever run this kind of race before and were many were not even sure how they got in the race in the first place. The runners were exhausted and could not see the goal line in sight. But they had to keep running no matter what. Quitting was not an option. The runners were always aware that some would not finish the race and that was unthinkable.
Some of the runners finished the race ahead of others. They walked off to meet up with friends and onlookers who had been cheering them on. They celebrated their victory and left the race. Some runners finished the race and went off for water and were just grateful for the race to be over, the pain behind them. But some runners finished the race and instead of walking away they seemed to stay and linger at the goal line unable to turn away from the other runners still in the thick of the race. Instead, they turned back, faced the runners still running and cheered them on, encouraging them to press forward and finish the race.
Pat is that type of runner. He is lingering at the goal line, encouraging others, and refusing to leave anybody behind. How do I know? Because he did it for CJ the other day. And because he did it for 20,000 other kids. Due to his experience with Cancer, Pat started a non-profit organization called Driving for Donors, Bone Marrow Donors that is! And since its inception in 2007, he had added over 20,000 additional Bone Marrow Donors to the National registry. Check our his website at www.drivingfordonors.com and register to become a bone marrow donor if you are not already one. If you are a minority, please especially check this out and consider becoming a donor. Children (and adults) of Latin and Asian descent have an extremely difficult time finding matches and often die before one can be located because minorities are under-represented on the NationalRegistry. It is as simple as a cheek swab to get started.
It is my sincere hope that CJ, like Pat, will also be a runner that lingers at the goal line, turns back and encourages others that are still in the race. And I pray that God will somehow lead me to be a better example to him, and to all my children, of what that looks like.
"I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." (Acts 20:24)
Prayers: CJ has chemo and a spinal tap this Friday. Please pray for him to have a steadfast spirit and full health. He has been given the go ahead from his doctors to play baseball in the fall. However, he will need to try out this Saturday to be placed on a team. Please pray for God to provide him with the perfect coach and team for his situation. I believe he is a little worried about his ability due to the difficulty he is having with his ankles and full lack of mobility. He came to me the other day and said, "Mommy, I was the the bath tub and I was thinking and praying about what to do about baseball because I am not sure how my ankles will do." His daddy told him that baseball was still almost two months away and that is a lot of time for them to loosen up and feel better. So we signed him up and are hoping for improvement by then. Please pray for his continued healing in this area. We believe it is a joint stiffness due to the medications he is receiving and very common with chemotherapy.
Pats Roof Tile:
If you have not read the post about the roof tiles in Pediatric Ambulatory click here: CJ's Star