A year ago, I stood admiring pretty flower arrangements and antique furniture at a flea market when a phone call changed my family’s life.
I looked at my buzzing phone to see my husband’s number. My stomach dropped, and I started sweating despite the cool, fall temperatures. Kedron never called during the work day unless it was an emergency.
Over the summer, we had discovered he had a tumor on his thyroid. He had been tired and not sleeping well, but we had chalked it up to a stressful job and, well, just being a parent.
Routine blood work showed elevated thyroid levels, and the doctor sent him to an endocrinologist. A physical examination revealed a large tumor. Yet, the endocrinologist said that in 35 years of practice, he’d only seen one case like my husband’s that had turned out to be cancer. We went about our summer not giving the tumor much thought.
I answered the phone that October day with a tentative, “Hello?”
“Hi, how’s your day going?” I could tell he was stalling.
“It’s fine. What’s up?”
“The doctor called. It’s cancer.”
I stared a miniature mushroom in the middle of a fairy garden, willing this conversation to be as imaginary as the fairies in the display.
“Now what?” I asked.
“A surgeon will call in a few days, and I’ll have my thyroid removed.”
And just like that, our life went into hyper-drive. Very few people knew he had a tumor. How would we tell our kids, who were six and eight at the time?
We spent the next few weeks telling friends and family and meeting with the doctors to get things set for his surgery. My parents came in from out of town to take care of the kids for the week of surgery. His parents arranged their schedule so they could be with us at the hospital. We had an honest, yet age-appropriate conversation with the kids.
We didn’t know anyone who had been through this before, or so we thought. But as soon as we put out the word, dozens of people came forward with stories of their own and people they knew. Other people came forward with second opinions. Everyone meant to help, but we were quickly overwhelmed. I found myself in the position of fielding stories and advice.
We came to realize a few things through this our journey:
Everyone’s cancer journey is different.
Through all the stories that were shared with us about thyroid cancer, none of them were anything like what Kedron experienced. I discovered the most helpful people were those who said, “I’ve had some experience with this. If you ever want to hear my story, just let me know.” We naturally want to share our stories when we hear of someone in trouble. But that’s not always helpful. Many times, it can just overwhelm a family that is already in shock and overloaded with information.
I did my best to keep most of that information from reaching Kedron. He focused on staying positive and hopeful. I think that made all the difference in his recovery. Even his doctors have been amazed at how well he did from the beginning. Not once did Kedron allow fear to rule his spirit.
Cancer is cancer.
I can’t tell you how many times we heard, “Well, at least it’s not…” followed by a more severe type of cancer. While meant to be encouraging, it felt more like a dismissal, as though we shouldn’t be worried or in shock at all. I know I’ve been guilty of comments like these in the past. But the truth is, cancer is cancer, and even the less severe types of cancer do a number on your emotions and spirit.
I felt so relieved when we sat in the surgeon’s office, and he gave us permission to feel awful. He looked us straight in the eyes and said, “This is a type of cancer we can cure. We will take care of you. But this is still cancer, and it doesn’t belong in your body.”
Your faith in the ordinary bears fruit during the extraordinary.
In the middle of this journey a friend asked me what we were doing special during this time to keep our faith strong. I paused and replied, “We aren’t doing anything differently. We are just living out our faith in this crisis as we do during the ordinary.”
It’s like the saying “Dig the well before you need the water.” The routines and habits of our faith during the ordinary became a stabilizing factor in our lives when everything else was turned upside down. Our natural reactions were to turn to God and trust Him, even in this, because that’s how we try to live every day.
A year later, Kedron is doing very well. At this point in time, he hasn’t needed any treatment. For every day of health and being together, we simply say, “Thank you, God.”
Amelia Rhodes lives with her husband, Kedron, and their two children in Michigan. She is the author of Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break? and the creator of Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Praying for Your Community. You can connect with Amelia at www.ameliarhodes.com Twitter: @amrhodes or Facebook.