We did not invite cancer to join our family, but it showed up anyway.
This Christmas break was mostly spent in the hospital while my Dad had a cancerous tumor in his colon removed. What we didn’t anticipate, which hit like a ton of bricks while talking to the surgeon in that suffocating room, is that the cancer had aggressively spread throughout his body. What we thought would be a simple surgery led us down a dark, long, unknown road called Life With Cancer.
We all handle these things in our own ways. As the news settled in, we don’t have time to creatively decide how to best handle this. We defaulted to what we know. Mom cared for Dad’s every need. Cody cleaned and organized the entire house. Courtney made inspirational posters. James researched and read every imaginable article on colon cancer, wanting hard facts and data. Me? I made a spreadsheet. That’s right, a spreadsheet. Color coded and everything. Every detail of my Dad’s life, insurance information, and medical history is now locked away in a secure spreadsheet so I can take care of his next steps. As the first born child, I have always been bossy, so I have no problem taking charge, calling cancer centers, requesting appointments, transferring records, making sure that Dad would get the best care without Mom having to lift a finger. That’s how I handle it.
So where are we now? We are still in the unknown, facing a grim diagnosis, carefully stepping into new territories of chemotherapy, but trusting that God is big enough, powerful enough, and sovereign enough to do what He pleases. And that trust has to be enough for now.
I made a promise to myself that I will not avoid the pain of this situation. It is easy to run, to distract, to ignore reality, to sugarcoat. But we are in the trenches right now, and guess what? God resides deep in the trenches, so it seems as though He is right there with us. I am choosing to be present, to embrace and experience it all, to not avoid what is hard, but to walk straight into every bit of it.
You know what’s more encouraging than anything? The family of God who rallies around like a champ. I am literally blown away everyday by the extreme acts of intentional kindness and generosity shown to our family, whether it be a huge handmade card signed by the entire Corsicana football team, or the neighbor we hardly know calling to say she’s bringing over shrimp gumbo for dinner. Maybe it’s deep roots in a small town, or maybe it’s my Dad’s favorable reputation, but people have come out of the woodworks and shown up in powerful ways to serve and love our family.
The most common question I (and all people facing tough situations) get is this:
“What can I do to help?”
While the answer is probably that we really don’t need anything, I have learned to let people help, serve, and love. It is a blessing to both us and them. While there is no exact way to go about this, and certainly no two people are alike, here is what I have found to be most encouraging:
- Food – I know it’s the easiest and most used in the Handbook of Helping People. But seriously, who doesn’t love good food?
- Praying – actual prayer. Like the laying-hands-pleading-with-God type. It’s so empowering.
- Victory stories – please save it for another time to tell me how your Great Aunt’s best friend’s brother’s neighbor just died from the exact same cancer! No. Not allowed. We want to hear victory stories of how people made it through and are living cancer-free on the other side.
- Keep things normal – it’s okay to talk about work or church sometimes too. It’s refreshing to have a change of topic.
- “I’m with you” – those words resonate deep. You wish you could fix it but you can’t, so instead you’ve decided to come along for the ride. That means so much.
- Showing love in the way that makes most sense to you – whether it’s giving a gift card to P Terry’s or Flix Brewhouse, or writing a beautiful card, or inviting us over for steaks, or showing up to the hospital with Sonic drinks, or setting up meal trains, or texting for updates on the small things; do what you know how to do best. I promise it’s appreciated.
And if all else fails, just bring a party straight to the hospital.
Ringing in 2017 in style.
Dad, we love you. You know God and trust Him and that gives me so much hope. Who else shares the gospel with all their nurses? I know you will fight this cancer with everything you’ve got.
Until next time,