“Dear Jesus, Thank you for this day, and thank you for returning our daddy to us. Thank you that you kept him safe and that he’s getting better. Thank you, God, for daddy’s tumor. We thank you for that, because people are looking for Jesus because of it. . .”
I haven’t found myself in tears many times throughout this, but the morning of our appointment with the oncologist, I sat in my chair in our homeschool room, unexpected tears welling up in my eyes, as one of our children prayed that prayer. The child of a sick daddy, a daddy he almost didn’t have, thanking God for the illness that wrecked the normality of his life just as it did ours. That moment was such a provision of the Lord, pouring yet more grace into my weary soul before we went to face another battle in our war against cancer.
A few hours later, we arrived at our appointment, and I began working on the always-lengthy paperwork as we waited to be called back. As my hand busily scribbled out answers to various questions, my mind was lazily wandering through the stories and songs I’ve learned throughout my 34 years of life. It rested on a now familiar story that’s become significant to us on this journey.
In days long passed, there lived a group of people called the Israelites. Now it came to pass that they were in the midst of a battle against an enemy that was much stronger than they were. They were known as the Philistines. The Israelites had cried out to God and been delivered countless times before this, only to turn away from Him, follow their own desires, and land themselves right back in a predicament again. At this moment in time, they had reached a point of desperation in their fight against the Philistines, and so they sought out a man named Samuel, a prophet of the time, and begged him to speak to the Lord on their behalf. Samuel did as they asked, sacrificing a lamb and imploring the Lord God to intervene and deliver His people. . . and God came. The Philistines were defeated, the Israelites victorious! When the fight was over, Samuel set up a marker-stone as a visible reminder to the Israelites of the great help that came from God in their time of need. He called it Ebenezer, the “Stone of Help”. (abridged from 1 Samuel 7)
Several weeks ago, before his surgery, Jesse and I and my sister were in the neuro ward of M. D. Anderson talking about his tumor. We had just spent some focused time praying over him for physical healing. It was the moment I’ve written about somewhere along this path when Jesse said he felt like God wanted him to have this tumor. My sister and I felt the same sort of strange assurance, that there was a purpose behind the process of healing. We decided in that conversation that his tumor needed a name. My sister, without any hesitation, said: “Ebenezer.” And so we named it the “Stone of Help”, setting it as a marker, a reminder, of this time in life, when we were fighting a battle we could not win…and God Himself intervened.
Jesse will not be having chemotherapy or radiation any time soon, and possibly not at all.
We are looking at another procedure in the next two months that has proven effective at treating these types of tumors. I want you to understand that this makes absolutely no sense. At all. We had no medical reason to believe that his tumor didn’t mean the soon-arriving death of his body. The waiting time before surgery was scary and turbulent. The size and complexity of the tumor during the surgery was not encouraging. The outcome of pathology looked bleak. You all need to know this, because Jesse’s tumor looked boundary-less to the eyes of man, aggressively infiltrating every facet of his brain it could access. Now, it’s barely even awake. We hope to put it to sleep entirely with the treatment plan ahead of us. Many unknowns remain before us, many decisions have not yet been made. We still have lots of waiting to do, lots of speech therapy and scans and appointments. This is our new always, our new pace of life. Oh, but LIFE! We have LIFE!
In so many ways, this terrible thing called brain cancer has whispered and shouted and sung hope and joy and peace into our lives. Brain cancer has made itself known to us as redemption and restoration. It is freedom from the weight of control and fear and self. Brain cancer is the very power of God on full display. It is grace. We are raising our brain tumor, our Ebenezer, up to God, placing it as an ever-present testament to the undeniable workings of His hands in our lives. We hope that when we look at it, when you look at it, not to see the battle itself; but to see, instead, the Great Help that has come to rescue us from our humanity and restore our souls to their Maker.
“I have said these things to you, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33