Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Trust God and Keep Driving

This post is #50 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.

Picture from
April 4, 2008

It was very important to Hannah to miss as little school as possible for her radiation treatments.  That's why we found ourselves driving to Little Rock in an absolute deluge in the wee hours of the morning on this date ten years ago.

Her appointment was at 6:20 that morning, so we had left home a little after 5:00.  It was dark and rainy ... definitely not ideal driving conditions ... but we were glad it was Friday after a long week of treatments.

The closer we got to Little Rock, the heavier the rain became, and before long we were driving in a blinding downpour.  There weren't many other vehicles on the road at that hour of the morning, but as we approached within a few miles of the I-430 exit, I could see that the traffic was beginning to back up ahead of us.  Assuming there must be a wreck up ahead, I whipped our Toyota Camry off onto the access road, thinking I'd skirt around it and pick back up on the interstate on the other side.

It didn't take long to see why the traffic had started backing up.  As we proceeded down the access road, we discovered that the road was completely covered with water ... not just entire multi-lane interstate, but the access road we were on!  I stopped the car and Hannah and I looked at each other with round eyes.  We had to get to this appointment!  I had no idea what would happen if Hannah missed a radiation appointment.  I realize now that it probably wouldn't have been a big deal, but at that time, I was terrified by the thought of getting off schedule.

We decided that we would push forward and brave the water.  The rain was still coming down in sheets, and I knew if we waited much longer, it would definitely be impassable.  I could see that a few cars on the interstate to my left were also braving the floods, though most were holding back.  I assigned Hannah the job of praying while I drove.

White-knuckled, we began our slow crawl through the flood waters.  Being on the access road as we were, there was nothing to indicate the edges of the road, and we could not see the road itself.  The water was not rushing, so I had no fear of being swept off the road, but I was very concerned that I would drive off the elevated access road into the deeper waters on each side of it.  In fact, I stopped driving for several seconds somewhere in the middle of all that water, too afraid to go any farther.

We had the radio on, tuned into the Little Rock news station, with the volume turned up loudly so we could hear it over the drumming rain.  We heard the announcement that they were closing down the interstate due to flooding and would soon be initiating rescues of people whose cars had been swamped by the high waters.  We could see the blue lights flashing all over the interstate beside us.  Despite the tension of the situation, Hannah and I laughed out loud that we might be among those people.  We could just imagine the two of us sitting on the roof of the car waiting to be rescued ... and then showing up on the evening news!

I really just wanted to turn around and get back to higher ground.  But attempting to turn around would definitely have resulted in us sliding off into the deeper waters around us, and backing up was not a viable option.  The only way through this mess was forward.  And besides, I worried that if I sat still much longer, the water would start coming through the bottoms of the doors.  And we had to get to that appointment!

So we set off again, driving extremely slowly, hyper-aware of any feeling of downward motion which might indicate that we were leaving the roadway.  Every so often, I would see a sign sticking up out of the water, and we could sort of judge where the edge of the road was by that landmark.  Gradually, gradually, as we began to work our way through that lengthy low area, the water became more shallow, and the roadway was visible again.  We were quickly able to get off the access road back on the interstate, and as I looked in my rearview mirror, there were only blue lights visible on the highway behind us.  No one else got through that area after we did.  We shakily thanked God for our safe passage.

We made it to Hannah's 6:20 appointment, she got her radiation treatment, and we were on the road heading back to her school by 7:00.  Thankfully the rain had slowed to a drizzle by this time.  When we passed back through that area, the water was still high but the interstate was already back open.  It had apparently been a freak flash flood that quickly subsided when the rain slowed down.

In one of Hannah's classes, the students spent a few minutes each day writing in a journal.  She opened her journal entry that day with, "I almost died today!" and proceeded to share the story of our adventure.  A bit dramatic perhaps, but pretty typical for a teenager, I suppose.

Really, that morning was a pretty accurate microcosm of the childhood cancer experience.  You start out with determination and high hopes, even in the midst of pounding rain, and eventually you reach a point in the middle where you desperately just want to head back to higher ground, where things are familiar and safe.  But there's no turning around or backing up ... the only way through is forward.  The edges aren't clearly marked, there are very few road signs to guide you on your way, and the heavy rain keeps getting in your eyes.  You have no idea when or how this thing is going to end, but you just have to trust God, grab hold of the steering wheel, and and keep driving.


Victoria Whyte said...

I cried when I read this, Hannah and Leah sound so alike in many ways. Leah initially attended school against all the odds and then continued her studies in hospital. She also had a great sense of humour and was such good company. Your experience with the floods was really scary, it reminded me of how Leah used to walk along a lonely unlit path and how scared I used to feel but as long as I stayed calm then Leah was also calm:

The Sullivan Four said...

You do understand, don't you, Victoria? I read your blog post and I can see how very similar your Leah and my Hannah were. I hope they've met in Heaven ... and I hope we get to meet one day here on earth!