Good Blood from Bad – Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving

Leukemia is the definition of bad blood, but good can come from even that.

Leukemia is the definition of bad blood, but good can come from even that.

“You need to come on over to the student center,” my husband, Randy, spoke softly over the phone, the noises in the background almost overriding his voice.  “The students are turning out like never before!”

“I can’t bring Andrew down there though, his counts are too low.”  I responded.  We’d already had a similar conversation earlier in the day.  We were both awed and humbled at the turn out of the students of Milo Adventist Academy, where my husband served as principal and I taught Spanish.  The Student Association held a Red Cross blood drive every year, but this year, they held it in honor of our four-year-old leukemic son.

“I know,” Randy said, still speaking so no one would overhear, “but the newspaper would like to interview Andrew.”

“What?  The newspaper?  Who called the newspaper?”  I yelped.

“The Red Cross called.  They’ve never had this percentage of students in a school respond to a blood drive before.  It’s amazing Carol.  Bring him down.  Something good is coming out of leukemia.  Right here, right now.”

We bundled up, I put a pale and tired little boy into our sanitized wagon, donned our face masks and I pulled the wagon down to the student center of the school.  Two Red Cross buses idled in the parking lot and students milled around both outside and inside the building.  I stared around me in awe as we wended our way through the groups of student, my little guy in the wagon getting high-fives and “way to go, buddy” comments.

The news reporter asked Andrew how he felt about all this blood donation.  He looked around in confusion.  A student walked up to Andrew’s wagon.  He’d told me the day before that he was scared of needles.  His face was a little green as he squatted next to Andrew.  “I’m next Andrew.  I’m doing this for you, but I don’t like needles!”

Andrew pulled his mask down slightly and very seriously said, “All you have to do is count to three and blow out hard and you’ll be fine.  If you just hold still, it will be over fast.”

Tears gathered in my eyes.  How many times had we had to practice that method of needle insertion to a frail little arm?

The Red Cross nurse called a name and the great big senior straightened.  “That’s me.  If you can do it, I can do it.” And he disappeared inside the bus to donate blood.

I never expected to have my son in the newspaper, but if something good can come from something bad, I'm all for it!

I never expected to have my son in the newspaper, but if something good can come from something bad, I’m all for it!

The next day Andrew was on the front page of the newspaper, along with the senior donating blood.  Andrew’s blood was unhealthy, but because of that 78% of the student body donated blood that day (the percentage includes those who were too young to donate) and who knows how many lives were helped.

 

 

 

Check out more stories from 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving

Donating blood can make good things come from bad! #31daysofunexpectedblessings #redcross #cancer via@caregivermom Click To Tweet
Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I'm joining @caregivermom and @blestbutstrest to share my inspirational post. Join us! Click To Tweet

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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The Unexpected Blessing of Four-Year-Old Faith

The most inspiring thing for a caregiver is faith - and if it's demonstrated by your patient? Even better!

The most inspiring thing for a caregiver is faith – and if it’s demonstrated by your patient? Even better!

The most inspiring thing, in a caregiver’s journey, is faith.  And when that faith comes straight from the four-year-old patient, it brings incalculable blessing.

My four-year-old sat on my lap in the quiet office.  Two pastors flanked my husband and myself as they readied for the anointing.  I’d never attended a special ceremony of blessing and healing like this before and it felt odd to be experiencing it for our family.  But our whole world was surreal and the number of people praying for us was humbling and inspiring.

The most inspiring thing, in a caregiver’s journey, could be the faith of the patient. #inspirememonday #caregiver… Click To Tweet

We were in the offices after hours, because Andrew’s blood counts did not permit germ exposure.  Pastor L leaned forward as he pulled out his Bible.  He opened to Ecclesiastes 3 and explained he had chosen a passage to read.  Andrew settled into my lap a little more.

We had explained that this was a special prayer session for Andrew’s healing and for God to draw close to us.  He fussed, but it felt like a token fussing because he didn’t feel good.  Then he seemed anxious to go.  We had chosen this evening because the next day was the first step forward in Andrew’s treatment plan.  We were to find out if the rough month of chemotherapy had done any good at all, or if we had to go other directions.  Was Andrew’s body fighting the cancer, or succumbing?

Pastor L explained to Andrew that while he might not understand everything we were going to read from the Bible, he hoped Andrew could understand that we were asking God’s presence into his life.  Andrew nodded vigorously.  Pastor L read:  “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

            a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
            a time to kill…”

Pastor L looked up to finish the line, and my four-year-old, who to my knowledge had never heard this passage before, whispered along with the Pastor, “…and a time to heal.”

The office was silent.  Four adults sat in wonder that a child could provide those words of comfort given to us by God in the Bible, and now by a four-year-old, bald and sick with cancer.

There is indeed a time for everything and the battle against my son’s leukemia taught me that life certainly does not go as planned.  This year has been odd for me.  I’ve lost my father to Alzheimer’s Disease and my husband’s grandma passed away a week after my dad.  Many past students of mine have given birth to darling babies this year and I rejoice in their new little families.  My oldest hasn’t been home for months because she is volunteering at an orphanage in central America – planting seeds for His kingdom.  Life goes on, doesn’t it?  It brings joy and sorrow, death and birth – a time for everything.

We’re coming to the end of 2015.  It’s been a year of everything under the sun.  God has each moment planned and I have learned, through all the seasons I’ve been through, that I can trust God with my journey.  That each “season” we’re going through will pass and when we look back, we will be able to see God’s blessings in our lives.

How has YOUR season of 2015 been!  Any particular time you can see God leading in your year, in your family, in your life?

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from this YEAR (2015)

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer—just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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Patients and Patience

I found myself unable to finish my 31 days of Unexpected Blessings in October, but I’ve enjoyed writing about the blessings that came from caring for a child with cancer (even though no one would choose that journey) and so want to finish the series.

An unwanted, but invaluable lesson

An unwanted, but invaluable lesson

 

I’m a “plan it” kind of girl.  I drive my husband crazy (my words, not his) by waking up on a weekend and blurting, “What’s the plan for today?”  My theory, with life, has been that I need to have it planned, I need to coordinate and organize and know what’s next.  Surprises are great – when they’re super fun.  Otherwise, you can have them: I like to know what’s up.  I worried my way through high school because I did not know what I career I would pursue, nor who I might possibly marry.  I worried about having children – after all, everyone knows you can’t plan your kids, so what if I couldn’t handle whatever came with having children?

I’m sure my God has a sense of humor, because He gifted me with three children, all extremely different from each other and none of them like myself.  Every moment of being a mommy has been about me learning and growing (every mom reading this is smiling at this, right?  Well, you are if your child isn’t throwing a temper tantrum or drawing on the walls).

But having a child with cancer?  Have the treatment protocol last for three and a half years?  Going to chemotherapy daily, twice a week, weekly, monthly, etc for three and a half years?  Well.  Okay.  I actually could plan that.  I could make the appointments and keep them, and boy let me tell you I did.  We drove icy roads, I inserted needles into my son’s port, I ground up medicine and administered stuff I couldn’t touch in order to follow the treatment protocol to the letter and the minute.  That I could plan.

But a caregiver cannot plan sudden fevers that require hospitalization until the source is found.  An emergency check-in to a strange hospital (because you were on a trip) might mean that you’ll be there for a night, or it might mean that you’ll be there for several weeks (we experienced both).  A four-year-old telling you that he might need to go to the hospital sends your world into a tail-spin, because it turned out that he was always right – and it usually meant a long stay.  We learned that when the nurse told us “we could check out of the hospital now” actually meant that at some point today the process would be begun and if we were lucky, we’d be home that evening.  If not, maybe tomorrow, whenever all the overseeing medical teams reached agreement.  But at least our boy was better.  The check out process kept us waiting for hours on end, but then, so did getting medication from the pharmacy.  Lo and behold, pharmacies aren’t used to sending home the kind of poisonous arsenal given to our boy and it often took a string of follow-up phone calls and a fight (or two) with insurance agents and long lines at the pharmacy to get the meds.  Waiting for a blood transfusion, watching our boy get weaker and weaker while waiting, was excruciating.  The process of chemotherapy was a blood draw first, waiting for certain results before chemo injections, then waiting for more blood draw results.  Sometimes, chemotherapy took an entire 12 hour day with that cycle.

I could not plan beyond a moment.

I could not control anything of importance.

I could not organize enough.

I could not hurry any process, including that of healing my boy.

And, in that three and a half years of waiting, and in the five years after that, waiting to see if he would “hold his remission”.  I learned patience.

I learned to spend those extra hours waiting for checkout in games with my boy.  I learned to stay packed and ready for emergencies and to just take them as they came.  Worry didn’t prepare me any better for anything.  I learned to chat with the pharmacists while waiting for insurance agents and to talk with the people in line who had their own burdens to share.  I learned to read books while waiting and to catch naps while my son was under anesthesia (OK, who am I kidding, I never mastered actually sleeping, but I would lie down).  I learned to not focus on the blood results because I couldn’t do anything about them anyway, and instead cuddled on the bed and watched Dora the Explorer.  I learned that I couldn’t hurry sickness or disease, nor could I completely control health (no matter how careful with diet we were) and I learned that no amount of organization keeps your child from cancer.

I learned that the ONLY thing I could do, was CHOOSE every single moment, of every single hour, of every single day through those long years of treatment to let my son be in God’s hands.  I never quit doing my best, because that’s who I am.  But God is the One who controls whether or not my boy lives or dies, it’s God who will watch the blood counts and it’s His eternal plan (the one I don’t understand) that will dictate what happens.

Caring for my precious little patient taught me patience in an amazing way.  It’s not a lesson plan I would ever formulate (this is a teacher speaking), but it’s a focus change in my life that is so huge that I just had to share.

I learned that the ONLY thing I could do, was CHOOSE ,every single day through those long years of treatment, to let… Click To Tweet

When the Caregiving is Over – my dad

Today my daddy went to sleep in Jesus.

My dad as a young man

My dad as a young man

An example of steady and firm faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ, he has always been a person of wise advice, sure guidance and steadfast love. Dad grew up on the streets of Boston but thanks to the kindness of a church and the love of Jesus, the course of his life changed. Dad became a civil engineer who contributed to our community by any means he could, often in the area of civil engineering, but in other areas as well.  He was a volunteer fire chief, a Walla Walla Port Commisioner, and worked on Washington State Good Roads Association.  He worked with Navy Admirals, state representatives and governors and senators, pastors and professors and ANY ONE that needed help with ANYTHING.

Frederick R Bennett, my dad

Frederick R Bennett, my dad

These last few years have seen many changes because of Alzheimer’s Disease.

See story 1.

See Story 2.

See Story 3.

On Friday, dad, in the middle of Alzheimer’s produced anxiety, said straight out and clearly, “My body is not for this earth.  It needs to be put in a wagon and carted away.”

My brother asked, “What wagon, dad?”

“Why a little red wagon, of course!”  His body wasn’t needed any longer, and he knew it.  It was time to rest.

My dad has always held to the faith that Jesus is coming soon and we have the privilege, through Christ, to live with Him for eternity.  He referred to that often, in the last few days.

At 2:01 a.m. dad quietly stopped breathing.  Mom, dad’s life partner, cheerleader, supporter, assistant and primary caregiver suddenly has nothing to do.  The house is still and quiet.

How do we find a blessing when our caregiving comes to an abrupt stop? Tweet this!

The blessing is in the life he led.  In the faith he lived. In the songs he sang. In the advice he gave.  In the hand he lent to countless who needed it.  The blessing comes stealing into our souls when four of us kids sit with mom in the living room (some in person, some on skype) and talk for several hours about how to honor my dad, remembering funny things and all the gifts he gave us.  The blessing comes because we each want the best for each other in every moment.   The blessing comes because we have been taught love.  Our parents love us, we love each other and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves us.

My dad’s pain is done.  He sleeps in the arms of Jesus, waiting for His soon return and the eternity of love that awaits us.

We are blessed.

 

Read more in the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving

Community Caregiving – the best medicine

A visit, a gift, your time and your care - all are huge blessings!

A visit, a gift, your time and your care – all are huge blessings!

“Mommy, I want to go to Cradle Roll class”.  The girls headed out the door with daddy on the way to their classes and then church, but Andrew and I stayed behind.

I rubbed his bald head and said as brightly as I could, “We’ll go read some stories and sing some songs!”

He headed to the bookshelf, but the look on his face told me I was a poor substitute for the real thing.

They told us that Andrew had to be kept away from other kids during certain phases of treatment.  They told us he had to be kept germ free at time – it was in his best interest to miss out on things that other kids his age were doing.  Sometimes that was SO hard.

In fact, it was almost easier when he was actually hospitalized!

We dealt primarily with three hospitals throughout Andrew’s three and a half year chemo treatments.  All of them treated us wonderfully.  The nurses, every single one, were kind and caring.  The doctors were attentive, the treatments were scheduled and we were treated with respect.  Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, in Portland, was truly amazing.  They had social workers to explain Andrew’s leukemia disease to his four-year-old mind and also to his sisters (7 and 10 years old).  They made sure, as parents, we were informed.  We were never treated as though this was old business and our questions were not important.  They had videos, and musical instrument carts and book carts and visiting therapy dogs.

But we lived a long ways from hospitals, social workers, parents-of-leukemia-patient- community support group and a long ways from instant help and the charities often connected to children dealing with cancer.

But one of our unexpected blessings was the way our teeny tiny little community rallied around us throughout Andrew’s fight against leukemia.

Andrew was able to attend his own little church because of the kindness of people

Andrew was able to attend his own little church because of the kindness of people

In fact, the Cradle Roll teacher had someone come in and video the program (I had been the teacher before Andrew got sick) so that Andrew could watch it right after it was done (now it’d probably be live-streamed).

Many times, after a school program, there would be a quiet knock at the door and one of our students would hand in a prize from the program: candy, crafts, it didn’t matter what it was – it mattered that they remembered my boy.

Christmas season arrived and Andrew began talking about last year’s neighborhood Christmas party that was traditional.  “Mom!”  he exclaimed.  “Remember last year Santa knew all about me?  Do you think he will again?”

Santa had been Andrew’s uncle the year before, this year it was going to be a student – one of the ‘big kids’.  I carefully explained to Andrew, “Buddy, I’m sorry.  You and I are not going to be able to attend the Christmas program.  There’s a lot of sickness going around.”

“I’ll wear my mask!  I’ll be careful!” Andrew thought he had a plan.  But we were so far from medical help and if he got sick it became and emergency in our lives.

“No.”  I was forced to say, “We have to stay home.”

Andrew was filled with Christmas cheer because Santa remembered him!

Andrew was filled with Christmas cheer because Santa remembered him!

Imagine Andrew’s sheer joy when right after the party the doorbell rang.  His sister answered the door and a jolly voice declared, “Ho, Ho, Ho!  I missed my buddy Andrew during the Christmas party!  Is he here?  I have something for a boy named Andrew!”

Andrew flew around the corner and attached Santa, who handed him a present.  Santa whispered to me that he had sanitized everything and he wasn’t sick, “Is this OK?”  asked Santa.

Was it OK?  It was the best thing ever.

Those people who don’t forget you in their fun moments and that take care of you in unexpected ways.  What a blessing!

When the community comes to the patient and remembers them during community events, it brings joy! #write31days… Click To Tweet

Read more from the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving!

Caregiving Sorrow Turned Into Joy

God can take a caregiving nightmare into pure joy. It's all in the focus.

God can take a caregiving nightmare into pure joy. It’s all in the focus.

Today I join Kate Motaung and the writers at Five Minute Friday and the prompt is:  Joy.

The first few moments after the doctor said the word “Leukemia” I was frozen, until I bolted for the bathroom and lost my stomach into the sink and stared at myself in the mirror, took a deep breath, squared my shoulders and went back to my family.

  • Shock.  I thought he had the flu.
  • Terror.  Don’t people die from Leukemia?
  • Numbness.  What does this mean?

The first few hours after diagnosis were a whirlwind of getting Andrew up to a bigger hospital, finding a place for the girls and preparing for the fight of my son’s life.

  •  Panic.  I don’t know how to deal with this!
  • Disbelief.  This is something that happens to “those people”.  You know, the people on the prayer chain!
  • Alarm.  What was going to happen to our family?

The first few days in the hospital, my eyes leaked almost constantly.

  • Fear.   Was I going to lose my son?
  • Sympathy.  There was not one.easy.proceedure.  They all hurt.
  • Anxiety.  Could we do this?

The first few weeks in the hospital were filled with tests and transfusions, medications and vomit, and a weird combination of silence and bustle.

  •  Agony.  EVERYTHING was hurting my boy.
  •  Loneliness.  The world was doing its thing, and we were in a small room fighting for life.
  • Worry.  How do we keep our girls moving forward with a “normal life” and still be here for our son?  How do we keep our jobs and live in the world of chemotherapy?  How were we going to PAY for all this?

The first few months involved so many miles of driving the four-hour trip to the hospital, my husband and I trading back and forth between home and hospital stays, an acquaintance with medication and procedures and our new life.

  • Resignation.  It was all real.  It was happening, and we had no choice but to deal with it.
  • Angst.  It was all real.  This was going to continue for a while and it was going to keep hurting and it was going to keep interrupting our family and changing our lives and, we STILL did not know if our boy was going to make it.
  • Fatigue.  It was all real.  It was everlasting and time flew by.  There was not a day that was easy nor a night uninterrupted.  Sleep was a distant memory and food did not settle nicely into the stomach – not my boy’s, not mine.

The first few years we had a routine that was comforting (there was always a sense of belonging when we returned to the safety of the cancer ward and the treatment room.)  Andrew knew the nurses and doctors by name and they ALWAYS took good care of us.

  • Reality.  This was it.  This is what we had and it was our job to deal with it.
  • Uncertainty.  The feelings of fear and anxiety NEVER left.  Their constant presence was a load that I fought with in order to be a woman of faith.  I KNOW God holds our future, but could I deal with what the future held?
  • What ifs.  Those what if thoughts hounded me constantly.

Yes.  Our world was flooded with things we never asked for, were sure we couldn’t handle and the pain that stabbed ME every time my son was stabbed with a needle was overwhelming.  But gradually, as routine took over un-known and in the midst all those bad words above, began to sneak HUGE moments of joy.  Little reassurances that God was with us.

  • Joy.  My son’s unbelieveable faith.
  • Joy.  The comforts of stranger and the supportive response of our community.
  • Joy.  Connection to family.  Hours in the hospital forced me to spend unscripted time with my son.  We told stories, sang songs, prayed, read books, played dominos (oh.my.word – there were a few weeks there where I hated dominoes we played so often) and built legos and drove cars around the bedspread.  We cuddled and watched movies and held hands.  Andrew and I had countless hours in the car together with music and laughing, or me watching his dark-circled eyes fall asleep and knowing we’d get home before the nausea hit.  When my husband and I traded, and I was home with my girls, I valued the time so much that I put chores aside and cuddled with the girls more, reading stories and laying on their beds and taking walks in the woods.  I didn’t sleep, because laundry happened throughout the night, but my girls were such a priority.
  • Joy.  I learned to let go of perfection (well, except with the medication and doctor appointments, I might have turned a little OCD in that department) and just be.  Spend time with those I love.

And those were my moments of joy.  I found joy in the wilted flower my girls picked.  I found joy in the quiet cuddles before bed.  I found joy in the cards telling me people were praying and joy in the KNOWLEDGE that God walked with me and He wouldn’t forsake me, even if I didn’t’ like what happened during this life.

My joy came from knowing that this life wasn’t the most important.  Pain happens.  But joy comes from knowing that one day we won’t have pain.  Fear is there, but the joy of knowing the END result is heaven can override that fear.

I mourned and struggled, but God turned my mourning into dancing and filled my feet with joy. Tweet this!

Steve Green’s old, but happy song can come true, listen here!

Read more from the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving.

Nurses and Blood: Care and Life

Huge blessings: Care and Life!

Huge blessings: Care and Life!

This is a special day in the 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving, because today there are two blessings in one story.  Both are extremely important, and one can’t be rightly told without the other!

Michelle had been on duty the night we first arrived at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.  Her kindness, patience and caring over the first few days of our new life was so comforting and reassuring.  One particularly hard day, after we’d been in the hospital for weeks, Andrew’s treatment protocol called for platelets.  He was scheduled to receive platelets around 11 o’clock they informed us.

Andrew had received several transfusions already in this journey, but today was another dose of platelets.  His bruising testified of his need.

11 o’clock came and went.  We waited.  The clock inched past noon.We waited. After 1:00 and we waited. We waited for several more hours.  While checking frequently on a lethargic and pale boy, Michelle informed us that although Andrew had been scheduled to receive them, sometimes that didn’t do any good, as there were no platelets available.

When the life-giving fluids finally arrived Michelle quickly attached the bag to the IV pole and casually stated, “Yeah, this happens way too often.  That’s why I’m going after work tonight to donate.”

“How do you donate platelets?” I naively asked, “Don’t they just take them out of the blood?”

“No,” Michelle launched into the technical issues regarding the harvesting of platelets, which involves a generous time commitment for donors.

“And you donate?” I felt amazed that after a full week of shifts, she was willing to go sit for several hours, strapped to a machine, in order to continue helping patients.

“Yes, every few weeks,” she responded, “platelets are always in demand here on our ward.”

Not only do nurses give extra loads of energy, compassion and care, some go way above and beyond to donate lifesaving blood, platelets or plasma.

We were blessed by so many nurses during Andrew’s care, and the blood (and all of it’s parts) literally saved his life.  You don’t get much more blessed than that!

Nurses deserve more credit than one could ever give them! #write31days #caregiver #unexpectedblessings via… Click To Tweet

Train Up a Child (it strengthens the fight)

Caregiving is easier with God!

Caregiving is easier with God!

Battling your child’s cancer is not for the weak-at-heart.  The weird thing is that as a parent, you find yourself stronger-at-heart than you ever believed possible.  Probably because there’s really no other option.  What’s a parent going to do?  NOT be there for their child?

That’s not an option.  So you soldier on.

But the true strength, and the unexpected blessing, actually comes when you soldier on with Christ as your leader -When you keep trusting in God and when you take the time to pray with your little cancer fighter.

Today I’m sharing another mother’s journey.  Gianmarco is a nine-year-old fighting leukemia and as I write this, I just saw a post that says he’s two months into his fight. But even more important than how long it’s been, is that this boy is grounded in God.  Here are the words from his mother:

A conversation with Gianmarco during worship:

GM: Mammina…how big is your faith. Is it like mine?
Me: Well baby, remember that whatever we have, comes from God. So we need to thank God for our faith as well.
GM: You’re right Mammina. We are strong like lions Mammina, nothing can defeat us.
Me: Yes, love.
GM: Mammina…this will all be over soon, and we’ll all be together under one roof again.
Me: (almost at the point of crying). Yes, love. We will be.
GM: Remember Mammina…Nothing can separate us from the love of God
Me: (Crying). Yes baby, nothing can separate us from the love of God. Who told you that verse?
GM: You Mammina…you’ve told us that verse before.

We hugged. It was one of most touching moments I’ve had with him (including when he was born).

As parents we’re not always sure if our kids are listening. When they are going through difficult times is when we see what we’ve taught them really come through. I thank God for this moment. Hug your kids a little tighter today.

Join Gianmarco's fight with leukemia.

Join Gianmarco’s fight with leukemia.

I believe that when you choose to walk with God, life does not necessarily become easier, but God does send us these precious moments to remind us who is in charge, to remind us that we must have the faith of a child and especially to remind us that God has already won the war!

If you would like to follow Gianmarco’s story, let them know you prayed for them today or be a part of his (and his family’s) support group, CLICK HERE.

Train up a child in the way he should go and when things get tough, you'll be blessed. #write31days #caregiving via… Click To Tweet

Read more in the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving

The Kindness of Strangers

Kind and caring words are some of the best gifts

Kind and caring words are some of the best gifts

It was really hard to see Andrew’s hair fall out.  It was incredibly difficult as Andrew’s skin went from pale to pasty and straight on to completely colorless.  It was annoying that he had to wear a face mask to go anywhere at all.  It was lonely to be isolated.  It was really hard to balance the doctor visits, the need for prescription medicines and Andrew’s need to be germ-free with the time crunch and necessity of getting the meds while we were in town to save on two hours of driving.

But oddly enough, all of those things led to a completely unexpected blessing.

Often, after a chemotherapy treatment, we needed to stop by the pharmacy for the follow-up medicines for the next week (insurance dictated that we could never order ahead).  On those days, I had no choice but to take Andrew into the store with me.  This was an ordeal.

It involved wiping the shopping cart down with a Clorox wipes, laying a clean blanket down, fastening Andrew’s mask securely over his mouth and nose and helping him into the basket, where he would flop down with nausea and exhaustion.

Since we lived an hour from town, I would order the prescription and then grab groceries while we waited.

This story isn’t sounding like a blessing, is it?  It didn’t feel like it at the time either.

Except that every single time we had to do this, something kind of amazing happened.  It would go a little like this:

“Oh my dear,” kind eyes peered out of a wrinkled face, “what kind of cancer does he have?”

“He has leukemia.”  I kept my replies simple.

“How old is he?” 

“Four.”

“Oh my.”  The little head would shake, “Bless you my dear, I cannot imagine how hard this must be for you.  I had cancer two years ago and I know how miserable the treatment makes you.  Bless his heart.  Would it be okay if I pray for you?  How long is his treatment?”

“We have about three more years.  And of course, we would love for you to pray!”

Certainly the description and the details changed with each pass through the store, but I began to see that there is a huge community of cancer survivors out there, and there is a huge community of strangers who have not had cancer, but still notice a person in need.  People who care.  People who pay attention.  People who listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

None of the strangers in the store gave any money, or gifts or anything tangible – they simply gave a moment of their time, some words of encouragement and some prayers of blessing.

And I will never forget their kindness.

In the worst moments of caregiving the kindness of strangers can make a huge difference! #write31days #caregiving… Click To Tweet

Read more in the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessing from Caregiving.

It’s the Little Things (that encourage a caregiver)

The amount didn't matter, but the heart behind the letters meant the world to me.

The amount didn’t matter nearly as much as the heart behind the letters.

I scanned the envelope for a recognizable address.  The handwriting was not familiar nor the return address.  I tore it open, happy that it was obviously not a bill, like the rest of the mail.

I pulled out a short note and a check for $36 fell out.   It seemed like an odd amount  and I checked the signature at the bottom.  Not a name I knew.  I read the sweet note enclosed, searching for how we might know this person.  She wrote of her continued prayers on behalf of our boy.  I smiled.  The kindness of strangers and the prayers that sustain us.

People had been sending gifts to our boy and blessing us in many ways.   I told my husband about the caring letter and the prayers from someone we did not know.

We went on with the business of cancer fighting.

The next month, another envelope arrive that looked very similar.  In this envelope was a check for $7.41.  An even more brief note of continued prayers with a signature I did not recognize.

I saved the letter with other cards and notes and went on with the business of cancer fighting.

The next month a note came with $14.50.  I was baffled by the amounts and couldn’t help wondering about the identity.  Yes, I knew the name, but I did not know why they sent regular checks with irregular amounts.

What I did know was that this money always seemed to be an amount we needed for something.  Field trip money we hadn’t budgeted for, a chance to grab a meal on the drive to the hospital, and a haircut.

The next month there was no check and I didn’t really notice, until the following month’s check came in the amount of $23.85.

One day my mom was chatting with me on the phone and was listing to me the people that had asked about my son’s leukemia battle and this name came up.  I jumped a little with excitement and asked, “You KNOW this lady?”

“Why yes,” replied my mom, “she’s the aunt of ____ and her brother is _____.”

I felt a stillness settle over me.  I had never met this woman, but because she understood the toll cancer can take on a caregiver and the whole family, she was sharing her money as well as her heart with us!  Mom added, “She said she’s been praying for you every single day.”

“Well, she does more than pray!”  I told my mom about the little notes of encouragement and the odd check amounts that came in the mail.

Months passed when my mom again mentioned this lady.  “I ran into _________ the other day at the supermarket.  She asked about you and wondered how Andrew is doing.  She said to me, ‘I feel so badly that I didn’t get any overtime the last month.  But I just got overtime last week, so will be sending your daughter a check – I’m so excited that God provides overtime!”

It turned out that this precious angel had promised God that for that year, if He provided overtime for her, she would give half of that overtime check to our family, to help in our fight against childhood cancer.

The money amounts varied over that year, sometimes large and sometimes small, but those notes of encouragement and the fact that a lady who had never met me was willing to spend her extra money on us was an incredible, but unexpected blessing.

The amount of the gift does not matter as much as the heart of the giver. #write31days #unexpectedblessings via… Click To Tweet

Read the rest of the series of 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving