Friday, September 30, 2016

Happy Cancerversary!

This entire month of Childhood Cancer Awareness, but especially this past week,  MacKale's cancer fight has weighed heavy on my heart . . . not necessarily in a bad way, but I have definitely been very reflective and reminiscent  about those last days before our own "lives turned upside down." Those blissfully, ignorant days before my faith was put to the test . . . shaken . . . and uprooted by cancer.

When I pulled up my iPhoto account yesterday to look for a picture of my class, I hit the "Pictures from the Last 12 Months" option.   Suddenly this was the picture that came up from October 1st, 2015.  This was MacKale at DeVos, the day of his biopsy.  This kid . . . so unaware of what he was suddenly going to have to face in matter of hours.  And Mike and I . . . so frightened . . . and still frightened.

On Saturday, October 1st, it will be exactly one year to the day that Dr. Joel Post walked into the parent surgery consult room and confirmed the fact that the tumor in MacKale's leg which he had just biopsied was, in fact, osteosarcoma.  One year!

I mentioned it to Mike the other day.  "October 1st is Mac's Cancerversary."
"His WHAT?"
"His Cancerversary!"
"Are we celebrating his cancer?  I don't get it?  What's a cancerversary!"

Quite honestly, I doubt that MacKale has thought twice about the day.   A year later, he is in the 7th grade, attending classes everyday, heading to PT three times a week and getting stronger.  While so much of what made him 'him' was taken away from him, he's still the same MacKale. His faith focuses him forward.  While I am reflective and often emotional as I look back over the year, MacKale, as any typical 12 year old boy would be, is looking ahead.  He's never been the kid to say 'why me' and, while it's been a challenge to find his new 'place,' he is rather more of a 'what's next' kind of kid.

I with I had more of the 12 year old boy in me. It's not that I feel the need to celebrate the day MacKale was diagnosed. I truly wish it was a memory I could erase forever.   However, the date is significant to me because it signifies the day that MacKale began this fight, the day all of you put us on your prayer lists, began supporting and fighting along with us and it signifies that a year later, he's still here . . . fighting, and while I am often stricken with doubt and fear for what comes next, he walked in faith and continues to walk forward in faith a year later.

A few weeks ago during mass, McCoy was serving and Father Joe had been speaking about faith and who in our life has taught us about faith.  He invited the parish to share with each other who it was that had taught them about faith and as we all started sharing with our neighbors, he turned to McCoy and said, 'Who has taught you about faith McCoy?'  And McCoy replied, 'MacKale!'

As parents we believe it is our job to raise our children in faith, we are to set the example and be a model of faith, but as I look over the last year . . . this, the most difficult year of my entire life, it is from my own children that  learned what faith really means.  MacKale's faith never waivered and his little brothers prayed and prayed, without fail, for him every night.  MacKale endured . . . well you know . . . he endured it all, but his brothers endured as well.  These brothers, all three, were separated from each other, their lives torn out from under them, everything they knew and understood about their life suddenly changed . . . and yet, they continued to pray.  When things wouldn't go their way, when unexpected hospital visits ruined plans we made . . . they rolled with it, they made do and they found a new normal.

As a year has passed, their faith remains and I am in awe of it.

So how will MacKale be celebrating this first 'cancerversary'?

Golfing in Phoenix, of course.  Last year, before his diagnosis, he was asked to attend a program called 'Getting In the Game' which brought two kids with bleeding disorders from each state to Arizona for golf, swimming or baseball clinics and play. He was diagnosed two weeks before he was to attend and never went.  It was devastating to him then, but the program told him, 'we'll hold your spot and see you next year.'  Well it's next year and MacKale is thumbing his nose at cancer and hitting the links.

I couldn't think of a better way for him to celebrate.

And quite honestly we have celebrated everyday since his last clear scan.  We've certainly had a blissful summer! Three months of no hospitals, no scans, no chemo, lots of fishing, and golf, and brothers, and loving each other (with some healthy brotherly fighting thrown in).

 MacKale is still hitting PT three times a week and, although he says he doesn't really like it, we all like the fact that he's getting stronger!   We have been blissful and basking in the delightful feeling of an almost normal routine.

But come next week, we are back to reality.  Next Thursday, we will head, once again, down to DeVos for MacKale's three month scans.  While I never really forget that they are looming, scans are easier to ignore when they are closer to being behind you than in front of you, when you can see three months of blissful ignorance ahead of you instead of the imminent pending and possible slap of reality ahead.

I am thankful that these days at the hospital for scans do not impede MacKale's good nature.   When I told him we would be headed down to DeVos soon after he returned from Phoenix, he only wanted to make sure that we would have time to be able to 'visit the 9th floor.' Somehow, despite all the unpleasant days and nights we spent there, that 'floor' and everyone on it will always be a part of him.  He and his brothers never miss the chance to include 'all our friends on the 9th floor' in their prayers each night.

So again, I am asking that you please keep MacKale and our family in your prayers over these next couple of weeks. I still have faith, although some days are easier than others, that now matter what God will bring about some good with all this.  When I see a Team MacKale shirt, when I look at MacKale walking without crutches, when I receive a note from a friend who is thinking of us . . . when I pray each night with my boys . . .  but it reminds me that He is still with us.  These moments come to me when I feel most vulnerable and afraid for our future . . . they are timely and perfect and they renew my faith.

Our specific prayer is always that the cancer has left his body and never will return.   Clear scans and NED (No Evidence Of Disease) would be a fabulous blessing!

You are all a blessing to us, and we are so thankful to you  for following MacKale this year and for  your prayers.  I hope I'm back every year for many years