This time last year, I was piled up on the beach. Waves crashing, sand between my toes, kids running and laughing, ocean breeze…you catch my drift. Sounds like fun, huh? Well, it was…other than the fact that my mind and heart were some 335 miles away. Our then 2 year old niece, Anna, had a tumor on her brain. They were going in the next day to do a biopsy. Regardless of results, the tumor would have to be removed eventually. Again, I was 335 miles away. I had been there for every surgery (small and large) she had since she was born. My nieces and nephews are literally like my own. My heart hurts just as bad for them as it does my own kids. How was I going to make this trip back home on such short notice, alone? Or…how was I going to be anywhere near functional and sociable if I stayed? My sister assured me that it was ok, for us to enjoy our vacation and my birthday (which was the same day as the biopsy). After deciding to stay in Florida, I couldn’t really take her advice and enjoy anything…so I prayed. We prayed. Under a beach tent, in our beach chairs, holding hands, we prayed. My father-in-law said the most powerful, heart felt prayer you could ever hear…all for our baby girl.
Early the next morning, the day of the biopsy, I was up with the sun. I am not a morning person AT ALL, but I had worried myself so much I couldn’t sleep. My husband and I decided to walk over to the beach to pray. I’ve said this a million times, but there is just something about looking into the great unknown, seeing the beauty of it all, knowing God made that, and He is in control of it…it’s absolutely breathtaking to me. As we stood there holding hands and praying, I couldn’t control the tears. After praying, I sat down in the sand as my husband tested out the water. I turned on Pandora radio and none other than “Oceans” by Hillsong United came on. If you aren’t familiar with Pandora radio, it just plays random songs from whatever genre you choose to listen to. And…if you aren’t familiar with that song, go YouTube it. My mouth seriously dropped. I knew at the very moment that God had this all under control, just as He has the ocean under control. A peace came over me like never before, followed by a rainbow in the distance. God is an on time God!
A few hours later, I got a phone call that the doctor decided the biopsy was not necessary at that moment. Anna, my sister, my brother-in-law, and everyone back home had already made it to the hospital, expecting the biopsy to be done. They had already prepped Anna. Everyone was as prepared as they could be, BUT, God intervened. The doctors wanted to go ahead and schedule surgery to remove the tumor, and would biopsy it once the tumor was out. Yes, we were still nervous about brain surgery…but one brain surgery was better than two. Especially on such a tiny baby girl, who had already been through so much, health-wise, in her 2 years of life. I, again, couldn’t control the tears. Under that same beach tent, we all held hands and prayed. This time, thanking God for this blessing…for intervening at the perfect time. Our God is an on time God!
Anna’s brain surgery was scheduled for June 17th. My family and I would still be at the beach, but I didn’t care what measures I had to go through, I was going to be there for her surgery. We looked up flights, I debated driving to Memphis alone (this still scares me thinking about it), we thought about cutting our vacation a few days short, etc. I was so confused on what the best decision was, so again…I prayed. Last minute, we decided that my husband and I would drive home the night before, be at the hospital in Memphis that morning, and as long as all went well, we would drive back to Florida after the surgery. The day came, our kids stayed at the beach with my in-laws, and we made our way to Mississippi. My sister, again, told us that it would be ok and for us to enjoy our vacation. I, however, took this as my “second chance”. I was NOT missing this surgery. We surprised my sister and brother-in-law that morning at the hospital. She may or may not have gotten on to me a little bit for coming home, but I know she would do the same if the shoe was on the other foot. Our bond is one I cherish with all my being. She told me when we hugged, “I didn’t want to sound selfish, but I really did want you to be here”. What she don’t know is I probably needed her worse than she needed me. She, besides Anna, is the strongest person I know.
Surgery lasted a while, but the doctor finally thought they got all of the tumor. She was pretty positive that the tumor was benign, however, they would send it to St. Jude to do the biopsy. After making sure all was ok, seeing our sweet Anna in recovery, and saying our goodbyes, my husband and I made our way back to Florida.
A week or so later, everyone was back to reality, Anna had recovered well–considering, then…we got the dreaded phone call. The biopsy came back that the tumor was indeed malignant. I had always heard stories of that feeling you get when you hear those words, but never imagined it happening to our family. It causes a sick feeling I never knew possible. Here we were again, questioning and wondering. Why? How? What next? God, though. God showed us SO many times that He was (and is) in control! He has held Anna in His arms since day 1. He has calmed Anna’s parents when they needed it most. He has placed people in our paths just when we needed it. He has given peace and comfort to us when we didn’t think it was possible. He never failed us and He wouldn’t start now.
It’s been almost a year since this all started. It’s been almost a year since Anna started chemotherapy. A year full of ups and downs. A year full of sickness. A year full of figuring out what worked best. A year full of changes. A year full of isolation. But most of all, a year full of blessings!
Coming up the end of this month, Anna will take what we hope is her last chemo treatment. As long as the scans and lumbar puncture are clear, our little trooper will be done! Again, we pray! Always praying, because we know God is still in the healing business. We know what God can do. He’s never failed us, and He won’t start now.
If you, or anyone you know, are going through tough times…perhaps, been diagnosed with cancer. Don’t give up. Hold on. Pray. Believe. Trust God. Put your faith in Him.
“My soul will rest in Your embrace, for I am Yours and You are mine…”
– Aunt A