In April, 2010, when Andrew was 2 1/2, a tumor was discovered behind his eye. The tumor was removed, but it was found to be an aggressive cancer. He endured seven months of chemo and six weeks radiation. In December of 2010, the day after his last treatment, he was rushed to the ER with an almost fatal bacterial infection. He survived.

He is now seven-years-old!! I don't visit here much, because during the ordeal, this is where I dumped everything--my rage, my fear, my sadness, my ugly, my hope, my everything. But I want all of you who supported and prayed for us to hear his updates. You helped me survive, and I am deeply thankful. Every once in awhile, I will check in to let you know how he's doing. Please continue to pray that cancer will never return to his body. Thank you.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Reflection and Rambling

Thank you friends!  This week we received hats from Missouri and another one from Australia!  I just received a few packages that were originally sent to my AZ address, so I will post pics of those later.  Thank you all for your kindness!

 And Grandma had one made with the name of his favorite song :).

Five weeks down, Two to go.

Houston hasn't been so bad.  It's not home, but it has been a good change of pace.  I have had built-in babysitters, my mom and mother-in-law, and we have had lots of activities to distract us.  It has been difficult to be so far from friends, but it has been easier to just focus on getting this done, instead of having to worry about the responsibilities of home.

The radiation treatment center, while daunting with it's danger/caution signs and huge machines, has strangely been a nice haven for some alone time and reflection.  The people working there are beautiful.  Soothing music plays over the loudspeakers.  Other mothers and fathers come and chat with each other. 

I don't chat.  I bring my ipod and a book and sit still for an hour by myself.  Amazing.  I am totally craving time to myself and have a hard time finding it, so this provides the avenue.  I have been reading autobiographies of various people,  famous for their suffering.  I guess my purpose in reading is to see how they coped, to see how God fit into their struggle, to eavesdrop on their thought processes, to see what got them through.  I find that the music in my ipod calms down my thoughts, keeps me distracted from daydreaming and worry, and allows me to focus on my book.  I have finally been able to read again.

I feel like I am about to write a book report, but I suppose that is where I am at right now.   I have been in a cognitive place lately (except when I find myself randomly sobbing at dinner tables) probably an escape from the overwhelming emotional place where I have spent the last four months.  My brain seems to be attempting the pathetic feat of trying to figure this if it were a complicated rubiks cube, and somehow, if I solve it, my pain will be less.  Ha.   Still thinking about pain, and suffering, and God. 

From the autobiographies I have been reading, the question of God seems to be the place people go when they are in pain.  They either reject God, or embrace God, or push him away for a time, but there is always a decision to be made.   He always enters the picture to some degree.

I started out with C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed.  A bachelor for most of his life, he finally found the love of his life, when he was middle-aged.  A short while later she died of cancer, devastating him and causing him to question everything he had previously believed about God.  God did not answer his desperate prayers that his wife be healed.  He was a very rational, thoughtful man, and much of this journal describes his attempts to figure out his pain--to figure out God.  One of the quotes that resonated with me:

"Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God.  The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.  The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like.  Deceive yourself no longer."

It is hard to wrestle with.  Who is this God who loves us, yet allows babies to get cancer and children to be raped? Who is He?  Using human logic to understand God is frustrating and unfulfilling.  There has to be more.

Second on the agenda was Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike, My Journey Back to Life.  I was curious about his cancer struggle, and learned a bit about his life, his childhood, his relationships, and his attitude.  His chemo schedule, while making him extraordinarily nauseated, seems to have been pretty wimpy compared to Andrew's chemo schedule.  His was only 4 rounds, every three weeks.  Andrew's is 14 rounds, every other week. sigh.  It was interesting to read about his relationship with God (or admitted lack thereof), and to see how cancer changed his perspective on life, and how he would live it.  One of his comments:

 "I hoped hard.  I wished hard.  But I didn't pray....If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn't say, 'But you were never a Christian, so you're going the other way from heaven.' If so, I was going to reply, "You know what? You're right.  Fine." 

Yet he wears a cross around his neck during every race. 
He also wrote:  The day I was diagnosed with cancer was the day I started to live.”   His thoughts reminded me not to keep looking ahead to the day when chemo is done.    When Andrew's chemo cycles are over, the anxiety will be even greater... Carpe Diem.
The third book was Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado, one of the men who survived the airplane crash in the Andes in 1972.  He lived 72 days in the ice and cold, lost his mother and sister, ate the flesh of his dead friends in order to stay alive, and hiked 45 miles through treacherous, frozen mountains in torn up rugby shoes before he found help and found a way to rescue the rest of the survivors. 

I have been awe of this man since I saw the movie Alive.  How does someone survive such horror, summon up such bravery, and keep moving?  I found it interesting, that although he claimed to regularly, and consistently hear a "clear voice of reason" that seemed to come from outside himself, which led him, and guided him, and kept his feet moving, and his hope alive, he did not attribute the voice to God.  He struggled with the logic or apparent illogic of God.  Why should God step in after the accident to help?  Why not prevent the horror in the first place?  Why would it be God's plan to  rescue 16 of them, while allowing 29 of them to die horrific deaths?  This seemed to be his main struggle.  And they are questions similar to the ones I struggle with every day.  It made more sense to him to believe that all of life is random chaos, what happens, happens.  Despite the title of the book, he decided that his love for his family, not God, allowed for them to be rescued. 
I am currently reading Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place.  She has always been one of my heroes.  An amazing woman from an amazing family who sacrificed her comfort, her home, and risked her life many times to save the lives of many many Jews.  One of the quotes from her book:

"Father held the baby close, his white beard brushing its cheek, looking into the little face with eyes as blue and innocent as the baby's..."You say we could lose our lives for this child.  I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family."

And so it happened.  They were thrown into Nazi work camps for hiding and rescuing Jews.  Her father and sister did lose their lives.  Corrie survived and went on to tell their story. It is a beautiful account of how they fervently believed that God guided every step of their journey.  Wherever they went, their main goal was to be the love of God on earth.  She and her sister Betsie prayed for the Nazi prison guards, even as they were being starved and tortured by them. 

Her story, above all of the others, stands out to me as amazing.  She seemed to expect the suffering, and the pain, and the evil.  She did not seem to expect that God would spare her and her family.  She prayed for strength, and mercy, and love.  She prayed that she would be used by God to provide others with comfort.  Even in the midst of the Nazi prison camp she did not seem to doubt the goodness of God, or His love for her.  An amazing account.

So, my rubiks cube is all still a mess, my figuring and reasoning haven't helped much, but my reading has helped me come to a few conclusions:

The ways of God are impossible to understand with human logic. It just makes you go round and round in frustrating circles.  There has to be faith and trust and love.

I need to live each day with as much happiness and joy and love as possible.  No one is guaranteed tomorrow.

We may miss the guidance of God, if we don't expect to hear it.

We are here on earth not to avoid pain and suffering, but to be the comfort and the blessing, and the mercy that others so desperately need.  We are here to be the light in this often dark and painful world.

Easier said than done. 
I'm not sure if it makes my pain any easier. 
I will still randomly cry at dinner tables.
But it provides me with a mindset, a way to attempt to cope.

Next on my agenda...Helen Keller's autobiography.


  1. A+ for this book report!!

    I was happy to hear that you were reading again as I know it can be a much-appreciated escape for me sometimes. But those books you're reading aren't fluffy, quick reads!! They sound fascinating though. I've read Lance Armstrong's book too... and having had 24 cycles kind of rolled my eyes too (not to discredit all the amazing accomplishments he's had...)
    I will have to add "The Hiding Place" to my list... it sounds fascinating.

  2. your posts are amazing.

    I love Corrie Ten Boom's book, so great. I love that you remind us that a decision always has to be made. I love this post, it's really spoken to me.

  3. he looks so happy, that makes me happy!! <3

  4. Hi Julie,

    My heart aches for you. I can only imagine how difficult all of this must be for you. When I read your posts, I sometimes wonder how my Mom dealt with the pain of watching her youngest suffer for so many years.

    My younger brtother was born with Cystic Fibrosis - a lung disease that is terminal no matter what treatments you are given. He had to drop out of high school in his sophomore year because he was on a great deal of medication and oxygen 24-hours a day. He passed away shortly after.

    It was hard for all of us. But most especially for my Mom. We all went through periods of time when we blamed God and wondered why? But we all got through it - mostly because we marveled at the way Mario handled everything. Despite everything he endured - He LOVED life. He LOVED to make people smile and most importantly, he LOVED God.(but he most assuredly had moments of weakness....everyone does)

    Questioning your faith I believe is a very natural reaction when you are dealing with life or death situations. You my dear are honing your strength. Instead of sitting in a corner and giving up, you are doing whatever it takes to stay strong (when you need to be) for Andrew, for your family and for yourself.

    Keep doing what you are doing. Reading. Listening to music. Praying. Talking and Breathing. I am praying for you. And for Andrew.

    P.S. I wish I lived closer so that I could give you a big HUGE HUG!


  5. The Corrie Ten Boom story is really good... I remember reading it when I was a kid.

    Something popped into my head when I was reading this: "gold tried in the fire". I can't remember where I heard that, but your post made me think of this.

    Sending you hugs and good thoughts.

  6. Read, girl, read! And cry at the table all you want. It's so important that you take care of yourself so that you can take care of Andrew, and I'm happy you've found a little respite in Houston, despite the terrible reason for your visit in the first place. Big hugs and lots of hats to all of you!

  7. Two lines really stand out to me in this post: "There has to be faith and trust and love"; and "easier said than done." I'm praying that this experience with increase your faith instead of making it weaker although I know it's easier said than done. -Eastlyn

  8. Julie,

    Go ahead and cry at dinner tables, it has to come out somehow. I never knew when it would hit me, but frequently it was in grocery store aisles or when I was alone in the car. As I have followed your posts about this awful journey you are on with Andrew it suddenly struck are doing it, each day is one more day on the march to making Andrew well, one more day you can check off your mental calendar. I am amazed at your strength to persevere, and understanding that there really is no other choice....I've been there, and I still am, happy for each day my daughter remains cancer free while a part of me holds my breath, but life is good. I hate that another family is dealing with this awful disease, and I will continue to pray for Andrew's complete recovery...for a lifetime.

  9. Wow! Julie, you are doing it. One day at a time - one song at a time - one book at a time. Lots of prayers coming your way. I've got a book recommendation for you A Grief Disguised. It's by Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Sittser (a professor at Whitworth University). A number of years ago he lost his mother, wife and daughter in a car accident from a drunk driver. This book is his journey - kinda like C.S. Lewis' - may I send it to you?? Address in Houston??
    Prayers and hugs to you and the family :)

  10. Thank you for sharing this! I read "A Grief Observed" when I was a teenager and really appreciated C.S. Lewis' honesty. He doesn't take his feelings and carefully word them in the most Christian way possible. I think God is capable of dealing with our honest feelings and we don't need to be so worried about offending him. You're like that too -- sharing your true feelings.

    I have never read "The Hiding Place", but I have always meant to! I'm going to order it from the library right now...


Your thoughts...