Surviving the Storm: Running Cancer’s Maze

running cancers mazeWhen the movie, The Maze Runner, hit Redbox, I rented the Blu-ray. Watching movies on our big screen is one of the few things we can still enjoy as a family since my oldest son, Kyle, relapsed with leukemia.

His aggressive chemo schedule ensures we don’t take vacations or plan parties or participate in activities that don’t involve spending major chunks of time sitting on cushy chairs. Living in a state of crisis has become our new norm. We’re sadly ecstatic when life stays neutral. And planning any outings feels pointless when Cancer hijacks our schedule ninety-nine percent of the time.

 

Trying to survive cancer feels a lot like navigating an impossible maze. While we watched The Maze Runner, the story hit me right where I am—in the middle of my own journey as a Cancer Mom.

The movie goes something like this:

A group of boys CUT OFF from the rest of the world, and TRAPPED inside a giant maze, must BATTLE their way out of their prison if they want to survive. As each new member arrives, one new boy a month, he wakes CONFUSED as to how he got there or why he was CHOSEN. At the opening of the movie, the longest member has lived in the center of the maze, The Glade, for over three years. Three years of battling to learn basic survival skills. Three years of fighting to escape the maze. Three years of running an excruciating MARATHON in a race that seems without end.

What do The Maze Runner and cancer have in common?

CUT OFF. Cancer breeds isolation. Life narrows to a small circle. While the rest of the world spins around, unreachable, you’re stuck on pause. In the midst of chemo, hospital admissions, and frequent health crisis, time becomes irrelevant.

No matter how hard you reach for your old life, you won’t find it. The wall between cancer and normal stretches far too high. And as much as your friends and family love you and want to help, they’re not trapped inside the cancer maze, so they will never completely understand your new world.

TRAPPED. Once the words, “You have cancer,” are released, you can’t shove them back. You can’t run away. You can’t escape your body. Cancer is an iron cuff that has no key. The restraint keeping you captive only dissolves when the disease disappears.

BATTLE. Every day is a battle. For life. For a future. For reasons to get out of bed. The struggles are physical and mental and spiritual. They affect every relationship you have.

CONFUSED. Waking up with a cancer diagnosis is like waking up in the middle of a maze with your memory erased. How did you get there? What did you do wrong? Was it the food you ate or the laundry detergent you used? Or maybe you made a bad life choice? Checked the wrong box?Accidentally prayed to understand suffering or patience or gain deep empathy?

A million why-did-this-happen-to-me scenarios won’t change anything. You may never know why. Accepting your new life may be the hardest thing you do.

CHOSEN. No one picks the cancer card. In this case, the word chosen doesn’t make you feel special, but it definitely sets you apart.

MARATHON. No matter how short or long the treatment, the battle wears who you are away. Like the boys running the maze, you’re hungry, thirsty, terrified, mentally and physically exhausted, and all you want is wake up from this nightmare that you didn’t choose and jump back into your real life.

A year into Kyle’s second battle with leukemia, we can relate to the boys locked inside the maze. We’re CUT OFF and TRAPPED in a world we didn’t ask for. We fight a new BATTLE every day. We’re often CONFUSED. We never asked to be CHOSEN. And this MARATHON is the single hardest thing we’ll ever do.

There are days I hurt so much for Kyle, I don’t crawl out of bed. There are hours where I can’t stop crying. There are minutes when I’ve forgotten how to breathe. There are seconds I crave normal so badly my need turns into a physical ache.

It’s in these moments my faith is tested, sometimes severely enough that I’m tempted to walk away. Write life off as random. Give up the beliefs I’ve held my entire life. Trust myself more than I trust God, because prayer doesn’t seem to be working.

But I can’t do any of those things.

I don’t know why God allowed cancer to invade our family not once, but twice. I have no idea why we have to live with so much pain. I can’t comprehend the way God has chosen to love us at this time.

But here is what I’ve learned:

1. It’s my choice to go through Kyle’s cancer with or without God. I’ve tried both ways. They are not equal.

2. The maze is lonely. As much as I’m frustrated and angry and hurt that God hasn’t swooped in with a miracle, choosing to walk away from my faith leaves me feeling empty. All the time.

3. That bottomed-out, hole in my life when I choose to leave Him feels worse than any frustration I have with God and His choice to let us walk down cancer’s path.

4. I may never know God’s purpose. But either everything is random or He has a plan. I choose to believe He has a plan.

5. God’s ideas and mine live in different planes. He never promised to take me from the situation or to take the situation from me. He promised to take care of me through it.

 Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV)

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

whose confidence is in him.

They will be like a tree planted by the water

that sends out its roots by the stream.

It does not fear when heat comes;

its leaves are always green.

It has no worries in a year of drought

and never fails to bear fruit.”

Not all of us will have to face cancer or a serious illness. But life is hard and the only guarantee we have is the certainty of trials. We’ll run into situations that feel impossible and seem unfair and weigh us down. It’s then that we have to make a decision about faith.

Will we cling to God’s promises or will we go our own way?

Faith is a choice each of us has to make. I need to decide if I trust God’s decisions for  my life and if I believe in what He’s promised.

Cancer has taught me, without Him, I have nothing. I wither and waste away. I’m empty. With Him, I have hope. And hope is a miracle in itself. Hope is what gets me through the worst moments. Hope is the foundation for my faith.

 

Author’s Note: Last year, my oldest son, Kyle, relapsed with leukemia, making me a two-time Cancer Mom. I’m sharing our journey not to ask for your pity, but for others who trudge this same road feeling isolated and alone. And for friends and family who watch the suffering and want to help, but don’t know where to begin.

You can find the rest of the series here: Surviving the Storm

 

 

 

 

 

27 Comments

  1. You have to be one of the strongest people I know.
    I will keep you and your family in my prayers.

  2. your Faith is insuring to us mere mortals. I have no doubt God is using your journey to give hope to many others u may never even meet. Praying for continued strength and healing. #cancersucks

  3. YOUR FAMILY IS THE BEST AND THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HANGING IN THERE,FAMILY IS SO IMPORTANT…..
    JUST UNREAL Lori AND Pat xxooxxoo

  4. I wish this would, could all simply vanish from your life. I pray for you and worry and at times hurt for you. But the one thing no one can do is to be you.

    But when strength fails the people around you can lift you in prayer and wish their arms if they have to. Your words and thoughts are meaningful and an encouragement. And in the end know that you and your son and family are loved.

  5. Adrienne Giordano |

    You inspire me every day. Hang in there, my friend!

  6. Love you so much, my friend.

  7. Well said my friend. You are in my prayers brave warriors

    • Thank you.

    • Doreen Hydock |

      I’m a cancer survivor. It was 1982 when I was diagnosed with Euwing Sarcoma. I was 22 years old. I didn’t know Jesus then. I always thought there are no words to describe it. You did. You did, and so well. That is your gift. Listen when He speaks to you, and share, as you have. NEVER give up. Whatever the outcomes. I thank God he didn’t take me then, I didn’t know Jesus,and I would not have gone to heaven. Praise God, I know Jesus today, and if ever I did have to face cancer again, I know in whom I believe and where I am going when He takes me home! There is a purpose to everything under the Sun. Trust in the Lord, and don’t try to figure it out. God will show you the way. Our whys and whats and whens. He will answer in His time you’ll know. You’ve been touched by Him. It brings you to that place of Faith that you just know. I pray I will always remember He lives within my heart and He will never leave me. I didn’t know that then, I do now.
      That’s the miracle. I pray for all people struggling with Cancer. I pray for your son and your family.
      God Bless

  8. Such an authentic view into a life with cancer…I can’t believe you are doing this again!! Or that you are doing it for so long!!! I can hardly imagine…Oh dear Lori, I have no words for you…just a heart of love, compassion & whispered prayers…

  9. Lori,

    You are a brave soul.
    I pray this will pass, and Kyle will be fine.
    Yes, trust in God.

    My prayers!
    Cherrye

  10. Lori, I’ve said this before, but think it bears repeating. You will never know the lives your story, your struggle, and your faith have touched this side of heaven.

    God doesn’t act in a random, abandoned manner. And we are expected to comfort others with the comfort He pours out on us…to encourage and be a light to others not as far along in their journey. I believe that’s what your blog does. Points to the fact that life is hard, but God is still good…all the time.

    He told Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have for you. Plans for good and not for evil. Plans to give you a future and a hope.”

    We read the Psalms and David, like you, poured out the emotions of his heart to God, but at the end of each Psalm points to the source of his faith. The Lord God Almighty.

    1 Peter tells us we have been called to suffer. Christ suffered for you and left you an example. He also tells us that trials and suffering prove our faith (to ourselves and others)…and that is more precious than gold which is perishable. And the various trials you suffer will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

    We have been saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved daily from the power of sin. And we will be saved in that day from the presence of sin. It’s a process, and sometimes a painful one because we still live in these old bodies. But keep trusting our Lord Jesus to carry you through whatever He has planned. Because God is refining all of you and is making you all pure gold…for His honor and glory. And to become gold you, me, all of us, must go through the fire.

    We love you and pray for each member of your family daily, because these diseases, trials, and pain affect the whole family…and we are all family in Christ Jesus so we all hurt for you all.

    But there’s coming a day! A day when God will wipe away ever tear from our eyes. I love the picture of God’s people coming from everywhere…broken, weary, wounded…coming to Him and He steps down from His throne and walks through the crowd with a touch and a tissue to each one saying, You don’t have to cry anymore. It is finished. You are home. I love you! Enter in! All because Jesus suffered for us. Hallelujah, praise the Lamb.

  11. I see and feel the parallels, Lori. I can sympathize. I can pray for you; for Kyle. I can ache when I think of what this has done to you, to Kyle, to your family. What I can’t do (as you said) is truly empathize. Nothing that’s happened in my life-to-date compares.

    As others have said. You’re truly a testimony to faith during enormous challenge. I pray your prayers are answered.

  12. Yeah, I don’t know what you’re going through. That was always the worst thing people said when I had pregnancy and preemie problems: “I know how you feel.” Um, no you don’t.

    But what I do know is that you have raised a wonderful young man, who is clearly bursting with courage. And you are often in my prayers. Love you, Lori.

  13. Shalanda DANDY |

    Satan had to ask for permission to test you to the magnitude that GOD allowed and GOD granted that permission, because GOD knew HE could Trust YOU to TRUST HIM through the Process, which has made you Stronger,wiser, and more resilient in the next phase of testing in life… GOD’S STRENGTH IS MADE PERFECT IN OUR WEAKNESS..!!! HALLELUJAH. NO TEST… NO TESTIMONY YOU ARE A POWERFUL TESTAMENT TO THE GRACE & POWER OF GOD..!! TO GOD BE ALL THE GLORY… BLESSINGS TO YOU & YOURS

  14. Patricia Williams |

    I know what you are going through, but in a different way. January 2016 I was told I had breast cancer, and it’s triple negative ductal carcinoma, which is one of the more aggressive kinds of breast cancer and that makes it harder to treat. I was told that it will come back and it could return anywhere in my body. I asked to be anointed at church, and chose to believe in God, and thank him for the cancer, the pain, the uncertainty, the fear and the loss of my income to help support my family, and medical setbacks. My surgery and the treatments affected me the most. I was hospitalized 4 times for a total of 18 days in 2016. With the last one spending 8 days in the cardiac wing. Through all this there have been at least five prayers answered on my behalf. So yes, God answers prayers but in His own time. I refuse to let rule my life, or define who I am. I pray everyday that I will be an inspiration to someone, who may be going through the same thing. I smile through it all, never letting on to anyone, how much it hurts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *