You Want Me to be Thankful for What?

baby easterCancer doesn’t observe holidays. Doesn’t take a vacation. Doesn’t step away for a brief time-out. Since the week before Thanksgiving, when my son, Kyle, discovered an unusual mass, cancer dictates how we spend our holidays.

The day before Thanksgiving, Kyle went in for an ultrasound. After the results came back abnormal, we spent Black Friday, which also happened to be my birthday, in the ER waiting for a C.T. scan.

Right before Christmas, Kyle had surgery to remove the malignant mass. Christmas Eve, we learned the mass was not an isolated tumor, but an extremely rare form of leukemia relapse.

New Year’s Eve kicked off a two-year aggressive chemotherapy treatment. At the end of January, Kyle spent his 20th birthday in bed, recovering from a hospital stay.

Good Friday followed the trend with a ninety-six hour admission for I.V. chemo.

Easter morning, I finally let myself slip into the self-pity zone.

Due to a major project rollover, my husband had to work. Kyle was stuck in the hospital. And when I suggested to my two younger kids that we go to early service together, both had excuses of why they’d rather sit with their friends than hang with their mom.

Kyle’s second go round with leukemia can be a lot to handle. Most days, I do okay. I drive him to weekly clinic appointments, sleep on the cement couch during frequent hospital stays, make the occasional ER run, keep my “happy face” handy, and deal with each physical and emotional crisis as they come.

Not so much on Easter morning.

My friends lit up Facebook with, “He is risen.” All I could do was lean over the kitchen island and cry. It didn’t feel like He had risen and if He had, it felt like that rising had zero to do with me.

In the car on the way to church, I struggled with something one of my friends had said to me early on. She asked if I’d thanked God for Kyle’s cancer.

baby shock

Thank Him? Seriously? For the hardest thing I’d ever face, not only once, but twice?

But the more I thought about it, the less crazy the idea felt. I’d done everything else. I’d cried. I’d begged. I’d prayed. I’d run away—at least in my mind. None of those things changed anything for me or for Kyle.

When we got to church, I claimed parental veto and forced my kids to sit with me. During the message, I closed my eyes and in silent prayer and took a chance on the whole thank-you thing.

Lord, thank you Pat went to work. Thank you that Kyle has cancer. Thank you that Maddy and Alek would rather be with their friends than with me. Thank you for the first Easter we aren’t all together as a family.

That didn’t feel so great. But I kept my eyes closed and quieted my mind.

baby shock 1

And then something weird happened and my prayer turned into this:

Lord, thank you for Pat’s job and his insurance that pays for Kyle’s treatments. Thank you that he’s a good, dependable worker that takes care of our family. Thank you for making sure Kyle is safe in the hospital during treatments. While cancer doesn’t take a holiday, neither does chemo or the staff of nurses and doctors that are taking care of him. Thank you that his cancer is curable. Thank you that my younger children have friends. Thank you for Maddy and Alek’s health and their typical teenage issues that don’t require multiple ER visits or hospital admissions.

With that prayer, everything changed. Not on the outside, but inside of me. I opened my eyes and found myself miles from the self-pity zone with no desire to go back.

happy baby

Yeah, life is hard. Some days I struggle just to get dressed. My son is sick. Kyle’s nurses are our new best friends. I’ll probably have PTSD from logging too many hours in medical settings. My family’s a mess.

But deep down, I’m okay.

I wonder if God is using this time to teach me to find the joy and worth in every moment?  If I can learn to be content during the worst parts of life, how much better will the best parts be?

My desire to get out of tough situations won’t excavate me, but I do have control over what I do while I’m here. And I think I want to learn what God wants to teach.  I think I want to be thankful.

thankful

Give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV

37 Comments

  1. Kirsten Johnson |

    Lori,

    Absolutely Beautiful!

    Kirsten

    • Lori Freeland |

      Thank you. I miss seeing your smile on Mondays and hanging out during lunch.

    • Wow, that is amazing. Thank you for sharing. My husband has been battling lung cancer since last April. It’s so hard and no one understands unless they’ve “been there “. Keep writing, you will reach so many people that need to hear/read such encouragement.

  2. GOOD LORD——————– LORI AND PAT AND FAMILY HUGS AND TONS OF LOVE MOM

  3. Well, I’ll just say it: Cancer sucks. I hate that your family is going through all of this, but I’m incredibly thankful that God and your family and your friends are with you through all of it. I don’t think you’d be human if you didn’t grieve from time to time (Psalm 22), but your deep faith and indomitable spirit are inspiring. Hang in there, and know that you have many people praying for you! I’m glad Kyle is done with his round.

  4. Love your heart, my dear friend.

  5. Susi Mitchell |

    Lori, you have done the hardest thing, and no one could make you do it. Giving thanks to God for the thing you hate the most demonstrated your faith and complete trust of Him. Oh my, that we would all have such faith and trust! Thank you for sharing so much of your journey. I am so blessed to be your prayer partner and sister in Christ. I’ll be sharing this post with others who need it, and continually hold you, your family, and Kyle up in prayer. God bless you!

    • Lori Freeland |

      Thank you for sharing and for praying. I appreciate both. Without prayer, I can do nothing.

      • Susi Mitchell |

        Lori, I shared your post with my Sunday School class last week, and this morning several people told me how very much it blessed them! One lady said that she REALLY needed it that day. Lori, I know that Kyle and you and your whole family are in the midst of an excruciatingly painful trial. You will never know till you get to heaven how many lives you have touched and how significant your contribution has been in those lives. We will keep praying! Keep the faith and keep sharing.

  6. Beautiful! I can’t describe how deeply your words affected me. Thank-you for sharing what God is doing in your life. Praise Him!

  7. “For the first time in my life, I’m finding it hard to share.”

    I remember wanting to pull my blog and shutdown Facebook and go into hiding because, great googly moogly!, talk about hard and ugly, and friends–especially friends who are pastors–told me to keep the pages up, keep writing, keeping teaching them because despite their degrees in theology, they had no idea how to “pastor THIS”. Last week I received an email from a woman who had read a blog entry from nearly 3 1/2 years ago that said despite the hell and hurt, I believed we would be fine because I know God can heal anything. For the first time in 30 years she talked about the years of sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her grandfather and uncle. She said after reading my blog and seeing the healing, she believed too.

    Lori, I’m still the bad friend who hates that y’all are dealing with this. I’m still the bad friend who wants the sweeping hand of God to fix it all. I’m also the friend who knows that someone, at some point in time, will walk the same road, read your words, and keep walking because you had the courage to write the road map. I hate Kyle’s cancer. I hate that your family has to walk this road, but I’m thankful you have the courage to walk it for all to see. My prayers continue to be with you.

    • Lori Freeland |

      Thank you for “getting me.” I appreciate your words and I agree–which is why I share. I love that you’re the bad friend. :)

  8. Learned lessons never come easy. Yours is the sacrifice of praise and thankfulness. A sacrifice rendered to God costs you something. But then God opens those heavenly windows and dumps a truckload of blessings of peace. Doesn’t mean you won’t have more pain and frustration, but it does mean you now have the answer…Thankfulness!
    Great message we all needed to hear.

    Thank you…DiAne

  9. Powerful! Thank You!!
    Our prayers continue to flow your way!

  10. A heart-wrenching story with a good reminder. God really is faithful in the hard times. In fact, it’s where we draw the closest to Him because He, like no other, can identify with our pain. I pray for you & your family. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  11. Lori,
    I happy that you are able to give thanks in the midst of the storm. Your friend gave you a gift that seemed strange at first, but finally made sense for you.
    God bless you, your family, and especially your dear son during this time. Let the power and grace of God instill peace and tranquility within you both.
    God is in control and HE is so able.
    Blessings to You!

  12. What a terrific post, so honest, so gutsy and full of faith. Thanks, friend.

  13. Susie Koenig |

    Wow !! I must admit that when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer in 2008 it never occurred to me to thank God FOR the cancer. I definitely thanked Him for bringing me through, the friends who helped along the way, etc. Definitely something to think about should it happen again ….. but, I keep praying it won’t. =) Thanks for sharing. =)

  14. Thank you for this. My daughter does not have cancer. She has autism, severe mental retardation, and uncontrolled seizures. She’s a lovely, happy, 22-year-old who still functions at about 18 months. I have never thanked God for her disabilities, but I have thanked Him for a good husband with medical insurance. For my other children who do NOT have disabilities. For my ability to work from home. I wouldn’t wish this life on anyone, but there are blessings aplenty if I would just stop and be thankful.

    • Lori Freeland |

      I know what you mean about not wishing your life on anyone–yet you’re living it and I’m living it. No choice about that, right? I’m starting to focus on what I choices I do have. I’ve asked God to shower us with blessings as we walk this dark tunnel. I did the same for you this morning.

  15. I am very sorry for the grief and sorrow you have experienced. There are some very difficult days. We have also found the power of thankfulness with our daughter, who has an incurable mitochondrial disease. Without minimizing the suffering, we realize that God could only do some things in our lives and character THROUGH the suffering. May God give you many friends who will walk by your side, listen to your grief, and just be with you.

  16. I pray god gives you strength faith through all this god bless you and your family

  17. Thank you:)

  18. Lori, I’m going through nothing like what you are going through. But sometimes I do find it hard to get dressed in the morning too. And I wonder how can I stop being so weak and how I can learn to be strong in the situation I’m in and learn to be joyful and enjoy even more the good moments. Thank you for your honesty.

    • Lori Freeland |

      Giovanna,

      Thanks for sharing. I think everyone’s traumas are different. Sometimes in the aftermath of a crisis, I’m less able to function than during the crisis. You’re not weak. You’re human.

  19. Wow I’m suffering in a different way but share in all ur confusion that turns into hope witch turns in to depression !!!! U know how this all goes the pain is so intense and so deep that there r days I don’t want to try I’m scared and lonely and wonder where he is more than he’s got mee ????

  20. Lori,
    Thank you. I really appreciate your honesty and know that you are not alone in suffering. Too often Christians can be almost dismissive with a typical Christian phrase or say its “God’s will”, without acknowledging the suffering and that God has an active and passive will and sometimes real bad things happen to good people. We have been going through something that also knows no holidays. I envy those I see having a normal day. Been months now and everyday and every night is a trial and I also wish how I could say that it has made us better and everyone has risen to the occasion but can’t say that. Its like a bad dream you don’t wake up from, I actually awake at 3 or 4 in the morning often and try and tell myself its just a bad dream and then no, its real. thank you.

    • Lori Freeland |

      That feeling of looking around at the world and no longer fitting into normal is heartbreaking and terrifying. I am so sorry for your struggle. No platitudes here, but I will pray for you to see what God is doing in your life. That is what I pray for me.

  21. Oluwakemi Campbell |

    Am in the bus on my way to work and I am really struggling not to cry.It is truly hard to thank God when everything goes wrong,most times I am not thankful but desperate for a testimony,a change ,a new beginning, I try reminding myself of the three hebrew men in the bible that God is the fourth man in this fire.Thank you Lori for sharing your story.

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