David of Agony

There is no greater agony than having your own child turn against you. There are so many qualities that I admire about King David!  Faith and courage to stand before a giant, compassion on King Saul after the king tried to kill him, a great musician, beautiful writer of the Psalms, a lover…the list goes on and on, what an amazing man and what an exciting life!  

But could “incredible father” be added to the list?  Perhaps it could. There are many children that chose the wrong road even when excellence was modeled to them.  I don’t know.  

But David!  The man we teach in Sunday School, the handsome warrior in the Bible, what a tragedy, what a broken heart that I do not envy!  His own son, Absalom, turned on him and tried to kill him. 

Christians are not free of hurt.  We are not promised a life of luxury. Why do so many turn away from God when life gets hard?  Why does the world observe suffering and conclude, “There is no God.”  David, the man of many sorrows proclaimed, “I call out to the Lord and he answers me.”  

More than imitating the David standing before Goliath or the king of prosperity, I want to remember and imitate the David that knew who God was and called out to him, even during overwhelming tragedy. 

“The Lord sustains me.”

The Journey Begins

Christ is my author.  He wrote my life.  God makes no mistakes.  I was first diagnosed with cancer the summer of 1996.  My cancer story does not begin here.  I graduated from high school.  I received my degree in Elementary Education.  I married the man of my dreams.  I had a baby.  Not just any baby.  A miracle baby.  The most amazing little human being that I have ever laid my eyes on. The nurse laid her on my stomach and immediately all the pains of childbirth disappeared.  She was everything.  Michael Phelps on the starting block.  Chocolate chip cookies in the oven.  The sun rising.  Christmas Eve.  She was the possibility of everything.  I would give it to her.  I was raised in a family with eight children, I babysat, I nannied, I had a degree in Elementary Education and teaching experience behind me.  I thought I had this kid thing down pat.  But when my eyes first fell on her, my whole entire world got flipped upside down.  

From the moment she came into our lives, her Daddy and I worked harder, we researched with intensity, we read more, and we did everything to better ourselves and the world that surrounded her.  We were about to learn that we were completely out of control. 

Prior to Madison’s birth, we researched.  We had been given the green light to try to get pregnant. However, with my medical past, it would be incredibly hard to get pregnant and once I was pregnant, it would be incredibly hard to keep the baby.  God had different plans, I got pregnant right away with my little miracle baby.  

When Madison was three months old, we visited a genetic counselor.  We were not prepared for what we were about to hear.  We had been told that Madison had a 50% chance of inheriting my cancer gene.  We had been told that if she inherited cancer, she would have her thyroid removed and that would be the end of the story.  Well, on this day, we held our three month old miracle in our arms as the genetic counselor told us it was not that easy.  She had a 50% chance of inheriting my cancer gene.  If it was positive, she would have surgery to have her thyroid removed.  However, that would not be the end.  She would spend her life having routine scans, blood work, and the label of cancer hovering over her entire life. 

No.  I had given God my life.  I had accepted cancer in my life since the age of 15.  He could not have my daughter.  He could not have my baby.  No God.  This was too much.  He was asking too much of me. 

James (my husband, Madison’s Daddy) and I prayed.  We prayed every morning.  We prayed every night.  We prayed during the day.  We prayed together.  We prayed alone.  

I was angry.  I was angry at God.  This was my daughter.  She needed me.  I would protect her.  I would give her everything.  I had trusted God with my life.  I had defended my faith to the bitter end and now I questioned everything.  Was it all real?  Was there a God?  Did he hear my prayers?  Could he change anything?  Did he love Madison?  I wanted so much to claim control.  I wanted so much to be in charge.  I wanted so much to walk away from my faith and say, “I’ve got this.”  But I had nothing.  I could do nothing.  I was completely helpless.  I fell to my knees. James and I placed infant Madison on our bed.  She was laid upon the altar.  We literally fell to our knees.  We prayed.  We begged.  I cried out to God and I begged him for the health and for the life of my baby.  “God, I need you.  You are the only one who can save her.  I can do nothing.” I learned to pray. 

And this is where my cancer journey began.  It did not begin when I was fifteen and I was diagnosed with cancer.  I could have given that.  I could have given myself.  I could have given my life and never trusted God in this way.  It was here, when I had to lay my daughter on the altar and say, “God, she is yours.  She is not mine.  I trust you.  I trust you with my baby.  I trust you with my everything.” We did not get an answer.  We played with our precious baby.  We cared for her every need and every desire.  I placed her soft cheek to mine and sang softly of the love of Jesus.  I was singing more to myself than to her, reminding myself of God’s promises.  I began to realize that as much as I loved Madison, I was only getting a tiny glimpse of the love that God has for me.  

I am his daughter.  He held me in his arms and loved me just like I love Madison. Why then?  Why would he give me cancer?  If I am his daughter, and he loves me, why would God give me cancer? 

I looked at my life as a parent.  I took Madison to the pediatrician to get shots.  She cried.  It hurt.  She had no idea why I was letting this happen.  I allowed it to happen.  Why?  Because I love her.  I allowed this hurtful thing to happen because I love her.  Even though she did not understand it, it was the best thing for her. I learned just a little bit more of how much my Heavenly Father loves me.

Time passed, we continued to pray.  We were waiting on results from the genetic counselor to see if Madison had tested positive for the gene.  It was a simple blood test, but the results took time.  Two months had passed and we still had no result.

One night, as James and I crawled into bed, I turned to James, “She is going to be ok.  God told me she is going to be ok.”  I had not heard an audible voice, but he spoke directly to my heart.  As I started to pray, he said, “OK. I will answer your prayer.  Madison will be healthy.  Now, pray for something else.”  I had not gotten the results from the doctor, but I knew, my daughter was healthy. 

Two more weeks passed, then on July 31, 2007, I received the call, “Madison is healthy.  She tested negative for the gene.  She has no more chance of getting cancer than the general public.  You never need to see a doctor about this for her ever again.” 

Those were the hardest two and a  half months of my life.  But I learned Madison is not mine.  She belongs to God.  And he is a much better parent than I am.  Not only can he give her the world, he can give her a perfect heaven. And this is where my journey begins.  This is where I learned what real hurt is.  This is where I learned real fear.  This is where I learned to trust God.  I learned to pray.  I learned I am not in control. 

My name is Caroline.  I have cancer.  I have battled an extremely rare form of MEN2A cancer for the last 18 years.  I travel frequently from TN to Duke University Hospital in NC to see doctors and specialists.  I have scans.  I have blood work.  I have been left with Addison’s Disease.  I take lots of medicine.  I have a medical alert bracelet.  I get sick.  I crave salt.  I have scars covering my neck and my stomach.  I have a scar on my arm and on my leg.  My back itches.  I have a husband that loves me.  I have a daughter that needs me. My name is Caroline.  I have cancer.  I have God.  I have a beautiful life.

Miracles are not Enough

My feet are sore, so much walking and I have no shoes. Walking on the desert sand with blistered feet, I can think of nothing more painful. At least in Egypt I had shoes. 

I scan my setting, three children lay napping before me. I am glad they are sleeping. I try so hard to stay cheerful for them, but they have long ago given up also. Who could blame us?  No shelter from this blazing heat and so much, so much walking. 

We had been slaves. In those days, one thing was talked about: freedom. But was this what we had long desired?  

When the plagues cursed Egypt, we praised God for his mighty deliverance, for fighting and persevering for us. Miriam led us in a song of thanksgiving. But I have quit singing and the tune is no longer heard. A new voice rises, a song of complaint. A song of entitlement. The voice of ME. 

We were hungry. Did we not think of food as we marched away from Egypt?  God had provided manna. Sweet manna from Heaven. The clouds were raining food. But I have grown tired of manna. I want meat. 

And when we were hungry, God provided fresh water from a rock.  I have seen miracles with my own eyes. But that was yesterday. God, do you care about me today?  Here is what I want today. Today. 

We look back and we condemn them, the Israelites. They had seen the mighty hand of God. They walked on dry land through the Red Sea as the waters raised high above them but did not obey gravity. They had been delivered from bondage, provided food, and they still wanted more. But the tale lives on. 

Just a few hundred years ago, America won an impossible war. We gained independence from the most powerful country in the world. Our forefathers gaining the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the pursuit of happiness, the American Dream. Miracles all around us, delivering and providing. But they are miracles of yesterday. It is not enough. 

We want riches at no cost. We sin demanding no consequence. Comfort is supreme God. How dare anyone speak truth!  There is no God that provides or loves or cares but He is to be blamed for any hurt or destruction. 

We mock them and we condemn them as we live luxurious lives, crying out once again to see a miracle from the God we doubt.