Although the battle is not my individual one, I have watched many loved ones in the fight against the beast that is cancer. My paternal grandfather's family line was riddled with FAP (familial adenoidal polyposis), which claimed the lives of many of them far too soon. This was passed down to my aunt and her daughter (both of them already deceased).
When I was ten, my close friend was battling cancer. She had lost her hair. We had loads of fun together. I remember a wonderful evening with a trip to McDonalds and then an overnight stay. I also remember learning that she had passed away. It was the first time the disease meant much to me.
It hit closest to home, though, seven years ago, when my brother called to say his two year old daughter, Amelia, had just been diagnosed with leukemia. She bravely fought through it and secured a long chain of beads and tokens for each of the various treatments she endured. I am so grateful to be able to say that she is approaching her five year mark for remission (in April).
Sadly, though, as she approaches a sort of "all clear" (can anyone who has had cancer ever really feel a sense of "all clear"?), her father, my youngest brother, has just been diagnosed with Stage 1 testicular cancer. He has had surgery to remove the tumor and doctors believe they got it all, but still, as a family, they find themselves walking down this road again, with the treatment decisions and the questions looming about the future (will it have spread?). They are on the cancer road again and my heart grieves for them.
I feel especially bad for my sister-in-law, Mary, who is not only dealing with the cancer road of her daughter and husband, but was also saddened to learn of her own mother's uterine cancer not long ago. It seems as if they have been pummeled above and beyond what they should be expected to face. But life isn't guaranteed to be fair and God walks each road with us when we let Him.
I had to keep my middle son home from school yesterday for a sore throat. He was sitting at the computer in our family room, while I was exercising on our mini-trampoline and watching a video I had received for Christmas, starring David Payne and called "An Evening with C.S. Lewis." I was towards the end of the video, where C.S. Lewis described the end of his wife's battle with cancer. He likened it to running away from a giant's castle. She had cleared the gates and they thought she was in the clear, when the disease struck again and consumed her. He expressed his anger upon her death. He detailed railing against God for leading them down a path and then pulling the rug out from under them. I could sense Trevor's ears perking up (he knows about my brother's cancer diagnosis). He said, "He shouldn't say that to God." I asked him how he would feel if his mother or father died of cancer. I asked if he would feel angry with God. He admitted that he would. I was pleased that Lewis, in his lines, admitted that it was merely a way of trying to fight back, to say what might be hurtful to God. Then, he went on to explain that he had to remind himself of the gift he had been given in his wife. She was his, on loan, from God. He went into his marriage expecting to have a few months with his wife. In the end, they enjoyed a little over three years together. My young son's heart was taking all this in and pondering it.
Life is a gift. Our loved ones are gifts of the Father. We cannot take them for granted. We have no idea how long they are on loan for. For now, I am thinking of and praying for my brother's family intensely these days. He is in my thoughts constantly. I am grateful for his life. I am grateful for his testimony. I am grateful for God's provision, even though we are on the road again.
Update: 1/31/2013 Through his efforts to raise Childhood Cancer Awareness in Washington last year, Tim met Eric Shanteau, an Olympic medalist who battled the same kind of testicular cancer as Tim is facing. Shanteau has put Tim in touch with Lance Armstrong's oncologist, the leading doctor in the field of testicular cancer. We are grateful he will be getting some expert advice on the best course of treatment.