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.


Anonymous said...

catagen610Sooooo great to hear from Break the Mold again!!!!!! Will pray for CJ as well, love these blogs, Dawn....Always what God uses to remind me of what's important, Love Cindy

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Happy holidays. Always thinking of your family. May your baby get better soon. xoxo

Keep calm and carry on!

Salvat Family

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,

I am so sorry CJ broke his leg. I hope and pray that he recovers quickly. Thank you for sharing your story and your heart. I have been thinking of you and your family and it is wonderful to hear from you.

Wishing you and your family a very blessed holiday season!



Anonymous said...

Hi Honey,

You know I don't know how to put up the replies on your blog so hopefully you can put it up but the last couple you did are really good. Really insightful and actually really funny. I mean funny about you broke your leg you don't have cancer, really good about focusing on his broken heart and not his leg and really insightful about the ambulance ride and the one you thought you had should have been on 4 years ago.

All of it was good and you haven't raised a cancer brat, just an above normal, kind hearted, Christ filled, boy with a broken heart. I felt so sad for him about having to give up hockey for awhile. It seems that CJ always has to fight so much for what he wants. He may do the teenage complain thing to you but he studies and memorizes his speeches, he smiles and encourages other children, he gives up activities he wants to do and I'm so proud of him.

Besides its grandma's job to spoil the grandson with the broken leg and broken heart.

One comment I remember most this year was that CJ came to you and was worried about me and wanted to spend more time with me because the Bible said to look out for widows and orphans. After that comment the very next time he was here and I went out for awhile to walk the dog, he looked at me so seriously when I came back and he said, grandma this house is so lonely and quiet with just one person in it. He said 15 minutes felt like forever. I feel a little guilty because I heard that same thing in my Mom's voice today. She said my house used to be so filled with you kids, your friends, the activities and now it is so quiet. I have to learn a lesson from my grandson and give her some more attention.

As this year winds down and I think of all the speeches, events, galas, funerals, and blessings that you, CJ, the family and CBC have done for so many my hat is off to you. God Bless You. Proud to be your Mom


Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn,

Thank you for your beautiful blog! You are such a powerful witness! Keep up the good that you do!

Janet Abraham

Anonymous said...


Just wanted to thank you for updating the Break the Mold blog with CJ's story. Not only do you have an incredible writing gift, but your content is, once again, so Godward and so helpful to those who will read it.

Thanks for taking the time to write and, more importantly, for following Christ in sickness and in health.


Billy Long said...

Chris and Dawn, How is C J doing now with the leg? It was a great blessing for me to have had that time in Florida and to meet your family, and to get to know such a special fellow as C J. May the Lord's blessing, grace and presence be with you all.
Billy Long