Sunday, August 29, 2010

Best Laid Plans

With all the excitement of the new year school beginning, we are also anticipating a very special ending. In the same month CJ starts his first year of middle school (6th grade), he will end two years of chemotherapy. The other day I was writing a short bio of CJ's story for a website that will be publishing it. As I wrote that he was diagnosed at age 9, I had to pause and think about that...... he was diagnosed with cancer at age 9! He is now 11! Two years have gone by. He was only 9!

I remember the moment when the doctor specifically said the words "two years of chemotherapy". This was actually told to us on one of CJ's absolute worst days about a week into his initial diagnosis. When I think about it, I can still feel my chest tighten and breath shorten the way I did that day. It was like being punched in the gut with a knife that managed to scoop a piece of your heart out as it was yanked out. I remember that day feeling overwhelmed and expressing to Chris, "How we will do this for two years?"

Looking back, I now know the answer to that question now. By God's grace! September 12th will be two years to the day that CJ was diagnosed. That following week he will go in for what promises to be his last chemotherapy appointment. He will then be scanned and we will hear the word every cancer parent longs to hear. NED! No Evidence of Disease! The all clear! We will begin the journey of walking away from chemotherapy and trusting that his scans will continue to be clear for the years to come.

Sounds positive and full of faith right?......Not!

The truth is.... that is what we are believing, hoping and praying for, yes. But what we really feel is fear and trepidation. As I was preparing for school to begin for my kids (keep in mind I homeschool), I was getting all the books ordered, preparing the lessons plans, organizing a schedule that will best suit our family at this time, and just planning for a successful school year for our family, when I noticed a feeling of being unsettled and feeling like no matter how prepared I was I could not plan our future. This week, I believe I was reminded of why.

Two years ago, I began our homeschool year very excited. We were off to a great start. I even remember the feeling of "finally having it all together." I felt like we were on the right track and everyone was doing so well. Our schedules were laid out. Everyone was working on target. Then tragedy struck. One month into the school year, we were excited about our first PE class that afternoon. But first, CJ had to have an MRI in the morning. You know the rest..... we never made to PE and we never made it home for three weeks. He was diagnosed with cancer that weekend and my great schedules and plans were out the window. All the preparation and all the great feelings of having it together instantly vanished.

In time, we adjusted. We made it through the year. God taught us to depend on Him and not our plans. His plans actually turned out to be better than mine. Hard to believe I can say that right? But I know they did. Mine were written on paper. His are carved in eternity!

Then one year ago, I was at the same precipice. The school year was beginning. We had a year of chemotherapy behind us. CJ was getting stronger, and I was ready to jump back in and kick our homeschool in gear again. We even decided to embark on a whole new journey by signing up for a new rigorous homeschool program. I felt good. This would be a good year. One month into that school year tragedy struck. My father was found dead at his own hand. It was beyond devastating. All my wonderful plans meant nothing anymore. My desire to jump back in...gone. I was once again at the mercy of God! I wish I could say I have come to the point in this tragedy that His plans turned out better than mine. Although I choose to believe it is true in light of eternity, I honestly can't see it or feel it yet. The pain is horrific. The consequences are still avalanching in on us.

So here we are again....We start a new school year tomorrow. I feel good about it. I have all my schedules laid out. My curriculum is planned. We will walk our son through the final stages of chemotherapy in a few short weeks and hear the all clear from his doctors. Allie will have a great first year of highschool and CJ will have a great first year of middle school. It will be a great year, right? I know better. It will be what God determines it to be. And I will trust Him. But I don't take it for granted that there won't be tragedy anymore. The only thing I know for sure is I will glorify His name from the highest mountaintops and from the lowest valleys.

CJ walked in our room last night and told Chris and I that his spine hurt. That is the first time he has ever said that since this began. Mind you, his main tumors were wrapped around his lower spine and tail bone. I think for a moment we both just froze and our hearts skipped a beat. I flashed back over the last two school years and how they began and thought for a minute, not again. After talking with CJ and seeing where he was sore, we determined it was from throwing a baseball around to get ready for the baseball season. We breathed a sigh of relief. I wonder how long we will freeze like that when he is hurting or sick. I have met parents who say....forever. You will always worry and wonder, and then you just trust God.

So, here we go. We are diving in to the new school year tomorrow believing there to be water in the pool. We can't see the bottom, but we know how to swim very well now. And we know all of you are standing on the edge of the pool with life rafts in your hand ready and waiting as you have been for the last two years to throw us a line if we need it. Thank you!

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."
(Proverbs 16:9)

Please pray for CJ as we move forward and trust God for how this will all end. As I mentioned before, he wearies a lot easier these days. We are believing that to be the wear and tear of two years of chemotherapy medications and blood counts all over the place. Continue to lift him up!
Please pray for the parents who never make it to this stage. They are heavily on our hearts and mind as we enter September. Please remember that September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Oddly, CJ was diagnosed during this awareness month that I knew nothing about! Not anymore! We are determined to be sure everyone knows what this month is. We are determined to get the gold ribbon which represents childhood cancer as saturated as the pink ribbon is. It will take years but we will do it.

Please support our families 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to raising awareness and support for childhood cancer.... Children Battling Cancer, Inc. (CBC) Consider making a donation during the month of September in honor of a child battling cancer. All the proceeds we raise go directly to supporting these children. You can go to our website at to donate and learn more. Please consider hosting our chemo bag awareness fundraiser at your church, school, clubs, work, neighborhood. It is easy and we provide everything you need. We need to raise awareness and support and we can't do it alone!!! Check it out on the website!


Michal said...

I know what you mean about being worried. Two years ago I was also just starting to have very severe stomach aches, sometimes lasting all day or three hours at time. It was the worst time of my life, but with the help of God I have come a long way. I am praying that C.J. will continue to hopefully heal, and that he will soon be cancer free.

P.S. Looking forward to Hopeful Hugs working with CBC! And yes, my mom also home schools me! : )

Anonymous said...

You my dear friend are an inspiration. It's amazing to me how you look at your trails and seek to find joy in them and not dwell on the sorrow they can bring. Through the grace of God, you encourage me to see that we can be strong even when suffering weakens us. Your humility in allowing the Lord to use the difficult trails in your life for His glory is an example to me. I continue to be blessed by each of your postings. Thank you for sharing your heart and being so transparent. You are an amazing woman of God and I am blessed by our friendship. I love you, Ody

Anonymous said...

Dawn, CJ and the George gang,

Thank you so much for the updates and Dawn when I read what you write, I get anxious and nervous as I just don't know what is going to happen and I am fearful as well, as you stated. You are such a GREAT example, I really think you are the best person I know and I know alot of people. I cannot wait for you to be typing NED, it is coming very soon! Thank you for allowing me to pray for you, for inviting me into your life and for our friendship, I am forever changed by knowing you. Please tell everyone hi from the Hedrick's!

Loving you all,


Nan said...

I have been so touched by your journey. You have honored the Lord greatly and found the hidden treasure of finding His Light in the darkness. Thank you. I write a daily devotional blog and the one I am posting for tomorrow kept coming to me as I read your post. I was struggling deeply this morning and God took me to Habakkuk 3:3,4 - "God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. SELAH His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of His praise. His brightness was like the light; He had rays flashing from His hand, and there His power was hidden." The beginning of this verse reflected Deuteronomy 33:2 where Moses is remembering the goodness of the Lord - when Israel cried out in the wilderness, God came to them. And that is what He has done for your family. He has come in His goodness, His might and power. He stretched out His hand and there His power was hidden. His power! His power to extend grace, peace and strength for the journey.

God bless you. I will continue to pray as you hope in Him.

Bless you!
Nan Jones

Anonymous said...

HI Dawn,

I read your post and went to get something to drink.... all the while I realized that I was singing NED NED continuously in my head... and I still am! It is going to be a long couple of weeks, and even though we are not with you physically I know that spiritually we, and many many more are with you.

Lots of love

Nicole Ana Alberto