This month is not only childhood cancer awareness month, but it's also thyroid cancer awareness month. As we traveled home recently from Pennsylvania after visiting CHOP (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia), I sat on the plane in deep thought about our past year. I just so happened to sit next to a kind, elderly couple. The woman asked us if we were on vacation, so I briefly explained that we were coming back from CHOP because of our daughter's thyroid cancer. This woman had just recently had an ultrasound on her clavicle due to unusual swelling. Swelling in her neck and clavicle that's been there for several years. They found thyroid nodules on the ultrasound and told her to seek a specialist. Coincidence that we sat next to each other? I think not. I told her how important it would be for her to find a good endocrinologist and made a few recommendations for her and further explained our family's story. I told her that I would pray that it was nothing and hoped all would turn out okay.
That got me thinking more as we continued our journey home... The last 9-10 months have been hell at times. Watching my 9 year old go through a cancer battle. Going through an invasive surgery, countless bloodwork, enduring complete isolation for what seemed like forever as she struggled crying out for Mommy, yet I was allowed no where near her for an entire week. There were days when I was just so exhausted from the countless appointments and worries that I struggled with getting out of bed. And then just over 6 months after my daughter's surgery, I was having my own surgery to remove my thyroid, thanks to papillary thyroid carcinoma. The same diagnosis as my daughter's.
It's crazy. Insane, really. Looking back and remembering all that our family has endured. And yet, as much as I remember the pain and the hard stuff, I find that what most consumes my mind are the blessings during this journey.
I look back and I see just how many have followed our journey and lifted us in constant prayer since I first discovered the lump on Ilana's neck on November 9. I look back and I remember that the day of Ilana's surgery, dozens of people gathered in our church to pray on behalf of Ilana, joining the hundreds across the country. You guys blessed us! I remember looking straight into the surgeons eyes and telling him that he had hundreds praying for him and his team, and he looked back in amazement. As if he's never heard that before. You guys blessed him! I look back and remember while Ilana was in isolation and I cried out to God asking for relief because I couldn't do this, that's when a countless amount of people stepped up to sign up so Ilana was covered in prayer every hour of every day until she could finally be around Michael. It left me in tears to see and as I look back and remember and write about it, I'm brought to tears.
I look back and I see the journey that Ilana has been on and how much her faith has grown. I see how much I have grown. How much my faith has been stretched and strengthened. How our entire family has grown and changed and grown closer. These trials have refined our family and we've realized that while this last year (or few years, really) have been so. stinking. hard... we see just how God has blessed us amongst the hard. I've begun to figure out how to find God in the midst of the darkness (which may be the title of my book I may write someday...). I've realized that His hope will always be there. And that is huge. No matter what our future holds, our hope in Him will always win.
And because of all of the hard, we've been able to use it to bring God glory. We've been able to share this hope in Jesus with SO many people. We've been able to help other families going through similar situations. I was able to talk to the woman on the plane and share the hope we have in Jesus when she talked about how hard our life must be. Yes. Cancer is a curse. Cancer is horrible. I wouldn't wish it on ANYone. But. Because of cancer, we've been able to see and witness so many blessings. We've been recipients of so many blessings. And ultimately, we've been able to share about Jesus during our pain. God is good. SO good.