When cancer is called cured

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I realized on Day 3 that I was subconsciously, yet intentionally, hiding from the world. The news was too vast. Too joyous. If someone asked, how would I speak in such a way as to give God’s unexpected gift the importance it deserved? I couldn’t, even in my mind, rehearse what I’d say out loud without choking up. So, on Day 4, I decided that I needed to write it all out.

But writing it all out has been hard. I’ve started and stopped a hundred times now. I’ve hesitated because I know so many of you are hurting, and I’ve been afraid our rejoicing might somehow cause you discouragement. I’ve hesitated because the quiet wound of childhood cancer has been our daily normal, and I’m not quite sure how to move on. And I’ve hesitated because I don’t feel capable of proclaiming God’s goodness in words that seem weighty enough.

I must try, though. I dishonor Him if I do not. So in words less weighty than I’d have wished, and with thoughts still not fully explored, I need to simply tell our new news. As I tried to do when clouds were still dark and fear thick and childhood cancer’s course unknown, I want to again proclaim God’s goodness.

For my heart both leaps with joy, and bows in humbled gratitude, at the news we’ve been given:

Patrick’s cancer has been declared cured.

Cancer’s course has been run. The quiet, deep wound that has been six years of cancer treatment has seen a new dawn. And to those of you, and the thousands through you, who have prayed for Patrick, we say a thank you from our depths. You are so dear to us! To those of you who gave parts of your own life to support us, through prayer, and through moments of service too numerable to name, we can never thank God enough for you!

A new request

After years of requests, can I make one more? Would you pass our news on to others who’ve prayed, many of whom prayed faithfully for a little boy they never even met? We so want each person who prayed, and each person who hears of Patrick’s story, to be encouraged and strengthened in their faith when they hear of this precious outcome.

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And since I still can’t speak without tears, here’s a written account of the day we got the news:

We’d driven that same busy highway so many times before. Six-and-a-half years of fear-filled, middle-of-the-night emergency trips, of weekly chemo infusions and spinal taps, of surgeries and hospital stays we thought might never end.

But this day, we drove in sweet, companionable silence. Past well-remembered landmarks, past the same congested exits, both of us lost in our thoughts. Mine turned to memories of the pain he’d endured, and my memories turned into thankful prayer that he was still with us. Only two more years of this, Lord? Is the cancer really gone? What will today’s blood-work reveal? I also wondered what he might be thinking, sitting so quietly next to me.

Then, with an hour left in our drive, I found out. He began to ask questions he’d never asked before.

“Mom, I can’t remember. How many kids were there who’d ever had my cancer?”

“Fourteen, honey.”

“In the whole world?”

“Yes, in the whole world.”

A pause.

“I don’t think I ever knew. How many of those kids lived?”

“None of them, honey.”

Why is he asking today, Lord? Give me wisdom to answer. Grow his faith in You if he wants to hear more details.

He did. And we talked. About the direness of his original diagnosis, and about the mysteries of God’s kindness, often experienced most fully in times of intense suffering.

Arriving at the underground labyrinth that is the hospital parking deck, by then running late, and with no parking spaces available, he for the first time went in alone. As I drove off in search of a place to park, tears flowed at the sight of him in my rear-view mirror. No longer is he the eight-year-old who first entered through those elevators. He’s tall and strong and almost 15 now. How can that be? O thank you, Father, for the gift of these years!

I’ve written about Patrick’s oncologist before. He’s quiet, kind, intelligent. His care reassures. His ability to sit and chat with Patrick about mountain hikes and middle school and movies always calms my anxious heart. His lack of arrogance, and his careful decision to research and craft a never-before-tried chemo plan for Patrick’s cancer still fills our hearts with gratitude.

On this day, he looked with what seemed like quiet happiness at our son. He, a very busy man, sat and gave us his undivided attention. He and Patrick talked of waterfalls and plunging into the frigid water in the pools beneath. They talked of entering high school, and as I listened I thanked God over and over.

Then he stopped, and made his pronouncement.

“It’s been almost seven years. Three and a half of chemo. And this month marks three years off chemo. I think you don’t need to come back.”

“Don’t need to come back? Ever?”

“Ever. Of course, we’re always here for you. But I think you’re cured.”

This is where my writing skills fail me. I can’t describe the rush of emotion, the look Patrick and I shared.

“I just told Patrick for the first time, on the drive here, all the details of the original direness of his diagnosis,” I said.

“Patrick, I want you to hear me saying that, even though all your mom told you was true, I believe you’re now cured,” he said.

“You mean you really think my cancer won’t come back?” Patrick asked.

“I do. And I think you should leave this place and live your life fully. I don’t know what you’ll end up doing in life. And of course, you’ll always remember these years. This has been almost half your life so far. But I don’t want you to live in fear that your cancer will come back. Today, I’d call you cured.”

image001What to do when cancer is called cured? Gulp back tears. Laugh. Gulp back more tears. Hug your God-sent oncologist, and take pictures. Wander (in confusion) out through the infusion area (for the last time?) and call dad, surprising him with the unexpected news. Then, still not ready to leave, spend time in the hospital garden — a time of reminiscing, of sweet togetherness, of prayer — a time I won’t try to describe.

I know this is getting long. I’ll save more end-thoughts for another day. For now, I’d like to close with part of what Patrick wrote during those moments when we couldn’t quite decide to drive away from that very special hospital. After all he’s been through, his words are much more poignant than mine:

“In the end, I think my cancer was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

I want to live my life like that.

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(If you don’t know Patrick’s back-story, I’ve written about those first days, and God’s goodness toward us each day since. To read a couple of those posts, you can click here: Better than a thousand substitutes. And here: Don’t waste your pain. Or, for a follow-up post, please read: forever changed by deep wounds. As you read, I pray God will use Patrick’s story to turn your heart toward Jesus, who is the greatest gift of all.)

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About Jill

I'm a wife, mom to three beautiful children, and currently work at two jobs for which I'm very grateful -- part-time at my kids' school, and as children's ministry director at Redeemer PCA in Athens, GA, a place our family treasures as our church home. It's been thirty years since the Lord saved me, and to this day I'm astounded at His steadfast love shed upon unfaithful me. My hope would be that I might speak and write in ways God would use to soften hearts toward Him, that we would together be enamored by the glorious beauty of Jesus and awakened to His love unimagined. Thanks so much for reading!
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31 Responses to When cancer is called cured

  1. Debbie M. says:

    A beautiful post that fills one’s heart with joy for Patrick’s future! My prayer for you is that God will keep you from looking back with fear while looking forward with anticipation of God’s promises for more good fulfilled!

    • Jill says:

      Thank you, Debbie. I’m so honored that your heart was filled with joy through this post! I’ve actually been writing (only in my mind so far) a post exactly about your prayer for me — about leaving the familiarity of the fear and living fully and freely in the hand of our good God! Thanks so much for writing!

  2. Linda Zeagler says:

    I believe these are among the most beautiful words I have ever read!

    Linda Zeagler Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Jill says:

      That means alot coming from you, Linda. I love you, dear friend, and am ever grateful for you! See you soon!

  3. Heather Morse says:

    Tears flowing from my eyes, I read this to Jack.

    We shared the fear with you that Tuesday morning at WBS when the details were given to the women of the church about your family’s dire need for prayer/support. Now we share in the joy and thanksgiving with you 😉 praising our Father with tears streaming down our faces!

    Only He could complete such an insurmountable task. Amen.

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Jill says:

      Oh yes. “Only He could complete such an insurmountable task!” Thank you, Heather, for all you and Jack have meant to me and my family. I have no memory of that day at WBS (I don’t think I would have been there — someone else would have announced?) I’m honored to know God used all of Patrick’s story in your life, from the very beginning, through all the years, and up to this really sweet moment. I love you, dear sister.

  4. Elizabeth Norris says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Jill…absolutely amazing and wonderful news and so well expressed!! We are so grateful…our God is truly an AWESOME God!!!

    • Jill says:

      Oh Elizabeth, thank you for writing … yes, amazing and wonderful news! Thank you, thank you, for all your concern and care and support all these years!

  5. jane tillitski says:

    God has blessed me today by your words. So happy for all of you!

    • Jill says:

      Jane, that makes me so happy that God blessed you through my words. Thank you for writing to say so! And thank you (and Steve) for all your love and support — God has used your kindness and concern more than you can ever know!

  6. Sarah Howell says:

    Jill,

    Praising the Lord for this news. We miss you all!

    Sarah

    • Jill says:

      Sarah, it means so much to me that our news reached you! Thank you for praising the Lord with us, and for writing to say so 🙂 We miss you, too!

  7. Wow! So amazing. Praising the Lord with you!

    • Jill says:

      Rachel, thank you for writing! It’s so wonderful to see your name — we miss you! And yes, thank you for praising God with us!

  8. Teresa Robbins says:

    Jill, Phil and family. How glorious is the Lord! We rejoice with you all in this great news. We will share the news with our small church family who has had you all on the the prayer list all these years.

    • Jill says:

      Teresa, it means so much to hear from you — thank you for writing! Oh, I know you rejoice, and that means so much to us, too. Please thank your church family for us, from the bottom of our grateful hearts! I can’t wait for each of those precious people to have the joy in heaven of knowing how God used their prayers for Patrick!

  9. Elizabeth Anderson says:

    Well, that just may be the best news we have ever heard! Thank you, God, for giving doctors the knowledge to know how to treat this dreaded disease. Thank you, God, for being with Patrick throughout these many years of treat-ments, uncertainty, and pain and agony from the treatments. Thank you, God, for giving Phil, Jill, and Caroline and Rachel the strength they needed (each in his or her own way) to get through these years. Thank you, God, for the prayers of God’s people in many different places. Many did not know Patrick or his immediate family but they prayed for him. Thank you, God, for always being a good Father to your children. Please continue to bless Patrick and all of us as we all have need of you each and every day.

    • Jill says:

      Elizabeth, thank you so much for writing! (I also just got your email.) And, thank you, thank you for your years of prayers for Patrick and our family. I love you, dear sister. Will you please thank your church family/families for praying? I know so many have been faithful to pray — and yes, many of them we never even met! I can’t express the thankfulness we’ve felt for each person and each prayer. As I’ve said to others, part of my joy lies in knowing that so many will have the joy in heaven of fully knowing how God used their individual prayer(s) for Patrick! Love you!

  10. Laura says:

    Flowing tears. Beautiful!!!!!!! I love you Jill.

    • Jill says:

      And I love you, Laura! Thank you for writing — your tears, flowing from your heart of love for a child not your own, are precious. I thank God for you.

  11. Susan Benson says:

    Jill, This is such wonderful news! I am so very happy for you, Patrick, and the whole family. You don’t know me and I’ve never met you or Patrick, but I have prayed for you. I am a friend of Elizabeth Anderson (she forwarded this to me, because she knows I’ve been praying for Patrick). I don’t know why, but I’ve actually had Patrick on my mind the past few days, after not hearing anything about him for so long. So this especially touches my heart. The way you’ve espressed your thoughts and the way Patrick and the whole family has handled this journey is a true inspiration. I pray God continues to bless Patrick and your family. Love, Susan

    • Jill says:

      Susan, it means so much that you would write … as I started reading what you’d written, I was trying to place your name, and thought maybe we’d never met … Thank you for telling me who you are, so that I can thank God for you! The gratefulness I feel toward precious people like you, who prayed for Patrick and loved our family from afar, is a gratefulness I’m unable to express in words. My heart overflows with gratitude! Thank you, from each of us! Know that tonight I’m thanking God for you!

      • Susan Benson says:

        Thank you for your sweet reply. Thanking God for your witness. God bless you all. ~Susan

  12. Pingback: forever changed by deep wounds | Even More Beautiful

  13. Cheryl waters says:

    Oh how happy this makes me! I didn’t know about your blog. So many days I have wondered since we moved away to South GA about Patrick. Even in the move & a different refrigerator, his picture from second grade with Deut. 31:6 remains. A constant reminder of your words to me when I asked you how to pray specifically, “that he would grow into a mighty man of God.” That He has done! Rejoicing in answered prayer from a gracious & merciful Savior!

    • Jill says:

      Oh Cheryl, I’m so happy to hear from you! I’d hoped the news would reach you, and now I’m glad you know about my blog 🙂 Ah, and yes, the beautiful picture from second grade still warms my heart, too. It humbles me beyond words that you all would still have that on your frig. Thank you, dear friend! And we never know who remembers what we say, do we? I continue to pray that our Lord will grow each of our kids into faithful followers of Christ. He is the only gracious and merciful Savior! Cheryl, thank you so much for writing!

  14. Christy Csuka says:

    We ARE all SO thankful for the news!! What a amazing journey God has taken your family through. I will never forget your faith and seeing how God saved your Patrick! LOVE this story, you did a wonderful job of writing it! Love you sweet Lady!!

    • Jill says:

      Dearest Christy, thank you for writing! God’s kindness to all of us who’ve walked through these years with Patrick still astonishes me — that He’d choose all of us to know His goodness together is a blessing we’ll only be able to understand in heaven! I love you and thank Him for you and yours!

  15. Holly Peck says:

    Rejoicing with you guys!! When I look back at my days at Prince, Patrick always has had a special place in my heart, and I can still see that sweet little 1st grader!! Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Jill says:

      Holly, how wonderful to hear from you! Yes, I remember that sweet little first grader, too … and I also remember his precious teacher 🙂 Thank you for rejoicing with us, and for writing to tell us so! And more than anything, thank you for praying for Patrick. We love you!

  16. Pingback: Better than a thousand substitutes | Even More Beautiful

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