This post is #43 in a year-long series ... Through this series of posts I plan to share our family's experiences during our 17-year-old daughter's year-long battle with brain cancer, which began in February of 2008. My desire is to process through the events of that year from the perspective that a decade of time has brought ... for myself, really. But if you'd like to follow along, you're welcome to join me.
So, in no particular order, here are ten "gifts" that our year with cancer brought to our family:
1. Cancer brought us a heightened awareness of the treasure we have in our family ... and an appreciation of every minute we spend together.
2. Cancer revealed the love and concern of our extended family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers ... all of whom reached out to us in so many different ways during Hannah's illness (and since). Cancer showed us how to receive God's blessings through other people, and has given us a greater desire to be a channel of God's blessing ourselves.
3. Cancer taught us about the power of prayer. Yes, we prayed for Hannah's healing ... and no, she was not healed as we would have chosen. However, we know that every prayer lifted up on her (and our) behalf was heard. And we continue to feel the strength of those prayers as we live life without her daily presence.
4. Cancer opened our eyes to the heartache in the world around us. Our hearts are much more tender now, due to a heightened awareness of the heartbreaks those around us have experienced.
5. Cancer showed us (me, in particular - the control enthusiast in the family) that we are not in control. When a member of your family is undergoing treatment for cancer, you never know what the next week, day, or even hour may bring. Cancer brought us to the point of releasing what semblance of control we thought we had, and placing our schedules and our lives fully in the hands of God.
6. Cancer helped us recognize the joy of an ordinary day. Just time, spent together, enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
7. Cancer allowed us to spend more quality time with Hannah than we probably ever would have if she had been a normal teenager, busy with school and all its activities. The hours we spent in the car driving back and forth to Little Rock every day, the time we spent at home when she was unable to go to school, and even the days and nights we spent in the hospital together watching Facts of Life reruns ... Those are moments we will always treasure.
8. Cancer brought some amazing people into our life. Something about a cancer diagnosis immediately bonds you with others who have also gone through the cancer experience. God has blessed us with friendships that will be life-long ... and this may sound crazy, but some of these people we've never even actually met! Pretty amazing how God can do that, huh?
9. Cancer has given us a desire to serve God well right now, and not wait until sometime in the future...like maybe when we're less busy. (Does that time ever come?) Cancer has given us an eternal perspective and focus we didn't have before.
10. Cancer has filled us with a yearning for Heaven. Our ties to this earth have been loosened, and we are earnestly looking forward to the day when cancer is thrown into the lake of fire along with Satan and all of his angels. That's where it belongs. And our God, who will make all things right in the end, will be glorified forever.
Thank You, Lord, for taking something as hideous and painful as cancer, and somehow wringing a little bit of beauty out of it. And thank you for opening our eyes to see it, even in the midst of all the pain and grief that cancer has brought us. You truly are good, all the time.