When a long-lost friend from my past contacted me through Facebook a few months ago and told me her husband was dying of the very same cancer my mother had just been diagnosed with~ well, it seemed pretty obvious to me why God was sending her my way. I’ll admit, however, I was also afraid of another possiblity~ that the nodule spotted on David’s lung meant his cancer was back, and God was blessing me with the friendship of a woman who was about to lose her husband. I never in a million years imagined that this friend would turn out to be my strongest prayer warrior in my grandson’s fight with cancer.
Because my mother’s death turned out to be a spiritual journey for me, I did not actually need the support of prayer warriors. In fact, my one prayer was answered in that my sister Joan and the hospice nurse were able to keep my mother comfortable through her death and protect her from pain. Her death affected several family members in a similar way, including my son-in-law Ben. When he found out about Jacob’s cancer he told my daughter that he didn’t know how he could handle it without having gone through a faith journey of his own.
I feel somewhat like a “new” Christian, as if the preceding 50 years I had just been going about my business, living my life and neither being so good nor so bad as to draw the attention of either God or Satan. So when a seasoned Christian tells me how to pray or what to say, I grasp onto their words like a dying man searching for water in the desert. A good friend, Pam, sends me prayers through e-mail. I wonder at her prayers; they are so beautiful. I envy the comfort with which some people pray aloud. Unless it is scripted prayer, when I pray out loud I feel awkward.
When my husband was initially diagnosed with cancer there was a short period of time in which I could not bring myself to pray, I was so angry at God. I also wasn’t sure what to pray for. If I prayed for healing and he was not healed, I was afraid I would lose my faith. I floundered around a bit, letting other people pray for us. God showed himself to us repeatedly during that time, bringing us what we needed when we needed it and showing us through other people that he had not abandoned us. Our marriage is much stronger now and I can honestly say that through our journey of cancer I learned to really love my husband and see God in the ordinary.
When my mother was diagnosed, I had no trouble praying. Ironically, where before she talked incessantly of her faith, after her diagnosis she mostly lived it. We never did have the talk I thought we would, where she would urge me to follow the identical path of faith she had forged. I didn’t pray for a miraculous healing; she was 82, an avid smoker and her family history of strokes left her with a fear of the same fate. She was going to die of something and with a terminal diagnosis we all had the opportunity to tell and show her how much she was loved and appreciated. I only prayed that it wouldn’t be painful, and in the end, it wasn’t.
Now I don’t know what to pray for. An innocent little boy gets cancer and suffers through an invasive surgery. He faces chemotherapy and radiation. My daughter sits in his hospital room, all alone, and asks me to pray that the pathology report will show that this Wilm’s tumor is the one that responds well to chemotherapy and radiation, and not the other type with a much lower survival rate.
One person who has prayed with me tells me that God already knows the end result of this trial and the most I can pray for is that God gives us strength to handle what is ahead. Another person prays for a miraculous healing. Someone else tells me that if I just believe, it will happen.
We all know of someone who has been given little chance to survive, and then survives. We have heard of tumors inexplicably disappearing between one CT scan and another. I want that to happen with this little boy, but I know better than to expect it. Instead, I shoot out random prayers, asking God to please let this be the “good” Wilm’s tumor, please help Beth and Ben handle this, please protect and strengthen their marriage through this stress, please surround little Jacob with your angels and give him comfort. Please, please, please. I feel like a child pleading with their parent for something, and that is exactly what I am. The same God I asked to help a little boy pee so his catheter won’t be reinserted (and it wasn’t, praise God!) I ask for the extra hope a certain diagnosis brings. Let this be the “good” tumor.
And, not yet sure of the correct way to pray, but believing unequivocally in the power of prayer, I plead with my prayer warriors, “Keep praying. Keep praying for 5-year-old Jacob.”