Am I climbing a rugged rock-studded mountain, not knowing when a rock-slide avalanche would occur?
Or am I facing a natural disaster known as the ”storms of life”?
I asked myself these questions more than thirty years ago when the storms of life brought two stressful events to the doorsteps of our family home, adversely affecting my 7 year-old son and me.
The first event was only the tip of the iceberg when the marriage to my son’s father was crumbling. For my sanity and our safety, I was forced to relocate to another city, confronting the fearful anticipation of fresh and unfamiliar surroundings. My focus was on my son’s safety, enrolling him in a new school, his social activities, and emotional stability. I was also bearing the uneasiness of new employment and proving my capabilities as a registered nurse.
Within a few weeks, my son had built relationships with neighbors and school mates, and was having the fun of his life. He completed all sessions in elementary and middle school and had no difficulty in reaching his goals.
Months and years passed; our adjustment period went smoothly and we were happy with our lives.
Suddenly, and unexpectedly, during the second month of my son’s junior year in high-school, l985, he developed an unbearable pain in his left knee accompanied by swelling. A medical evaluation was in order.
X-rays of the affected area revealed a splintering of the covering of the distal portion of the femur, warranting further exploration, and a surgical procedure with biopsy.
The biopsy confirmed a diagnosis of osteogenic sarcoma, an aggressive cancerous bone tumor usually found in adolescents, and without treatment, can easily metastasize to the lungs.
At this moment, I felt helpless and immobile, as if I were in shackles and handcuffs. I stood motionless for a while; then I knelt by his bed and asked God to give me strength to endure; to give me the appropriate words to say to my son; and just to touch him with His healing hands.
Upon return from the recovery area, I told him of the diagnosis. He said “Why me”?
We were quite restless; facing uncertainties, the possibility of amputation, intense therapy, radical surgery and possibly, death. Prayers and faith superseded the fear, superseded the unanswered questions, and erased the doubt of modern medicine. I found peace within.
The following day brought a glimmer of hope when a pediatric oncologist visited, ordered further testing and we were soon referred to Duke University and Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.
We met with the hematology-oncology team and were introduced to the plan of care, which included chemotherapy via the veins and artery, and radical surgery, known as a limb-salvage procedure.
The winds from the storms of life were becoming more intense, but God gave me the strength to move on.
After four months of chemotherapy, the tumor had been destroyed, and the thirteen-hour limb-salvage procedure was performed. He was a post-op patient for ten days, and recovered without complications.
Chemotherapy resumed two months after the procedure (on a monthly basis) over the following twelve months.
The school system had difficulty co-coordinating his studies with his plan of care. After a much-needed conference with my son’s physician from Duke, informing them of his expectations, their attitudes and actions changed.
In April, 1987, we received a call from the Duke Care team informing us that chemotherapy had been discontinued due to his remarkable progress, but evaluations would continue every three months. Our excitement and exhilaration were unconstrained as we hugged tightly and moved around the kitchen floor like two professional dancers on ice.
My son had reached that long-awaited milestone; he graduated high school with his original class and was recognized for his untiring efforts and unparalleled achievements during the darkest era of his life. All family members and friends were in attendance to absorb the greatness of that day.
As my son began to mature, he realized the value of higher education. Four years later, he received his BA degree in sociology from Johnson C. Smith Univ, Charlotte NC and later received his Masters degree in criminal justice from NC Central Univ., Durham, NC.
When I take a look into my rear-view mirror, I see a journey that was painfully long; a rugged road filled with deep and winding curves; and the roadways were often filled with thick layers of fog, yielding poor visibility.
My son emerged victorious and remains cancer-free. With his determination and perseverance, the love of a mother, and the powerful love and grace of God, we have left our unfortunate experiences behind.
To my readership, parents, or children who may be experiencing similar challenges, stay relentless and tirelessly committed to the task at hand and remain steadfast to your faith.
Charlotte, North Carolina
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”