Written by guest contributors Rodger and Angie Howie
When a doctor looks at you and says, “Your child has cancer,” the world stops turning. You are scared, confused, and even mad. You don’t want to believe what they are saying—how can my child have cancer? There must have been a mistake, the doctor must be confused, this just can’t be happening! Not to my son/daughter, not to my family! But it is your child, it is your family, and, once the shock wears off and you have to start dealing with the new reality of childhood cancer, now what?
Everything has changed, and so will your relationships. Those people you thought would be there for you through thick and thin will likely disappear. It is not that they are bad people, they just won’t know what to do or how to relate to you anymore, and unlike you, they can separate themselves from the reality before you.
Others will step up and walk this road with you. These will likely be people you never expected. They will call and check on you. They will coordinate fundraising events. They will clean your house and support you rather than pitying you. Most importantly, they will understand that nothing they can do or say will take this away, but they will be there for you when they are needed.
You will meet other kids and families who are facing the beast known as childhood cancer. These are the people who you will confide in, you will lean on emotionally, and spend time with. These are the people who can understand you when no one you knew previously can relate. These are the people who will become family to you through the tough times.
Not all of those who turn away from you will abandon you. There will be those who stay in your life, but they will stay at arm’s length. They will be the ones who say, “If you need something, just let us know,” and they will mean it. They just will not understand that you don’t know what you need. They won’t understand that you don’t have the energy to make lists of the things you might need done, and if you do, it is easier for you to just do it yourself rather than asking for help and explaining how to do it. They won’t be close enough to understand the fear and pain you experience every time you close your eyes, every time you are about to receive the next round of testing results, and most of all, every time you see your child in pain or sick.
If we heard it once, we heard it 1,000 times: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” We have come to understand that nothing is further from the truth. God will certainly give us more than we can handle in our own strength. When our daughter was diagnosed with cancer, we had to come to the understanding that God loved our daughter more than we could possibly love her, and we had to accept the outcome He had planned.
Philippians 4:6-7 states, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace that surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We never truly understood this verse until diagnosis, but we do believe that God gave us this peace, and it allowed us not to become consumed in darkness. As long as you allow God into your life, He will be the one constant relationship that will carry you through the toughest time in your life.
Through your journey, there are relationships that will suffer, be damaged, and possibly broken. There will be a time where those relationships will need to be mended, and in some cases, that will be very difficult for you. Just remember you were not prepared for what you have been through, and neither were they. They will have fought their own battles through this time, and people don’t always respond well or how we would like for them to respond. They were scared, confused, and even mad just like you. The only difference is their life went on while yours stopped. Be patient, and let the love of Christ shine through you. God will get you through and be a light shining in the darkness.
Rodger and Angie Howie have two daughters, Faith and Ava. They began their childhood cancer journey in 2007 when Faith was diagnosed at the age of four with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Faith is now 18 and about to start college. The Howies’ first experience with Lighthouse Family Retreat was in 2009 as a Retreat Family. They have returned every year since to serve other families. The first four years were as Family Partners, and they have since served as Common Ground Leads.