Three years ago, on December 26, 2016, my family received the worst news possible. My mother’s cancer had returned, stage 4.
On Christmas Day, everything seemed fine. The presents were opened, and we took all the dogs on a fairly long walk together. But in the span about 24 hours, everything changed.
When a family member is diagnosed with cancer, it’s difficult to image what the next year will bring. Will the treatments work? Will we be able to spend next Christmas together, or even her next birthday? How could this happen? Why us?
There are no good answers to those questions, but, as we found out, the Lord was already working in the midst of our sorrow and pain.
In order to get the treatment started, based on where the cancer had spread, my mother needed a liver biopsy. My father, who’s worked in the healthcare industry his entire life, knew one thing: liver biopsies are excruciatingly painful and could potentially spread the disease further. She also needed some other scans as well. But God knew this, and he had been planning for this scenario for months.
At the time, my father worked for the only company in the world that could utilize an MRI machine to perform a noninvasive liver biopsy. It was a job he got earlier in July.
The only problem is that there were no MRI machines in North Carolina that had the program installed. The doctor that my father had developed a strong working friendship with in Orlando not only offered to complete all the necessary scans, including the noninvasive MRI liver biopsy, but he had also offered to pay for our hotel. So, on December 28th, we flew from Raleigh to Orlando, Florida with two of our little dogs in tow.
If you’re in the middle of a family crisis, there is perhaps no place better to be than the city filled with distractions. In addition to the multitude of theme parks, there’s also an enormous amount of shopping, restaurants and other places that can serve as a temporary place for fun and amusement. Again, God really did know what he was doing. If the clinic was in the middle of Kansas, it would’ve been rough.
For the five or so days we were there, we were able to complete all the necessary scans and exams, my mother was treated as a VIP patient and had everything read in real time by doctors around the world. My parents also dropped my sister and I off at Universal Studios one day, in what can only be described as a sweet and parental effort to keep us away from some of the hardest moments. No matter how old you are, you are always your parents’ children.
But the best day was New Year’s Eve, when we all went to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Having grown up in San Diego, California, about an hour and a half from Disneyland, much of our childhood was spent at the park. It was a special day where we didn’t really try to hit every ride, the park was completely packed anyways, but did the one’s that really meant something to our family and childhood, like the carousel and It’s a Small World. My mom said it was the first day where she didn’t cry.
Ironically, my dad was only with that company less than two years, but it was long enough to perhaps save my mom’s life.
While it’s been three years, I’m incredibly grateful for that trip and how God laid the groundwork for her treatment and health. Although we did have a scare last year with a brain tumor, my mom is doing amazingly well. The cancer hasn’t really spread, and her last reports were so good that the doctors said the cancer is barely detectable.
So, this year, like every year, I’m just so thankful that she’s still here and is doing so well. Others, I realize, are not as lucky. I encourage you to pray for those that are mourning the loss of a loved one or are experiencing cancer in their family. Pray for God’s healing, peace and comfort this Christmas season.