We’ve Come A Long Way

Izzy sits next to me staring off at the tv with a haze over her eyes from the morphine drip. She holds a bucket in her lap and wears a wet wash cloth on her head, both because of the nausea she feels. Every vital on her monitor is flashing red because they are all too high, the beeping has not stopped in hours. This is our second round of antibody and it is getting more intense as the hours pass but when I look at her I keep thinking, “she has been through much worse than this.”

A year ago today we got the dreaded news that threw us completely off the¬†course of life we were on and sent us spinning down another path, this journey through Neuroblastoma. I could have never imagined what was in store for us. It is a journey that has thickened my skin while bruisng it. A journey that has unwoven the borders of my faith completely, leaving only a ball of yarn where the tapestry once was. It has taught me that faith isn’t woven together neatly at all. There will always be questions, always be things we cannot understand, always be suffering. Once upon a time I thought I knew what pain was, what worry was. This journey has taught me that I had no idea.

As I look back on this past year I cannot believe that I have survived. It’s hard to believe that I am still standing, let alone smiling. Now, on the other side of the mountain of this past year I can only smile, with tears of joy maybe, that we have made it through so much. IZZY has made it through so much, and as I stand here a year to the dreaded day of her re-diagnosis I am both proud and thankful – we have made it a long way.

You never think you can do some things until you look back and realize you did. The truth is, we couldn’t have done this without the grace of God constantly pouring over us. Everyday He has been faithful to give us new energy, new strength and above all hope. He has kept His mighty hand on Israelle throughout her intense suffering and various complications. We would not be standing without Him. We simply could not have made it. And we could not have made it without so many of you.

From the very beginning there have been so many people who came alongside of us to offer love and support.¬† So many cards, messages, packages and fundraisers. We have been blessed from people we have known forever and some we have never met. People have gone completely out of their way to shower us with love. And from the bottom of our heart we say ‘thank you.’ Even to those we have never spoken to but who have been praying for Izzy, ‘thank you.’ You, too, have made a difference in our lives.

On this day where I thought cancer would sentence me to bouts of bitterness and self pity, God has given me the grace to feel, in their place, gratitude and hope. I am choosing to celebrate that we have one year of treatment behind us, that we have been No Evidence of Disease every step of the way and that this little girl has alot to be proud of. She has fought like a warrior and she is winning.

I don’t know what is in store for us in this next year to come. For today I am choosing not to look at statistics. Izzy is not a number, she is a God breathed creation with a destiny. She is an heiress to the throne of God and the sum of her life is more than a percentage. My prayer is that only the best will come. That we will complete this round of antibody and the next three with flying colors. I pray she will have no more treatment in the months and years to come because this disease has fled her body forever.

Thanks for walking this journey with us. Your love and support are priceless.

On Hope and Miracles

Hope is a quiet field that sits atop a hill in the middle of a valley of desperation and fear. It is home to wild flowers of every color that never die and brush past your knee as they blow carelessly through the wind. The sun is always shining the kind of gentle rays that warm your soul without burning your skin.

One can only get there by crossing a narrow bridge of surrender and vulnerability. While there is only one place of entrance there are thousands of places to exit. There is no fence surrounding the perimeter and without great caution one can easily fall down the side of the hill at any point rolling down into the deep pit of fear.

I have spent the past few weeks wondering where I fit into this picture. I want desperately to rest in this place of hope and yet daily I find myself tumbling down the sides of the hill. The truth is that while I do long to be there I am just as equally terrified. We picture hope being a thing that gives us a warm fuzzy feeling inside, but in actuality it is quite a frightening thing entirely. Hope requires vulnerability and risk , both of which require much effort on our part. The truth is the things we are hoping for to come to fruition or to completely be redeemed may or may not turn out the way we want. And that’s scary. We then we have the opportunity once again to hope for God to redeem the new circumstance. Hope is a choice. We can cross the bridge of vulnerability to wait in this place of hope or we can sit in the desolate place of despair forever. As afraid as I am to hope, I do not want to set up camp in a place of despair. And when fear gets the best of me I will continue to ask God for His beautiful grace to guide me back to the place of hope because I’m learning I can’t stay there long without it.

Tonight we are being admitted for a twelve day round of antibody. Technically, we can come home Friday for two days if all is going well but I’m just planning for a twelve day admission. We will be there over June 25th, the day which last year brought the horrifying news of this cancer’s return. I cannot forget the date, of course, but primarily because my birthday is the following day. Carter’s birthday is two days after mine, a year to the date we found out it had spread to the bone and was stage 4. This year I had wanted to be able to celebrate how much we have accomplished in the past year, but being an actual person and not a character in a Lifetime movie I am struggling to let my guard down for a single second, worrying about all the possible things that could still happen. Especially since now it will fall on the second week of this round, which is an extra intense week because an additional drug called IL2 which boosts white cell production will be running simultaneously with the antibody. I have already been warned how difficult this second week can be.

These weeks at home have been emotional tornados. The time has allowed me to forget the reality of what we have been living in. I see her running in the yard with other children and all seems as it should be. Until a day like yesterday. We had an early birthday party for Carter and Izzy wanted so badly to eat when the other kids did. Every time she tried she ended up in the bathroom laying her head on the edge of the toilet seat. “None of my friends understand what it’s like to have cancer. I don’t want them to see me throw up.” Instantly at times like that I would find myself overwhelmed with the same emotions I felt a year ago. I would have to talk myself through the rational thoughts of where we are today, that she is NED, that we are almost done with treatment and I would still be close to feelings of panic. It was as if I was reliving the diagnosis all over again, which makes sense I suppose, being that we are back at the same time of year. When I actually get myself to accept what we have already lived through, that it’s in the past, I still find myself in a place of panic, almost disbelieving those things actually happened and then deathly afraid they will happen again. Having to explain cancer to the kids. Izzy’s hair beginning to fall out. Stem cell transplant. There is nothing in the natural I can do to calm down. I have to focus my attention to The Lord and wait for His peace. Wait for Him to give me the grace to hope that this will all be over soon.

All I want for my birthday this year is to see miracles. I’m not sure if those come in gift cards or not but I’m asking for them just the same. I want this round to go smoothly for Izzy without any complications. I want not to see things go wrong. I want her cancer free forever and I want her hearing to come back too. I want to see another family we met on transplant who is back in the hospital to go home, WITH their daughter. They have been told she will never go home, that she has only days left to live. I want to see God change that.

Izzy continues to have horrible stomach problems. At five years old she weighs just under thirty pounds. She is determined to be able to eat and she has been praying over her food a lot before she eats it like a friend showed her. She lays her hand over it and bows her head, praying silently that the food would bless her and bring peace to her tummy. Still, she continues to throw up. Still, she continues to pray. That is the faith of a child. It is not defined by outcomes but by what she believes to be true about God’s endless capabilities. Not getting the outcome she wants, does not change what she believes about God. That is the kind of faith it takes to see miracles. I guess I need faith like that for birthday too.