Friday, December 25, 2015

Are "unanswered prayers", truly unanswered?

Sometimes people say God doesn't always answer prayers. I don't believe that. I believe that sometimes God answers prayers the way we want. Other times He has a completely different plan and He may not answer it the way we wanted, but we must have peace with His decision and trust that His plan is bigger than our own.

As I lay here, struggling to fall asleep with my daughter sound asleep next to me, I feel nothing more than thankfulness... She is in such a deep, peaceful, restful sleep. Since her surgery, it's caused her breathing to be loud and while most would find it annoying, I am thankful. It's 12:30am and I cannot fall asleep because it's so loud. Yet, I am thankful.

I am thankful because we are home. We really thought we'd be in the hospital for Christmas. We prayed for miraculous healing. We and hundreds of people prayed that when Ilana would go into surgery, her tumor would be gone. We all prayed that if the mass was not gone, that it would be a simple procedure and that the cancer was contained in just her thyroid. We prayed that it wouldn't affect her vocal chords (which would leave her voice completely silenced or softened) or trachea. That it wouldn't affect any surrounding lymph nodes. We prayed that they wouldn't have to remove any parathyroids. We prayed that it wouldn't affect her calcium levels and that we would be home by Christmas.

God answered our prayers. Some of it the way we asked, others, not so much.

We got to the hospital at 7:30am for check-in for surgery. We waited. And waited. And two hours later, our surgeon came down and explained that they didn't have the nerve monitoring system in stock for her size and that he didn't want to cut corners and proceed without it. So they put in a call to have it shipped from another place 2 hours away. We waited. For 9 hours, we waited and finally it was Ilana's turn for surgery.

We prayed for her. Prayed over her. Prayed for her doctors and prayed for God to use us. We gave her kisses and I held it together as best as I could, until they took her down to the OR.

We went and finally ate  for the first time in 24 hours at that point! If Ilana couldn't eat, we wouldn't either, so we endured hunger right along with her... We were pretty hungry! Even so, we sat and simply nibbled on our food mainly in silence, neither of us not knowing what to say.

After several hours, the surgeon finally came to meet with us and discuss her surgery. At that point, we were the only remaining ones in the waiting room. He pulled a chair over and we were anxious to hear good news. When he started off saying "Well, I have to say, when we opened her up, we weren't expecting what we saw." I immediately got hopeful thinking "God answered our prayer!", but my excitement was immediately pushed from my body as I took in his next words... "It looked nasty. It was a mess. It looked aggressive and so I immediately took some samples and sent them straight to pathology. They confirmed that it looked to have at least two cancers and they looked aggressive."

My heart sank as he continued with "It was all over her right vocal chord. As I scraped the cancer away from it, I realized it was growing all inside of it. I unfortunately had to cut the chord in order to remove all of the cancer."

My legs and hands began to shake and I fought the tears away and I began to whisper in my head "God, I need you..." The surgeon continued "Only time will tell if she will have a voice or how much she's lost. The cancer was all around her trachea. I tried my best to scrape off all I could find. We removed all the surrounding lymph nodes and took out the complete thyroid, as the left had another mass growing on it, as well. I also removed a parathyroid."  As he continued to speak, I wanted to do nothing more but to break down and cry and ask God why...  I also wanted to make sure that the surgeon knew how much we appreciated his hard work and while he apologized for having to cut her vocal chord, I kept reassuring him that we appreciated him and what he did and then we told him that he had thousands of people throughout the world praying specifically for him and his team all day. I'm not sure he's ever heard that before, as it left him pretty speechless.

He shook our hand and left and I sat in shock for several minutes. I began to question God. Why didn't he answer our prayers? Why didn't he keep the cancer solely in her thyroid? So many things we prayed for specifically weren't answered the way wanted. But in the back of my head, I just kept thinking "All of my life, in every season, You are still God, and I have a reason to worship." I had to remember that I still had hope in Jesus.

I went to the bathroom to have some privacy while Michael made some phone calls. And I broke down. After a little while I composed myself, updated my mom and sister and eventually it was time to go see Ilana who was in PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit). Sweet girl was crying, unaware of where she was and was in so much pain. It was a long night. Hourly checks from nurses, Ilana in and out of sleep and in an out of pain.

Saturday wasn't much better and by that evening she became so unlike herself that I began to get worried. She held so much fear and the pain meds were causing so many side effects that she had no idea where she was, who I was, or what day it was and it began to make her nauseous. Her heart rate would go from 100 to 170 in seconds and she'd shake uncontrollably. After hours of this happening every 20-30 minutes, I began to feel like Satan was trying to distract us from focusing on God and that he was instilling such a fear in Ilana that she was struggling to trust us, the doctors, and ultimately God. She didn't want to listen to Christian music and she would cry and demand us to turn it off. I began to pray over her and I commanded the spirit of fear to flee in the name of Jesus Christ because Ilana was a child of God and that God has won this fight and that fear was NOT welcome any longer. The second I told Satan to go NOW, Ilana looked at me, her heartrate slowed down from 164 to 105 and she immediately laid down and was snoring in seconds. And from that moment, she slept all night except the two times the nurses woke her for vitals.

In the morning, she was feeling more like herself, she began to eat and drink and the doctor decided there was no reason to keep her there any longer and he prepared all her discharge papers. We got to go home just 2 days after surgery!
Crying tears of joy when finding out she could go home and wouldn't be in the hospital for Christmas!

God answered some prayers in the way we hoped and others were answered with his own different, but perfect plan. Right now we are unsure of what our future holds, but we know one thing for sure. That God is there. That God is good. That God's plan is better than our own. And for now, I'm thankful for this loud sleeping little girl next to me. I'm thankful that we get to spend Christmas at home. I'm thankful for the amazing support we have. We have an abundance of friends and family praying for us every step of the way. We have our amazing church family who met at our church on Friday before her surgery and stormed heaven's gates on Ilana's behalf. And the same church family who Facetimed with us as we prepared to go home during two church services. Amazing! We have so many people who have given monetary gifts, many who have sent Ilana cards and letters to her PO Box, and those who have sent me cards/texts/messages of encouragement.

 People who have done Random Acts of Christmas Kindness in honor of Ilana (you should check out the facebook page for this. It's awesome!). Honestly, we have been overwhelmed by it all and I often wonder how I'll ever tell each one individually how much we appreciate them... I'm thankful for God's promise and faithfulness.

Despite the unknown of our future, we hope and we pray that through everything, our eyes will remain on Jesus. That He will be glorified through every trial. Every mountain. Every valley. And that through this situation we will draw others closer to Him.

For now, I will continue singing "It is well. With my soul... It is well, it is well, with my soul..." and will continue thanking my Father for answered prayer.

From our family to yours, we would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas! We hope your year has been amazingly blessed!

***If you want to follow this new chapter in our lives, please join the Praying for Ilana Facebook group HERE