Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ironic Twists of Fate

     "CJ, you have cancer not a broken leg!  Get up and come out of your room and do your school work."  I actually used to say that when CJ was on chemotherapy.  

     Did I want to let him lay in bed and feel sorry for himself and just rest his body and distract his mind with video games? Sure! Sometimes. Many times.   But I knew it wouldn't serve him in the long run.  And I always treated him like the cancer would one day be behind him and whatever was left, no matter where that was, is what mattered.  His character. His obedience. His spirit.  His education.  His future.

   But man was it hard at times. When you see your child laying literally broken physically and you want to do anything to make them feel better right that moment, you don't think about years from now. You just want to fix it then.

     I remember very early in his diagnosis coming across another mom that was at the end of her son's long treatment. She was in what we call the 'post treatment phase' when there is no chemotherapy but constant check-ups.  I had two years ahead of me and she had two and half years behind her.  Her son was about CJ's age and I thought, now this is the perfect person to ask advice, so I approached her.  
     "What advice can you give me as a mother as I begin this long journey?" I invited.  She hesitated.  She looked at me. She really looked at me.  I could tell she was weighing her response carefully.  I thought,  This is going to be so deep and so helpful.  I prepared my heart.  She looked at CJ.  She looked at her son. Then she turned to me and said flatly, "If you raise a cancer brat, at the end, all you will have is a brat." 

     Needless to say it was not at all what I was expecting to hear.  And it wasn't the profound advice I was bearing up to digest from a mother who just completed two and half years of chemotherapy with her son. So I just nodded as if she had said something extremely helpful, murmured my thanks, and walked away. 

   Unexpectedly, her words stuck with me.  I knew by the look on her face it took her guts to say and she thought it was important.  I began observing all the other families at the hospital and found myself looking for this 'cancer brat syndrome'.  It wasn't hard to spot.  I suddenly realized what this mother was trying to say. I needed to focus on his heart and not just react to his illness.   Even though I realized it was up to each family to decide how they wanted to handle their own parental fears, guilt, and remorse over their child's illness and pain, I knew I had an important choice to make and that somehow it would have lasting consequences. I was thankful this mother challenged me to think beyond the present.

     In the end, or rather beginning, thanks to these unexpected words from a wise mother who had been in my shoes and as a result of a lot of face time with the floor in prayer, I chose to focus more on CJ's character than his cancer.  I chose to care more about the state of his spirit than the state of his health. And I chose to prepare him for a future with the Lord Jesus Christ, not me.  If you read this blog you know very well that I did it imperfectly and failed miserably at times but I fought to keep me eyes fixed on the goal.... life eternal not life temporal. 

     It often translated into the statement above when CJ was in bed and pushing the limits of chemotherapy's effects if you know what I mean.  "Your legs aren't broken CJ! You have cancer.  Get up, make your bed and get to work."  That was four years ago and I haven't said that in over two years.

   Then, today, in some strange twist of fate, I found myself saying, "CJ, you have a broken leg, not cancer!  Get out of bed.  Get to work and stop feeling sorry for yourself."  I almost laughed out loud when I realized what I had just said.

    You have probably figured out by now that CJ broke his leg.  Badly.  He was playing hockey in his game last Saturday when he took a hit and went down.   Thankfully, the referees and the rink he skates at handled it perfectly and knew to not move him and called 911.  An ambulance came and took CJ to Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. In another weird twist a fate, I found myself sitting in an ambulance thinking about how I always regretted not being able to ride with him to the hospital in the ambulance when he was first diagnosed.  And yet here I was 4 years later listening to him scream in pain and regretting that I chose to ride with him instead of in the protected silence of the car behind.
     It has been a tough break for him in more ways than one.  No pun intended.  The break itself requires a full leg cast which is extremely limiting and cumbersome.  The pain has been pretty constant up to this point. He was actually beginning to make progress with the mobility and pain until we went in to see the doctor for the one week follow-up and x-ray.  They discovered his bone had shifted so they had to cut open his cast, reset the leg, jam some sticks in there to hold the bone in place, and then recast around it.  It hurt. A lot.

     So CJ is frustrated.  Not only because he has a broken leg but because he has a broken heart. He fought so hard to get where he was.  Healthy.  Physically ready and able to play hockey.  He played two seasons at two levels below his own age and worked so hard to get to his own league level.  He had finally made it this season and was loving every minute of it.  Then this. 

     In an ironic twist of fate I asked Someone, "What advice do You have for me in this situation?"  

     And He said,  "Focus on his broken heart not his broken leg."  Funny, how it sounds very similar to advice from not so long ago, just worded a little more eloquently.  

     So once again I choose to focus more on CJ's character than his physical ability. I chose to care more about the state of his spirit than the state of his mobility.  And I choose to prepare CJ for a future with Jesus Christ, not hockey.  Life eternal not life temporal.