Cancer doesn’t observe holidays. Doesn’t take a vacation. Doesn’t step away for a brief time-out. Since the week before Thanksgiving, when my son, Kyle, discovered an unusual mass, cancer dictates how we spend our holidays.
The day before Thanksgiving, Kyle went in for an ultrasound. After the results came back abnormal, we spent Black Friday, which also happened to be my birthday, in the ER waiting for a C.T. scan.
Right before Christmas, Kyle had surgery to remove the malignant mass. Christmas Eve, we learned the mass was not an isolated tumor, but an extremely rare form of leukemia relapse.
New Year’s Eve kicked off a two-year aggressive chemotherapy treatment. At the end of January, Kyle spent his 20th birthday in bed, recovering from a hospital stay.
Good Friday followed the trend with a ninety-six hour admission for I.V. chemo.
Easter morning, I finally let myself slip into the self-pity zone.
Due to a major project rollover, my husband had to work. Kyle was stuck in the hospital. And when I suggested to my two younger kids that we go to early service together, both had excuses of why they’d rather sit with their friends than hang with their mom.
Kyle’s second go round with leukemia can be a lot to handle. Most days, I do okay. I drive him to weekly clinic appointments, sleep on the cement couch during frequent hospital stays, make the occasional ER run, keep my “happy face” handy, and deal with each physical and emotional crisis as they come.
Not so much on Easter morning.
My friends lit up Facebook with, “He is risen.” All I could do was lean over the kitchen island and cry. It didn’t feel like He had risen and if He had, it felt like that rising had zero to do with me.
In the car on the way to church, I struggled with something one of my friends had said to me early on. She asked if I’d thanked God for Kyle’s cancer.
Thank Him? Seriously? For the hardest thing I’d ever face, not only once, but twice?
But the more I thought about it, the less crazy the idea felt. I’d done everything else. I’d cried. I’d begged. I’d prayed. I’d run away—at least in my mind. None of those things changed anything for me or for Kyle.
When we got to church, I claimed parental veto and forced my kids to sit with me. During the message, I closed my eyes and in silent prayer and took a chance on the whole thank-you thing.
Lord, thank you Pat went to work. Thank you that Kyle has cancer. Thank you that Maddy and Alek would rather be with their friends than with me. Thank you for the first Easter we aren’t all together as a family.
That didn’t feel so great. But I kept my eyes closed and quieted my mind.
And then something weird happened and my prayer turned into this:
Lord, thank you for Pat’s job and his insurance that pays for Kyle’s treatments. Thank you that he’s a good, dependable worker that takes care of our family. Thank you for making sure Kyle is safe in the hospital during treatments. While cancer doesn’t take a holiday, neither does chemo or the staff of nurses and doctors that are taking care of him. Thank you that his cancer is curable. Thank you that my younger children have friends. Thank you for Maddy and Alek's health and their typical teenage issues that don’t require multiple ER visits or hospital admissions.
With that prayer, everything changed. Not on the outside, but inside of me. I opened my eyes and found myself miles from the self-pity zone with no desire to go back.
Yeah, life is hard. Some days I struggle just to get dressed. My son is sick. Kyle’s nurses are our new best friends. I’ll probably have PTSD from logging too many hours in medical settings. My family’s a mess.
But deep down, I’m okay.
I wonder if God is using this time to teach me to find the joy and worth in every moment? If I can learn to be content during the worst parts of life, how much better will the best parts be?
My desire to get out of tough situations won’t excavate me, but I do have control over what I do while I’m here. And I think I want to learn what God wants to teach. I think I want to be thankful.
Give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV