The following blog entry was written on November 3, 2010 as a reflection of our family’s journey with cancer, and how we managed to stay as strong as possible. It concludes with a bit of advice for parents who may be going through the battle of a life-time with their child. Our hope is that the sharing of this message will help some and allow others to gain insight into life with a child with cancer. Everyone’s story and battle is different. This is just ours. ~Tomika
Looking back while looking forward Keeping the Faith
11/3/2010 - Let me start off by saying today is a good day. Today is a good day because today my son is doing well. Today my son will go to preschool like every other healthy child his age. Today my son will laugh and play. Today my son can focus on just being a kid. This is how I live my days now, one day at a time. I make sure that I enjoy every moment that I am with my family, because they are what’s important. One thing I have learned this year is that life is unpredictable, and that you should never take anything for granted. Today I will smile and hold my children tight, but today I will also think about cancer.
Cancer is a funny thing. On the inside looking out, you can’t explain it. On the outside looking in, you can’t begin to understand it. My son was diagnosed with Pleuropulmonary Blastoma, an extremely rare form of lung cancer in January 2010. This was the month that I turned 29. To date, this was the most devastating month of my life.
There have been so many times when I felt as if no one knew or understood what our family was going through. I found myself searching for articles and stories that shared insight and good news that dealt with the exact same cancer that my son was battling. It seemed as if it didn’t help me to hear about the other types of cancers since he had such a rare type of solid tumor. I couldn’t relate to other parents in the hospital because my son was the only one with this type of cancer. I needed to hear good stories, so I could be optimistic. The rarity of what we were battling made the fight that much more difficult.
When our family’s journey with cancer first began, I went completely numb. I can still see myself sitting in the Oncologist’s office with a Fellow and a Social Worker; two people whose titles meant nothing to me until that moment. My husband was to my left, along with my mother. My son was playing on the floor without a care, like any other three-year-old. The day felt so unreal.
After receiving the diagnosis for the first time I had to immediately develop thick skin and put up a wall that would enable me to cope. I had to stay strong mentally and physically, not only for my son who was about to face the biggest battle of his life, but also for the son who was in my womb. I was about 3 months pregnant at the time.
I have to be honest, it was very difficult for me to stay strong and continue to function, but you learn to get through it. This I accredit to my husband for his constant support and guidance, and especially to God. From day one, no matter how hard things got, we stayed prayerful. We asked for everything from healing to understanding. I would have arguments with God, because I was angry, frustrated, and confused, but deep in my heart I always believed. I always knew that God had a plan, and although I didn’t understand it, I did my best to keep the faith, which was extremely difficult at times. When I found myself wavering, I would immediately pray, read quotes from the bible or other inspirational books, and listen to encouraging individuals. I say listen, because I often had nothing to say... to anyone. There were numerous times when I had to simply drop down to my knees and beg for clarity and understanding. With prayer comes answers. It was important to me that everyone around me prayed for my son, because I believe that prayer works. One day I came across the scripture verse Isaiah 53:5 – by his stripes we are healed. My son’s name is Isaiah, so you can only imagine how much this verse meant to me.
During this battle, I found that it took a toll on my marriage. My husband and I had to learn to battle together. We vowed that this roadblock would not break us; it would simply make us stronger, which it definitely did. My husband became my rock. When I was weak, he would do whatever was necessary to make me strong. He became the true definition of the man of the house. Never did we see him weak. He would find me hiding and crying in the closet and would immediately tell me to stop crying, stay strong and be positive. He was confident that God did not bring us this far to let us down and would constantly reiterate that we were going to win this battle. Of course my husband had his moments, but he kept them private. His goal was to be strong for us.
It’s important to know with all of your heart and soul that no matter what the doctor says and no matter what the prognosis, God is in control. I gave my son to God. During one of our daily chats when I was down and out and scared out of my mind because of what the doctor had told me, I told God that Isaiah was his, and I prayed for healing. The scary part about fighting cancer is that nothing is in your control as a parent. As a parent you want to do everything you can to protect your children, but when you are faced with something as devastating as cancer, you must come to the realization that it is out of your control. You must let go, and let God.
Looking back, there were so many challenges that we as a family faced, and so many things that we had to learn about cancer, treatment, the treatment facilities, and the type of toll it would take on our family. I now know that we do have something in common with far too many other parents. We are battling cancer. No matter the type, no matter the prognosis, we are all battling. The best advice that I can give is pray, stay positive, surround yourself with positive people, cry, share how you feel, educate yourself about everything, be an advocate for your child, and never place a period where God has placed a comma!