Friday, September 28, 2012

A Decade Ago...

Ten years ago, my daughter, Elise, was diagnosed with lymphoma. She was ten years old.
            As a cancer survivor, I should have been prepared to handle the experience. I wasn’t. Knowing terminology and procedures meant little when I had to enter Elise’s hospital room to tell her she had cancer. I had to dig deep and hold on tightly to my composure when she looked at me with those big brown eyes and said, “Momma, I don’t want to die.” Then it happened. The depths of grace, peace, and faith I had experienced throughout my own ordeal with cancer guided our conversation. Elise faced her future with calmness, maturity, faith, and tenacity far exceeding her age. An ambulance later transported us for the first of many trips to Children’s Hospital.
My husband was able to be with Elise most of the time, but one rare day he had to be in the office, so I brought her to the hospital for another dose of chemotherapy. On the menu was the drug I had begged the doctors not to administer. It was the one which, years before, made me lose my hair, and everything I ate or drank. It was the one that caused severe burns on my hands and feet. So severe I couldn’t even pick my hair up off of the pillowcase.  So severe I had to crawl to the bathroom on my knees when I became sick.
As the nurse donned her thick protective gloves and connected the chemicals to my daughter, I began to crumble inside. I watched the red liquid enter my baby’s body, and fought for control over both my emotions and the contents of my stomach. Then I raced to the exit door, ran out of the building, and called my husband to desperately cry, “I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough.”
“I’m leaving now. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Michael said.
“No,” I insisted. “It’ll be over before you get here. Just pray. Promise me you’re praying. Promise me you won’t stop praying.” Being fully aware of my frailty has taught me to lean heavily on my Jesus, and the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
I re-entered the room, and if Elise noticed anything odd about my behavior, she never expressed it. That night, she became ill and a few days later, I found chunks of her hair in the bathroom garbage can. Soon after, she ditched the wig, and began wearing her brother’s baseball cap to cover her scalp.
“How do people go through this without Jesus?” she asked. It is one of many questions for which I have no answer. I cannot imagine going through anything without leaning on the strength of my Savior.
This past week, I accompanied Elise, now in her fourth year of college, to her yearly checkup at Children's. I dropped her off at the entrance, found a parking spot, then joined her in the waiting room. No longer led by me, my strong and independent daughter spent the day before her 21st birthday filling out forms, leading the way to the heart scan, almost sprinting to the lab for blood work, then bringing me back to the clinic to meet with her doctor.
But our yearly visit to Children's is about so much more than forms and tests and doctors. It's about returning to the sights and the smells that instantly bring me back a decade. It's about feeling my heart fill to the top with gratitude for present health, humility at the thought of God's deliverance, and pain for the parents pushing wheelchairs, holding infants, and adjusting caps covering precious little bald heads. And it's about allowing the tears to flow as I pray for those I know still battling sickness and for these new little faces who have found a place in my heart.
Ronny may be reached at

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Looking Like Ann

A few spots of skin cancer in the past provide ample motivation to keep my appointments with the dermatologist. Last week I expected a quick visit and a good report. What I didn't expect was a case of mistaken identity.
            He walked into the room, greeted me, and looked at my chart. He looked at me again, this time clearly puzzled, and said, "I'll be right back. I have the wrong chart"
            I glanced at my name on the chart and said, "No, that's my chart."
            "Are you sure? Aren't you Mrs. Watson?"
            If only I had a tank of gas for every time I heard that. "That's my sister," I explained.
            "Are y'all twins?" he asked.
            "No, but we are often mistaken for each other even though Ann is younger, thinner, and cuter."
            I should be used to this confusion. A clerk at the grocery store once said, "You changed your shirt."
            "What?" I asked.
            "You were just in here wearing a different shirt." And once again I had to explain it was my sister.
            Ann's co-workers and my husband's friends have also been baffled, as well as our parents who cannot tell our voices apart on the phone. Looking and sounding like Ann is effortless, but I would really have to work at having her patience, kindness, and thoughtfulness.  
            And while I'm listing qualities to emulate, I must look at the character of Christ. If I am to follow Paul's instructions in Ephesians 5:1 to be an imitator of God, I should study His word, hear His heart, and live by His example. Overwhelming? Yes! At least for me it is until I break it down and realize I just need to start with what Jesus said. " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself."
            That will surely keep me busy! The time will just fly by. Before I am ready, three weeks will pass and I'll be back at the dermatologist for my follow-up. Would it be wrong to send Ann in my place?

Hurricane Isaac

My daughter Monique and her husband Frank now share our home, and that's a good thing. We love their company although we don't often see them. Between working at their jobs and working on their house, they are always going somewhere. I tried to cheer her up by suggesting that at least this very hectic time in their young marriage will cause her pregnancy to fly by. She is less amused by that than she is by the early morning commentary Frank and I provide as we discuss world events. She groans when we tell her we are going to start our own show, and she doesn't even appreciate Frank's suggestion of the title: Wake Up, America.
            What Monique does appreciate is spending more time with her niece, Adeline. As far as Adeline is concerned, Monique and Frank are just two more people available to spoil her. And two more voices to protest the enormous hair bows her mother, Lauren, forces her to wear. Whether Adeline is going to church or to the zoo or staying home with me, Lauren places a bow on her head.
            Time must have stood still for Lauren recently as she dressed Adeline for the day, then called to me with a voice filled with urgency, "I can't find Adeline's lime green bow!"
            I wanted to respond, "And there are people in Frenier who can't find their houses, others who are forced to toss out everything they own, and children whose worlds have changed overnight." Instead I just looked at Addi, who just sat there smiling, perhaps at the thought of her first bowless day.
            Lauren's frustration over a lost bow was no match for what I've been feeling concerning my community. The job of rebuilding seems enormous and I've found myself daily burdened by the needs. Rather than compile a list of the things I am incapable of doing to help, like installing sheetrock and laying ceramic tile, I've decided to do the tiny things that I can. A little cleaning here, a little cooking there, and in between it all, a whole lot of prayer. Even as I hold my grandbaby on my lap, I move her bow to the side so I can see her smile as I pray and ask God to form a healthy, prosperous future for us all. The promise of Galatians 6:9 has never seemed more appropriate than now as I trust God to reward all who labor now just for themselves, but for their friends and neighbors in need. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
            P.S. Lauren must have found that lime green bow. Sorry, Addi, I'll hide the next one in a better spot