To Live Through It

To live as a parent of a child, formally a blood cancer patient. What does it mean to live through it?
Long after the last drop of your child’s blood is medically deemed unpolluted with an alarming number of mutated leukocytes, fear still lives in you like a latent virus infecting your own cells. Dormant. Inactive at times. But, still, it is alive. You almost forget it is there, until, what otherwise might be a minor event or innocuous comment, somehow inflames panic.
The fear virus.

The fear virus flares up like a raging case of dermatitis. You feel the painful swelling and annoying itch, yet must carry on with your duties. But you know it’s not your best work. You attempt to cover the defenseless, raw blemishes. But you know others can still see them. You lament the discomfort; the whole sleepless, joyless, listless ordeal.

You apply ointments and balms, oils and antiseptics. But nothing works. You just have to let it run it’s course.

All you can really do is wait for it to pass.

Likewise, you wait for the fear virus to pass. You pray and you wait and you pray. You hold tightly to God and hope. It doesn’t leave your body, but it does leave your sight. It does pass. It will pass. You will live through it.

Grace be with you, parents and friends.



(Former) Cancer Mom Confession

Justin says he has a headache. Okay, no problem. I give him water. Maybe some ibuprofen.

It was always Tylenol before. Ibuprofen does something to your blood. Leukemia patients can’t have it. I can’t remember why, but I remember Tylenol never did much for the pain.

And just like that, I can hardly breathe. A random thought memory sends me reeling back into the rooms with awful lights. Awful smells. Pain. A bag of stranger’s blood and a bag of chemicals dripping down into my child’s veins.

I am there again. And I can’t get out. I can’t get out unless I anchor my mind to something. Something good. Sometimes a good memory. But, most of the time, it is words. Words on a page force my brain from the disarray of fight or flight to whatever part is more logical. To me, the amygdala is completely unreasonable, but can be commandeered with words and sentences.

So thank you for reading my words and sentences that, even after 7 years, are still needed to quell the panic attacks, bring me back to the present and make me breathe.

Justin is not sick anymore. He is here. His eyes are full of life and he is holding a baby chick. So carefully. So tenderly. God is faithful.

Two Years Post-Chemotherapy

Many times I am still asked how Justin is doing and many times I am reminded we did not walk alone.

Thank you for that.

Justin has now completed 6th grade with good grades and a leadership award of all things. This is the same kid who hid in our closet on many school mornings, hysterical with anxiety.

Justin played intramural basketball, bravely said his lines in school concerts, went camping for the first time and scored above average on a cognitive abilities test.

We signed a mountain of paperwork listing possible side effects of chemotherapy, including physical, mental, social and emotional.

Justin experienced some in each category. But with patience, prayer and an endurance that can only be explained by the grace of God, he has struggled and fallen, struggled and persevered, struggled and conquered.

I hope our story encourages you. Keep praying. Keep pushing forward. Just keep getting up. Stay down for a while to rest but don’t quit. If someone offers to help, take the help. And when it all feels too heavy and too dark and too impossibly difficult, hold onto hope.

See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in a wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

If you are a parent of a childhood cancer patient in need of support, please feel free to reach out. I get it. Grace be with you.

Hills Not Climbed

I am thankful and grateful for how far pediatric cancer treatment has come, but I can tell you about hills not climbed.

Patient and parent PTSD is real. I’m not ashamed to admit it and will gladly talk to anyone out there who is interested in initiating an intensive, comprehensive, therapeutic survivorship program. And I’m not talking about verbally trudging through feelings for an hour on zoom, attending a nutrition class, taking physical therapy or throwing survivors free baseball tickets. I mean that’s great and all but the fall-out from three years of chemotherapy, illness, trauma, fear, confusion, getting loads of attention then suddenly none, not being treated normally then expected to blend into “normality” runs MUCH deeper.

…they are also “fat” and “a loser”

I am talking about teaching and guiding survivors on how to re-integrate into just being a kid again:

Social skills.

Conflict resolution.

How to accept failure.

How to not use illness to manipulate circumstances.

How to distinguish between anxiety over being sick and actually being sick.

Understanding that they are no longer the center of attention every single minute.

Realizing that kids are actually mean sometimes and now that they are “all better from cancer” they are also “fat” and “a loser” or any of the other adolescent-go-to criticisms that insecure kids (survivors) actually believe.

For now, I’ll just keep making it up as I go along

I have other ideas, just can’t think of them all right now. But I plan this maybe-too-idealistic-unattainable therapeutic process in my mind often. For now, I’ll just keep making it up as I go along. Every day I see how Justin struggles. I struggle. We struggle. But there is also learning, reward, success, healing, growth, change, beauty, faith, joy and HOPE. God is good.

I really don’t pray for change in circumstances too much anymore. What has to be, will be. I pray for change in ME. Give me strength in mind, body and heart to press on.

And grant us a measure of grace for one more day.

A Must Share!

Justin finished 5th grade today. Although this year was not without struggle, this is the first school year of his life he has completed IN PERSON.

Very special thanks to his loving teacher as well as the faculty and staff of GCCS.

We count today as a huge win for Justin and all other families who have battled childhood cancer as well as those who have labored, researched and dedicated their lives to the war against it.

We are over the moon.
All glory to God!!

Day Unknown

Justin has passed the five year milestone and remains cancer-free.

I figure it’s about time to stop counting days in treatment and start looking toward the future as a mom of a childhood cancer survivor.

I hope our story has been an encouragement to you. God is faithful and God is good. Grace be with you always.

Real Mom Confession

Gizmo is on some kind of painkiller medication. Long story.

So I’m looking at him all zonked out and happy while I am having one of my chronic pain flare up days, with kids and life pulling me in nineteen directions.

For a brief moment, I considered drinking cat morphine.

I know you get me, parents. God’s Grace be with you and also with me (I didn’t do it, promise).

Day 1641

Justin is holding steady in remission, with great blood counts and a good physical exam today. He has been visiting the oncology clinic every two months, but, going forward, he will now receive quarterly check-ups.

We are told Justin will begin the survivorship program in 2022!

This morning, he said, “Mom, when I grow up I want to be either a preacher or a mall cop or probably both actually.”

(Um okay?)

Me: “I think that would be perfect.”

Day 1,621

I actually forgot!

As we pass the FIVE YEAR mark since Justin’s diagnosis on January 16, 2016, I can report with gladness that the anniversary date of his diagnosis did not send me into a bout of struggling through post-traumatic flashbacks and unrelenting dark thoughts. In fact, to my absolute joy, I forgot the date until today. I actually forgot!

A Huge STEP…

This may seem like a gross omission, since we have looked toward this time with such faith, endurance and hope. But as one who has struggled and suffered and persevered with Jeff, Nicky and Michael, alongside Justin, all of these many days, I view it as a huge STEP. By His grace, I have been able to move forward. We have been able to move FORWARD.

There came a time when posting updates became too painful for me. I had to take time for self-care, rest and even moving into a new house. There are several reasons why we moved, but it is not lost on me that staying in the physical place where we experienced the longest of nights and greatest of pain was not healthy for the mind. We are so very grateful that God provided an alternative.

…only Jesus Christ can heal the heart and soul…

While it is true that I have walked through dark places with Justin, Jeff, Nicky and Michael and what often felt like being very, very alone, I also know what is not true. I was never alone. By His Spirit, Jesus was with me. I know this is true because we are HEALING and we are daily BEING HEALED. To me, forgetting the diagnosis date, even briefly, is evidence! Yes, chemotherapy, with its host of problems and side effects, CAN kill cancer. But only Jesus Christ can heal the heart and soul after being broken over and over again.

Justin will not officially finish treatment and move into the survivorship program until the end of March 2021.

If you are still receiving these updates, thank you for following and praying. Grace be with you.

“…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b

Justin, age 10. Five year cancer survivor. It’s an honor and joy to be his mom!

Pictures of Pediatric Cancer

Swipe left to view our story in photos — almost 5 years of laughter and tears, joy and pain, triumph and loss, highs and lows, faith and fear, heartbreak and hope. And ultimately a new normal for a patient, a mom, a dad and two siblings — all survivors of pediatric cancer.

Be encouraged cancer parents, and hold onto hope!