Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.Harvey Mackay
Everyone hears people telling them to spend their time wisely. I’m sure everyone has also heard that they need to enjoy the little things and not take their loved ones for granted. I personally have to say that these wise words are truth. This is how I strive to live my life everyday. I try to enjoy the little things and to take every moment with my family that I can. None of us know when those around is or even ourselves are going to die. Only God knows.
Five years ago today, my mom received a call from downtown Chicago, however it was not my dad’s work phone number. She answered it anyway and on the other line was my dad calling from Northwestern hospital explaining to her that he had just had a grand mal seizure. A grand mal seizure is just like any other seizure, but it is stronger and it makes people pass out. I have nearly witnessed one before and honestly, it is the scariest thing to see your dad go through.
My mom quickly rushed to the our train station, after walking all five of my younger sisters and I to our neighbors house. Once she was on the train, the conductor was going around asking for tickets or accepting money for a ticket. My mom started panicking because she realized that she did not have enough cash to buy a ticket. She started to rapidly search for spare change which she hardly ever carries. This was the first time we could evidently see God’s hand on our family though this time. My mom had just enough change, down to the last penny, to buy a ticket.
After she reached the hospital, she learned that my dad had a lemon size tumor on his brain. They determined that is was brain cancer, however they did not know what type until a biopsy which came a few days later. After his biopsy, the doctors discovered that he had GBM/Glioblastoma, which is the most aggressive type of brain cancer. The life expectancy of GMB patients is approximately 11 to 15 months.
Since that day, my parents were constantly in appointments and were always downtown. My mom had my dad stay in the hospital for multiple nights only because he continued to have seizure after seizure, she did not want us seeing that. As soon as they knew about his cancer, they told us. They did not want to keep it a secret from us even though we all were so young. I was only 11 1/2 at the time and my youngest sister was 2 1/2.
As they were going between appointments, us kids had various people taking care of us and watching us for my mom. Soon March rolled around and that meant it was surgery time. However, this was another time God was so good to us. My dad ended up getting the best neurosurgeon at Northwestern, so we all knew he was not only in the hands of God but also an amazing neurosurgeon.
I think one of the most impactful things that happened right before his surgery was when our church and friends got together and had a massive prayer meeting in our front yard. I still get chocked up when I think about it because it was so powerful to see all these people come out who loved my dad and our family.
God literally has worked a miracle in my dad’s life. They said that because of where his tumor was located, he may never be able to talk or walk again. They also said that he would have to stay in the hospital for two weeks, however our God is a God of miracles and not only could my dad utter a few words after surgery and move his toes, he was also out of the hospital after three days of surgery. Rehab was the same way, they told him a month or two and he was out in two weeks.
It was difficult to not see my mom or dad for nearly two months beaus they were always gone; it was very difficult to see my dad have seizures; it was hard trying to help around the house and keep my younger sister under control, but I think for me the hardest thing was watching my strong, capable dad having to relearn how to walk and talk. It hurt seeing him have to lay in bed for a week while doing chemo once a month because he was too weak to get out.
I once had an adult tell me a year after he was diagnosed that I don’t know the pain of cancer because my dad is still alive and I did not have to watch him die, but I wish I could go back and tell them this, “Sure my dad is alive but he is the dad to six young girls at home, who need their dad. I had to watch him go through rehab for months and I had to witness him go through chemo. Though he is still here with us that does not mean that he will be tomorrow. The type of cancer he has can come back instantly and have him dead within a week. So, no technically I haven’t had to go through the pain of having cancer take him, but I sure as heck have had to go through a lot of crap with this. So please don’t ever tell me that I do not know the pain of cancer.”
Though my dad has lived for five years with the beast called GBM, we do not know how long we have with him. His scan in March may show that its back and he has to go through surgery only to die this time. We just don’t know. That is I think the hardest thing about brain cancer is the uncertainty. It takes every ounce of faith to keep trusting God with my dad but its so difficult at times.
One thing that baffles me still to this day is that fact the my dad never asked God once, “Why me?” he just trusted God knew that God had given him this cancer for a reason. The crazy thing is that my dad was teaching Sunday school at church and the week before his seizure he taught on the Sovereignty of God and the week after he taught on the Goodness of God. Yet he still never questioned God; he knew that He knew best.
I wish I could only have a sliver of the type of faith my dad has. I still question God to this day. I see how He has worked in my life and my family’s but it is still so hard at times. I know no one has the certainty of life, but as my dad’s nurse put it, “There is a bus (death) that is going to hit all of us, the only difference with a GBM patient and the rest of the world, is that the GMB patient can see the bus coming.”
When I was younger, I did not think that my dad would make it to my high school graduation, now that we are a year away, I have more of a peace out him making it to that. But then there are things like ‘will he walk me down the aisle and give me away to another man?’ or ‘will he ever get to hold a grandchild?’ Thoughts like these sneak up on me and make me doubt God and question Him. I still fall because I am human. I still question God and cry out to Him in anger because it is difficult. I am not going to sugar coat anything. It is difficult having a terminally ill parent.
Another super hard thing is that people just assume that either nothing is wrong with my dad or that he has miraculously been healed from this. I am not saying that God cannot heal my dad completely, but it’s a balance of trusting Him and being realistic. I do not want to walk around saying that God miraculously healed my father only for him to die of cancer awhile later and then I blame it all on God, when really I was setting up high expectations.
As I mentioned above, his cancer is one the most aggressive cancers. Sure, its dormant now, but it can come back and kill him within a week. That’s the reality of GBM. I almost feel bad because my dad is doing so well while other kids dads are dying of this everyday, but I have to remember that God has him here on this earth for a reason and when He wants to take him, He will.
However one thing that these past five years have taught me is that not only is God a Good God, but also that time is precious. I feel like in 21st century America, we take time for granted. We take our friends and family for granted. We spend hours on our phones to only get upset at our family or friends when they ask to hang out. We need to prioritize our time and spend it with those who matter most to us because our light up box that consumes our everyday is only going to suck us more and it is not healthy for us. God created us to have fellowship and love, our family and friends can give us that, not our phones, work, TV, books, laptops, etc. Though, the things listed are good things, we need to prioritize others before them.
If we don’t prioritize and make time for those we love then at the end we will only live with regret. So live life to the fullest. Follow God with your whole heart and then love others. Spend time with your siblings even if they are super annoying. Say your sorry and don’t hold grudges. Live a life full of purpose and love. This is how we are suppose to live, so let’s begin this way to life today.
My mom wrote a beautiful blog post celebrating 5 years over on her blog on Sunday so be sure to check that out!
One more thing before I let y’all go…in April my family and I are going to Orlando, Florida for a week to go to a retreat called Inheritance of Hope. This is a Christian non-profit organization that sponsors for families with a terminally ill parent to go on fun vacation somewhere in order to make wonderful new memories in the midst of dark times. We get the wonderful privilege of going to Universal and SeaWorld. (My parents are paying for us to go to Disney a day later for a Christmas present…YAY!) Inheritance of Hope’s aim is to help parents create a legacy videos, take family photos, and offer support groups for us kids to learn how to express our emotions and feelings about what we are going through, I am looking forward to this part a lot. We also get to meet other kids our own ages who are going through the same things.
As a way to celebrate my dad’s 5 year anniversary, my mom is running a half marathon in New Mexico in April to raise money for this beautiful organization, so other families likes ours can go and create wonderful memories during their difficult times. If you would like to help sponsor, my mom has a fundraising page, which I’ll link below. Every dollar matters and even if you can’t give, please share! I am super excited to get the opportunity to go on this retreat, but it’s only through donations that this organization can even run! So please pray about how you can get involved, also just keep these families in prayer, I know from experience that prayer helps!!