Saturday, September 24, 2011

'Normal Anyone'

CJ went in for his one year OFF treatment check up this week. This may sound silly to you but this was a huge milestone for us and definitely for him. You may remember the appointment when the doctor shared with us that, "The first year off treatment is the most critical for relapse." It was one of those things that you wish you didn't hear because once you do you can't seem to get it out of the back of your mind.

After the results were in, the doctor came pulled up the blood work on the screen which includes at least 6 different markers including white blood cells, hemoglobin, platelets, neutrophils, etc. He began reading them off and stated, "Everything looks great!" He told CJ they were all "normal". Now keep in mind that CJ is used to having blood work that is 'normal' for him, or 'normal' for what he is going through, or 'normal' for a cancer patient, or 'normal' whatever stage of treatment he was in so I thought it was quite cute when CJ asked him, "So is that normal for me or is it just normal?" The doctor replied, "This blood work is normal for anyone."

Praise God....CJ is now a 'normal anyone' again! At least according to his blood work, which is about the only place I want him to be a normal anyone ever again!

So what has changed as a result of this great news? Based on the original statement I would say it is safe to assume that CJ's percentage of relapse decreases after the first year off treatment. In addition, CJ will now go in for blood work and a physical every two months instead of every month. Those are great changes and we will take them. Thank you Lord!

As I walked out of that hospital with CJ that day, and we waited for the car, I found myself trying to picture us walking in and what we were like three years ago. I have to be honest, I don't even recognize those people anymore. I could not help but wonder what they would be like today and where they would be if the last three years never happened. It was like I was imagining someone else's life that I once knew. Sounds crazy I am sure but I am just the reporter of what this strange mind concocts.

What struck me as extremely powerful was the sheer vastnass of all that has happened to our family in the three years between CJ's diagnosis to CJ's final port removal. I was sort of frozen with the thought of it all. I was sharing this with my mom later and she said, "That is why we don't know the future." That simple statement has really stuck with me all this week.

I think of all the times I have said, I wish I could go back and do it over knowing what I know now as who I am now. Actually, I said that as recent as this week to a friend who is in her own battle with cancer.

But to be totally honest, when I think back to my absolute worst day in all this, the day that I felt most crippled and terrified by all of this was the day the doctors and the chemo counselor sat me down to 'prepare' me for what the next two years of my life would look like with CJ on treatment. It was the day I crumbled. I was terrified. I felt helpless. I felt hope drain and could not get a grasp on how we would get through the next two years of chemo. Just hearing all that was "going to happen" was devastating.

Can you imagine if she would have also said, "In addition to all of that that you are going to lose your father who you have just gotten extremely close with again, you are going to lose your step father and hold his hand as he passes, you are going to gain and lose a Godchild you will adore and hold her little hand as she passes, you are going to come to love many kids and families and then attend their funerals, you are going to take in your niece and nephew (twice) to live with you because they will need a home, and you are going to sit next to the last person you'd expect, oldest friend you have while she gets chemo."

"That is why we don't know the future," echoes in my head.

As I walked out of that hospital I realized I can't change all the terrible things that happened in the last three years. I can either live in fear of the unknown based on what has happened, or I can live with the knowledge that no matter what happens God is for me and will work all things for my good. I can either think about all the tremendous loss we have experienced, or I can appreciate all the amazing kids and families we have met and had the privilege to know and love. I can either think about all the people that disappointed me or hurt me during this, or can I be grateful for all the blessings God poured out on our family through the most unexpected people. I can either dwell on the cancer statistics and hide from the pain of pediatric cancer and the suffering surrounded by it, or I can focus on what I can do to help just one family today. I can wonder what CJ and the rest of our family would be like without all these tragedies as part of their life and be terrified of their future, or I can rejoice in who we are because of them.

I assume you can imagine which one I am choosing. And I assume you can imagine the consequences of either. Just take a look around you.

After the appointment, I drove home with my "normal anyone" sitting next to me who is anything but normal and I rejoiced in his presence next to me. I thought to myself, three years ago, unbeknown to me, it was Childhood Cancer Awareness Month when I walked through the doors of that hospital to discover my own child had cancer. Three yeas later it is once again Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and I am walking out a different person with a different child. I am now extremely aware of the significance of the month, the suffering, the cost, the loss, and the loneliness. But I am more aware of my Savior, my blessings, my faith, my hope, and the ultimate cure to all of this..... Jesus Christ!

I can either live in fear for the next three years and wonder what they have in store, or I can rest in the knowledge that....

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
(Jeremiah 29:11)

The reason I know that Scripture is true is not because CJ is alive and cancer free, we are financially stable, and we have hope for the future in sight. The reason I know it is true is because that statement can be made and is made just as confidentially by my friend Tabitha who just buried her son Nick a couple weeks ago and is struggling with the finances to even purchase a headstone for his grave site. And it is made by so many other amazing moms I know that have buried their children. That is how I know that I know that it is true. I live it and see it lived out every single day by way more amazing people than myself.

So my "normal anyone" is doing great. He has become the Ambassador/Spokesperson for the Florida Panthers Foundation which focuses on pediatric cancer. They just released a clip of him on their home page. Be sure to check it out at: It is a short clip but worth the peek. He will be speaking at all their signature events beginning with the Gala on October 4th. Last month he shared his story at the corporate headquarters of a Bank to all the Branch Managers. This month he spoke a the Hyundai Hope on Wheels presentation. And next month he will featured as the Make a Wish Child at the Applebees in Hialeah. So much for 'normal anyone'.

But those are not the things CJ would want me to share with you. He would want me to tell you that he has his first Hockey game tomorrow. He is extremely excited. We are extremely proud. Seeing him on the ice is amazing after all he's been through. We had quite a surprise when we went to his practice last week and one of the players on his team came up to him and said,"Hey CJ, your picture is on the boards." And sure enough, it was right there on the boards surrounding the ice where the Florida Panthers practice. Even more exciting, he is on the same team with his brother Brett and we know this is going to be a season they will share together and a special brother bonding time they will never forget.

Please do not forget that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month! These kids deserve the attention and the awareness. It is still so slow in coming and I hope in the coming years we see more progress. Gold is the color for childhood cancer. Gold ribbons for our not so normal someones!


Sonia said...

Congrats Gorge Family, this is a team work, and you made it with your tenacity and with the help of God. It is a beautiful description you have written here.
Give a kiss to your "Normal Anyone"

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Dawn!!!! We were thinly of CJ last Weekend on his first game. Hope he had a blast!


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