Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Those Three Words...

Our story constantly changes as God sees fit, but this is a whole new chapter we didn't see coming. The last couple years have been a rough year for our family. Last year, our 5 year old (at the time) son became blind in his left eye, due to a detached retina. Something almost unheard of in children so young. After 3 intensive surgeries in 6 months, he has some restored vision, but still has many difficulties with this eye. During all this time, we were battling Reactive Attachment Disorder with our 3 year old adopted son. You can read through previous posts about this, but it ended up getting to where God revealed to us that He had another family in mind for Eyob. In February of this year, we made the hardest decision of letting go (you can read about that HERE) Raising a child with RAD is stressful. For the entire family. It can cause issues like PTSD in parents and/or siblings. Many don't realize this, but the stress resulted in my body going into renal failure earlier this year, which left my abdomen completely filled with scar tissue, along with endometriosis, which was all surgically removed in August. My kidney function came back normal by September. Many also don't realize that PTSD can easily make a "normal" child so stressed that they struggle daily. With things like attention, learning ability, grief, and even suicidal thoughts. And this PTSD can last months or years. It's something I feel like we'll deal with for a long time... On top of this came another surgery for Mikiyas who had hearing loss and a ruptured ear drum in October.

Medical issues are something our family is used to... Things like 3 cleft palate repairs and kidney problems for Ilana, 2 premature births (31 weeks and 34 weeks), eye surgeries as mentioned above, broken bones, heart problems (cardiomyopathy), thyroid issues for myself, and HIV for our boys - just to name a few. We've seen craniofacial teams, ophthalmologists, retinal specialists, nephrologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, pediatric infectious disease specialists, neurologists, ENT's, and dozens of therapists. 

But nothing prepared us for this past month. On the morning of Monday, November 9, Ilana and I were snuggling in my bed and she briefly looked at the ceiling. That moment will never leave my brain when I first spotted the large lump on her neck. I immediately asked her to sit up so I could look closer. Immediately my heart sank and in my gut, I knew something was not okay. With my own thyroid issues, I knew that this lump was on her thyroid. I made a call to the pediatrician who saw her the next day and sent us out for an ultrasound ASAP. 

I went home and stayed up several hours that night studying thyroid ultrasounds so I could prepare for what we would be looking at. The ultrasound was done on Wednesday and I immediately saw microcalcifications and vascularity in the mass. My heart sank, because from what I read, those were suspicious signs. The following day we got a call from the pediatrician confirming my own diagnosis of nodules with microcalcification and we were immediately referred to an endocrinologist who wanted to see us that day. He agreed that it was suspicious and wanted us to get a biopsy. Due to the holidays and the scheduling time, they couldn't get us in for a biopsy for weeks. I was not comfortable waiting and new deep down that this was going to not be a normal "fluke". 

After further research (what else am I supposed to do from 1am-5am when I cannot sleep??), I found a specialist for pediatric thyroid cancer 4 hours away. I emailed him on Thursday, November 19th at 5am with all of Ilana's information and he responded within 60 minutes and asked when he could call us and if we could come the following day to see him. Friday we spent the entire day up at Shand's Hospital in Gainesville for a thyroid and lymph node ultrasound, a biopsy, and a consultation with the specialist. We then waited 4 long days for the results... 

Tuesday, November 24, my phone rang and I recognized it as the thyroid specialist's cell number. I answered it and the only words I really remember were "Unfortunately, the biopsy came back positive for papillary thyroid carcinoma." Those three words... Papillary Thyroid Carcinoma... While I expected this diagnosis all along, nothing quite prepares you for hearing those words come from a doctor. I immediately felt like I was going to throw up. He said a few more things and I remember saying "I trust you. Thank you." and then hung up and cried...

So many thoughts went through my mind. I began to question God. Saying "Really God? This, too? Why now? Why us? How can we do this financially? How can we handle this with it being so far away and having the other 3 kids to take care of? Why, God? WHY?"  I called Michael, told him the news and all I remember him saying is "God's got this. It will be okay. I'm going to go ahead and come home now."

As I prayed and spent some time with God last night, my view began to change. 

Why not now? Who am I to say that God's timing is wrong? God's timing has been so very perfect in our past trials. What makes this any different? Why not us? Just because we believe in Jesus doesn't mean that we won't be subject to hard times. After all, it says in James 1:

"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  
So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete,
needing nothing."

C.S. Lewis said it perfectly: 
"Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties."

Just because we are believers, doesn't meant that our life is going to be "happily ever after". We will always be faced with trials and tribulations. While sometimes it feels like we've gotten more than our fair share of trials, I instead need to focus on how God can use me in these situations. How can God use this chaos of the storm? How can God use me in Ilana's life? How can we glorify God through this entire situation? I desperately need to surrender every fear and worry to Him. I have to surrender it all to Him! 

Michael was right. God's got this. We found the best doctor in the state of Florida for this situation. It wasn't any mistake. And despite the distance, God's always faithful with provision. Provision in financial needs, provision in helping with our kids, provision in every single step of the way. God's got this and His plan is SO perfect. I cannot wait to see how God will turn this whole situation into something good. I can't wait to see the strength and courage come from Ilana as she battles this. I can't wait to see how God uses her. I'm so thankful for the hundreds of friends and family who will hold us up and carry us when there may be days where we can't quite climb over these hurdles. I'm thankful that since announcing this diagnosis, we have had hundreds of people praying for our family. And boy, do we feel those prayers. We have a supernatural peace in our hearts and we are now praying, "Lord, have Your way in us. We are prepared. We are ready to give you the glory!"

For those asking how to help...

Please pray!

Pray that the cancer has stayed only in the thyroid and that it hasn't spread. With pediatric thyroid cancer, there's a much higher chance of it metastasizing to the lymph system, pulmonary system or bones.

Pray for the doctors and surgeons. For wisdom and for the entire treatment process, which so far will include a total thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid) and possibly more, depending on what they find when they open her up. In 6-8 weeks she will undergo a form of radiation called Radioactive Iodine Treatment, in which she will have to undergo complete isolation (away from everyone, including us). The time frame all depends on the dosage of radiation that she's given. 

Pray for our family and for our other kids as they will be left with family and friends a lot over the next couple months. 

Here is a group that a sweet friend created where you can stay up to date on the process and to be our family's prayer warriors! FACEBOOK PRAYER GROUP HERE 

And here is a link that another friend created to help us with medical expenses including travel and lodging, as each trip too the specialist is about 8 hours round trip. Do not feel obligated to give! It's just an option for those who want to help in this way. I feel bad asking for any monetary help, so this is a humbling experience for our family...  YOUCARING PAGE HERE 

We are so thankful for each of you. While we could spend this Thanksgiving sad, we are choosing JOY. We have SO much to be thankful for and to be joyful over. 

"Rejoice in our confident hope. 
Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." 
Romans 12:12

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