What I learned from leukemia today

The day began with a shout! Ashley elbowed me awake to tell me that our two-year-old was bouncing in bed and yelling “daddy” at the top of her lungs. It was 6:30 AM.

I stumbled into the girl’s shared room to see Isabelle standing there with a smile and Christy trying to put a pillow over her own head. Today was chemo day, and we were off to the races.

We collected the little ones, said goodbye to the grandparents and  were off to the hospital. Bribing the girls with the movie Trolls helped Isabelle to forget that she couldn’t eat for 4 1/2 hours. Yet, I think the most significant thing we did was ask for prayer on Facebook.

I should ask for prayer when I need it.

It was 6:30 AM when our day began and Isabel couldn’t eat. We knew it was going to be a challenge to keep her happy and distracted but no one else did. Yet, a short, three sentence post invited dozens of prayers. 

Over the past two months more often then coincidence I’ve seen the power of prayer. Whether it’s in blood draws or tests sleep or wakefulness, when I ask for prayers, God grants strength.

Also, no one knows what I and Ashley are going through unless we tell them. So, I’ve learned to ask for prayers.

Parking in the fourth story of the parents tower we packed the girls up and took them in. I always get a generous helping of humble pie whenever we ride the elevator and walk through the lobby. Everywhere I look kids, far worse than Isabelle, are there. Personalized wheelchairs signal permanence that I hope to never see in my little girl’s life 

God doesn’t always say yes to our prayers

Way back in March 🙂 we prayed for healing from leukemia. God said “no, you are going to walk through this.” Now, things are going well and she is in remission. But everywhere I look here at Riley are kids for whom God side “no, you’re going to walk a hard road.” 

When I got home at five I changed quickly and went to the funeral home. I get to officiate the funeral of a wonderful woman who just passed away. Despite the fervent prayers of hundreds. 

I need to be very careful to assume that God will answer my prayers as He sees fit. Sometimes it will be yes. Sometimes it will be no. Sometimes I will be told to wait. But all times I need to trust that He is working for good.

Isabel is special and unique but not that special or unique

We walked up to the cancer ward and checked Isabelle in. It was full of kids of all shapes and sizes. Some still with full hair and other with just wisps. Some walking around and others  curled up on a pillow too weak to walk. 

I will admit that I am like the special treatment that my daughter gets these days. I wish it wasn’t for cancer but I like that people jump to help when they realize she has leukemia. I like getting top priority when we call the doctor or visit the ER because of her. Her health is potentially dire and the attention is necessary.

But looking at all those other children reminded me that she’s not that unique. 

Of course I believe that she was created specially by God:

“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

But I am also more aware today that other people are going through the same kind of stuff we are. Other people are fighting cancer and other people have precious little girls and boys with low blood counts today.

It makes me think of the verse that too often gets overly personalized:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John3:16

God doesn’t just love me, or Ashley, or Isabelle , or Christy. Don loves the whole world. I need to stay consistently aware of what’s going on in others lives. We are not the only ones fighting a battle.

Sometimes we have to do things that hurt those we love to help them

You know, the hardest thing about leukemia is doing things that hurt Isabelle in order to help her. It breaks my heart to hear her crying afraid when we access her port. Then later when they have to knock her out for a spinal tap I get to hold her until she falls asleep. That is a scary moment! It is heart-wrenching to see Isabelle’s eyes suddenly go blank as she falls asleep.

Tonight around 8 PM I ground up her first chemotherapy take at home pill. I sprinkled the dust on to a scoop of applesauce and handed it down to a grinning and unaware Isabelle. I know that drug will cause some aches and pains and other potentially really bad problems for her. Yet, she trusts me enough to take it without thinking. It’s hard.

God, grant me the faithfulness to think hard about the things I need to do to help Isabel and Christy. Because, some of those things will hurt them right now to help them in the future.


I know I am just 41 days into this fight with leukemia. I hope that I grow wiser and more intentional each day. A lot is at stake. I hope any of you reading this can maybe apply something here to live your life on purpose and love those you are close to.  

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