An open letter to a mom whose child has just been diagnosed with cancer...
I recently sent a personal letter to a mom whose teenage son had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I do not know this mom well, but I do know, in some part, what she was going through and how a mom's world changes when her child is diagnosed with cancer.
[Here is my 'blogified' version of the letter, as I know there are other moms out there who are standing in this place which they did not choose and for the sake of their child, need to hide their own fears and be extraordinarily brave].
I realise I am an outsider to your unique situation but I am not an outsider to hearing those words, ‘Your child has cancer.’
I have stood where you are standing now. I wish it were not so.
3 Words…‘IT IS CANCER’
These are 3 words you wish you would never have to hear.
These 3 words have brought an enemy, uninvited and unbidden, into your space, shocking your world and shattering your heart. These 3 words scream so forcefully, they punch you in the gut and bow you low. Disbelief and denial have no voice and are short-lived.
The shadow of cancer has darkened the day, taunting and mocking you.
You look at your child, and your heart pleads, ‘Please God, no.’
What do you do? YOU FIGHT!
You fight against this enemy.
It is a hard battle and a long one. Cancer is relentless and cruel. You keep fighting, day by day, hour by hour and moment by moment. This will be your world. You did not choose it, but this is what it is.
You fight with the weapons at hand, imperfect as they are.
The chemo, the radiation, the specialists, oncologists and nurses. Partner with them. They are your armoury and your defence team. Trust them. Listen to them. Work with them.
Learn to read the endless blood results so you can understand. Ask questions and demand justification for their medical decisions.
You fight for your child.
As a mom, your job is to protect , nurture and answer you child' s questions with simple honesty. You cry with them.
You need to be brave for them and hold their hands. You have to hide your fears so that you can comfort them in their fears and motivate them to not give up. You become their strength when they are weak. You stand in the gap for your child.
You invite others to fight with you.
You cannot do this alone. You are strong, but not strong enough. You can only hold in your fears, tears and insecurities for so long. You need to let others help you carry this heavy burden. Allow them to hold up your arms when you feel you cannot anymore. Give others permission to stand in the gap with you, offering them an opportunity to minister to you and to your child and to serve you.
You need to rest.
Let others step in so that you can.
It is easy to become cocooned in the crisis and push others away. It is hard to accept all the help offered and it is humbling to be on the receiving end of grace. It is scary to invite others into your heartache and pain.
But special friendships are formed when you open your heart to the willing and loving care of others. Their kind words are like honey, their acts of service are a gentle balm to an aching heart and their comforting presence is sweet fellowship.
But most of all, you fight on your knees.
This is the only posture that will bring you peace and perspective. It is the only place where you will see results. This is the position from which you will see miracles happen; unexpected and surprising ones.
Being on your knees enables you to look up and beyond the circumstances, heartache and trial. Fighting on your knees fortifies you with divine strength, because this is where you are carried. Fighting in your knees enables you to rest in the arms of the One who has not forgotten you and who allows you to rest because He never slumbers or sleeps.
Fighting on your knees humbly says; ‘God, I can’t, but You can.’
God replies, ‘Yes, my daughter, I can.’
4 words… ‘YOU ARE NOT ALONE’
You have unwillingly joined the ranks of countless moms through the ages, since the beginning of time.
You have been given a seat next to Sorrow and Suffering.
Sorrow and Suffering are the companions who have taken your hands and are guiding you down the halls of trial and hardship.
These 4 words put you in the company of Eve when she received the horrific news that her son, Cain, had killed his brother Abel. News that pierced her heart. [But God saw].
These 4 words allow you to sit with Hagar in the desert, abandoned, alone and helpless as she cries out to God believing that her son, Ishmael would die. [But God protected them].
These 4 words drive you to inconsolable tears with Rachel, when her beloved Joseph was presumed dead after being sent as a slave to Egypt by the evil jealousy of brothers.
[But God meant it for good].
These 4 words allow you to eavesdrop on Hannah’s prayer as she was bowed low in anguish and heartache over her empty womb. [But God remembered her].
These 4 words bring you into the widow’s home and witness her accusation at the prophet Elijah for the death of her only son. [But God acted].
These 4 words take you to Egypt and to the home of Jochebed, Moses’ mother, as she gives birth to a son and realises his fate, due to the death warrant decree by Pharaoh to kill all boys under the age of 2. [But God intervened].
These 4 words help you stand with Daniel’s mother as she helplessly watched her teenage son being taken away into captivity in Babylon, never to see him again. [But God vindicated].
These 4 words help you share in the mother’s hardship who raised her blind son to whom Jesus gave sight.
[But God displayed His glory].
This is not a group of mothers you ever wanted to be counted with.
We are the unpopular group. Others would prefer to avoid us at all costs.
But you are not alone; we are your friends. A friendship born out of heartache and pain, but a friendship that understands. We are the mothers (and there are many of us) who have heard the 3 words you have just heard.
We will sit together with you in gentle camaraderie at you child’s side, helping you allay his fears, answer his questions and comfort his heart. We have walked this road before you and will walk this road with you.
You are not alone
5 words… ‘I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS’
These 5 words are the most beautiful words you will ever hear. They are words of promise; covenant words.
These 5 words are not human words, so they will never disappoint.
They cannot disappoint, because they are spoken by God the Father and He cannot lie. They are the words of God who parted the Red Sea, raised Jairus’ daughter and wept with Mary in her moment of sorrow.
They are the words of God the Father, who turned His face away from His own Son at Calvary so that we could become His children. They are the words of our creator God who raised His Son 3 days later so that death, sickness, sorrow, disease and cancer will never have the last word.
Jesus overcame. He had the last word.
This same God speaks to those who are His children and from His Father’s heart says, ‘Kneel at the foot of the cross and look into your Saviour’s face. His death and resurrection mean life.’
Then He says, ‘Listen my daughter…’
‘It is I, the LORD, who goes before you. I will be with you; I will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.’ [Deuteronomy 31:8],
‘Where does your help come from? It comes from Me, who made Heaven and earth. I will not let your foot slip. I who keep you will never slumber nor sleep.’ [Psalm 121],
‘I tend my flock like a shepherd and gather my lambs in my arms. I gently lead those who have young.’ [Isaiah 40:11],
‘I am close to the broken-hearted and those crushed in spirit.’ [Psalm 34:18],
‘I keep count of your tossings and I store all your tears in a bottle.’ [Psalm 56:8]
‘My steadfast love never ceases, my mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. Great is my faithfulness. Let me be your portion. Hope in Me.' [Lamentations 3:22-23],
‘My grace is sufficient for you and My power is made perfect in weakness’ [2 Corinthians 12:9].
I do not know how this will play out, neither do you or the oncologists or specialists. But God does and nothing comes unfiltered to His children that has not first passed through His loving, all-knowing hand.
Rest in the shadow of the Almighty’s wing. ‘I am with you always.’
Those 5 words, ‘I am with you always,’ point you to those 4 words, ‘You are not alone,’ which make those 3 words, ‘It is cancer,’ no longer seem so scary.
If you would like to know how to practically and sensitively walk a road with parents whose child has been diagnosed with cancer, then please read the article, Weeping with those who weep.