Those who know me are quite aware of how much I detest cancer. It has taken way too many people I knew and loved. When I was a child, I knew people who had cancer, but it didn't seem to be quite so prevalent. I daresay it would be quite difficult to find anyone today who hasn't been affected by cancer, whether personally, in their families or circle of friends, or from someone else they know.
And sadly, it strikes regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or any other factor. It strikes without fear or mercy. It cares not what your station in life is, what your hopes and plans for the future may be. It does not care. Period.
It hit two beautiful children, separated by an entire continent from me, but my heart and prayers went out to them from afar. Both their cancers were in advanced stages, but I could always hope and pray for a miracle, right?
Then I learned of two other children, close friends of my friend, also battling cancer (in one case) and a heart condition (in another). Cancer and heart condition -- aren't those diseases of the elderly or at least something that no child should think about? But sure enough, there they were.
My parish has a beautiful tradition: a prayer book out front in which to write the names of those who have asked for our prayers. Then as the gifts are brought forward at the offertory, the book is brought forward as well, and placed on the altar as well. So our prayers are placed there in a very visual manner before God. Four new names went into the prayer book: Ethan, Faith, Keilah, Tyler .... in addition to the other names I regularly place in there and any special needs as well.
Earlier this week, Ethan lost his battle to cancer at age 9. His parents are establishing a foundation in his memory to help other children battling cancer with toys or other things to help them weather the long hospital stays -- to bring some momentary relief and reminders that they are children, kids who just want to be kids.
And yesterday, news broke that Faith's cancer is ever-worsening, and that hospice has been called in. Today, her mother posted that they had "the conversation" with her .... the one where they have told her that their options have run out, and the time she has left is what she has.
There is so much about this that is completely unfair..... two children dealing with things that no child should even have to think about or worry over. Two lives shortened unnecessarily. Two sets of parents and siblings left to grieve, to mourn what might have been, to rejoice in what was, to always have people go "oh, yeah... they lost a child." Their fraternity is one that no one wants to join: parents who have buried a child. And it doesn't matter whether that child was 8, 28, 48 -- all way too soon for their parents' liking.
But the one nice thing I read from both set of parents is a good strong faith that somehow, none of this has been entirely in vain..... that their children are/will be waiting for them in the great beyond, that their pain has ceased, their health and wholeness restored, and that there is something good that can come from all this pain and suffering. If nothing else, it has made people around the nation and around the world take a few moments and think of someone else, to not be so self-absorbed.
And to end on good news, Miss Keilah, the young girl from the East Coast, seems to be responding well to her first treatments. Her prognosis is good right now. Haven't heard an update on young Tyler, but I am hoping the news will be just as good for him.
Let's hope our prayers give them a chance to be kids just a little longer -- and on into a long, happy life!