Friday, August 6, 2010

Courage Beyond His Years: Elijah's Battle with Cancer

~Closing the Book~

I think we can go now -

Elijah’s remission check up this week found him taller, heavier and with the best blood counts we have ever read.  When our oncologist looked us in the eyes and willingly used the word ‘cured’ – even though heavily qualified – we could taste the certainty and confidence in what he said. He shook our hands and reminded Elijah how bad things had been for him two summers ago.  He reminded us all that we had been strong, and worked hard – and we made it.  The plan is to discontinue with the 6 month CT scan schedule, but complete yearly echocardiograms and continue the CBC blood evaluations at each checkup.  This is our pace – unless we have symptomatic issues that force a change.

At this appointment we remembered to tell nurse Ginny that Elijah had never rung the bell.  This bell is reserved for patients who have completed their treatment.  Somehow we never made sure Elijah got his chance; until this week.  At the very mention of the bell, Ginny went around the clinic asking all the staff to “come to a bell ringing”.  This brass ships bell hangs high in the clinic hallway, out of the easy reach of a child’s grasp.  It is restricted, it is solemn, and it is nearly sacred.  Ginny instructed Elijah to read the inscription on the plaque and then “ring the bell three times well”.  Hearing his young voice conclude the reading with “by God’s grace I have finished my course” made me hold my breath to catch the sobs I felt rising in my throat. There were tears in the eyes of doctors and nurses as well as Steve’s and mine.  Tears of joy, relief, gratitude, love. 

Now here we are; two years after the days of his earliest symptoms.  He is older and stronger, and I hope, wiser.  The scars cancer left on his body and the emotional toll it made on his mind have surely given him a depth that only comes through adversity.  This boy now stands tall beside me.  When I look into his clear green eyes I often have to push away thoughts of cancer and death and work hard to replace them with a vision of hope and future.  He has come far – and by God’s grace he still has far to go.

A few weeks ago we adopted a six month old German Shepherd puppy.  It was on about day three that Elijah said, “Mom, I think she would make a really great hospital therapy dog – can we find out how to do that?”  And so we shall.  On Monday Elijah completed the requirements for the 1st class rank in Boy Scouts.  On Tuesday Phoebe donated eleven inches of her hair to the “Locks of Love” program.  This is something she has wanted to do ever since Elijah lost his hair in treatment. 

Cancer has changed us.  It has dulled us to some things and sharpened us to others.  But cancer does not define who we are.  Now, it is time to finish this book – to close it and let our hearts’ wounds finally heal – to let the hurt and fear drain out completely.  Elijah has a story.  He will tell it well in the years to come.  It is time to move ahead, trusting that God’s grace will strengthen us for whatever comes.

I think we can go now -


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