I was recently at a meeting where someone asked me about my daughter, Cammie. How was she? Is she free of her cancer?
My response was this: “Yes, she just got back from Houston and a full work up. She is clear, for which we are most grateful.”
The response to that was: “You all have really been through it. It must be very tough.”
And I said: “Yes, it has been difficult. But I would also tell you that dealing with this for the past 23 years has also been a blessing. I don’t expect people to understand that. In fact, I fully expect people not to believe me.”
His question: “How so?” How has it blessed you? I gave him a quick grocery list of ways. But the thought occurred to me that you might want to know too. My list of how we have been blessed might, in turn (somehow) bless others as well. And it may help people believe it when I say that it has been a blessing.
1. Brokenness. I think the Lord wants us all to be broken because it helps us attune ourselves to Him. We were broken. Broken-hearted at the prospect when we first learned of her illness, and humbled in the process of knowing that we were totally dependent on Him. Not sure if I could have learned this any other way (hope you can). We are blessed.
2. It has sensitized me to suffering. I remember as a kid in India seeing lepers with their open wounds, nubby fingers and disfigurement. It was not uncommon. It was not that I lacked sympathy, it was just that we were so used to it, it didn’t elicit sympathy. It wasn’t even gross. I was back in India recently, saw a leper at the railway station begging (a very common sight in my day). I tell you, my heart went out to him. Cammie’s long-term illness and its consequences has made me more sensitive to the suffering of others in a way I had never experienced before. We are blessed.
3. It has welded and bonded relationships. Did you know that the most common broken relational bond when a child gets cancer is the parent’s marriage? There is a huge percentage of divorce in such cases. It did not break ours. It made it stronger. Yes, it has been a long road, but I can not tell you the number of people (in the hundreds, perhaps thousands) that have prayed for Cammie and us as a family. We have made all sorts of new friends and we have a deeper, lasting friendship with our old friends. And each other. We are blessed.
4. It has helped me develop priorities that I might not otherwise have. I am a “get it done” sort of guy. Have you noticed that “get it done” people are not always the best parents? I have come to realize the Lord gives us kids for a reason and that they are His #2 priority for parents (#1 is your spouse). I still may not be the best parent in the world, but I think I am a lot better than I might otherwise have been. We are blessed.
5. It has given my other two girls, Stephanie and Amanda, an insider view of medicine. They have accompanied us to innumerable hospital and doctor visits. They have been there for the surgery, for the hospital stays, and the recovery time. It has shown them that medicine offers a very practical way to help people who can not help themselves. I believe, as a direct result of this, Stephanie is in medical school with a desire to serve as a medical missionary, and Amanda is just starting nursing school (after 2 years of preliminary courses). We, and the world, are blessed as a result.
6. Cammie, as a person, has a delightful personality. She is a social genius, meets people well, listens well, empathizes well. When it comes to “early childhood trauma” she could write the book. And what is she planning to do? She is 6 hours shy of a degree at this point, and wants to finish up in the fall. She plans to go to North Texas State and get a MA in play therapy. Why? To work with children with severe childhood trauma. We are blessed.
7. We have seen first hand how the Lord has and will meet our financial needs. We arrived back in the US shortly after her diagnosis in Nairobi in 1981 and were promptly given a very nice Delta 88 car–the nicest and newest vehicle we had ever had. Her illness has cost megabucks. We stopped counting after $1.5 million. The bulk of this was met through insurance, but unless it has happened to you, you might be surprised at the amount that still comes out of pocket. We have lacked nothing, by God’s good grace. We are blessed.
8. We have more than a mere nodding acquaintance with death. In fact, death has knocked on our door three times. We have benefited from knowing that it is ever present (whether we realize it or not) but that our times are in the Lord’s hands (whether we realize it or not). We are blessed.
9. The word “miracle” today is often pretty watered down version of what the word actually means. In its true sense, we have witnessed a miracle, something extra-ordinary. That has brought awe …and gratitude. We are blessed.
10. We now know that the things that count the most cannot be counted. We have no idea the number of the host of prayer warriors that battered the gates of heaven on our behalf. We have countless friends and family who have undergirded us and overwhelmed us with their love, care and concern—and their practical demonstration of that. We are indeed blessed.
I am here to tell you we are blessed.
You should be so lucky as to have a kid with cancer.
Steve Van Rooy