A few years ago, my child was diagnosed with cancer. Thankfully, she was treated with very aggressive therapy became cancer free. But, that doesn't mean we don't think every single day about cancer. Every headache -- is it a tumor? Every stomach ache -- is it a tumor? Every fever -- is she sick again? For my friends with kids who are healthy, a headache is a headache, a stomachache is a stomachache and a fever is a fever. While we no longer run to the oncologist when this happens, I end up somewhat sleepless at night wondering if cancer cells escaped chemotherapy. I wonder if some wacky strain of radiation-resistent mutant cell managed to exist, find a new playground and spread.
People have even corrected me at times - "J doesn't have cancer. She H-A-D cancer." Technically, yes. But, my family and I continue to feel the repercussions of it. We never stop worrying. And, going to the doctor for check ups every few months reminds me that we certainly are not ever in the clear.
Not too long ago, a wonderful news story broke about a phenomenal young man named Ben Underwood. At the time, he was about 13 years old. He was blind from eye caner and developed the unique skill of echolocation - the use of clicks and "sonar like" listening to figure out where he is. He never used a white cane. He never used a guide dog or any assistance. Scientists were fascinated by his ability. Cancer kids heard of Ben and articulated how COOL he was! Parents embraced his mother, Aquanetta, for her insistence that her son was not disabled in any way.
Recently, news broke again about Ben. Unfortunately, Ben has developed cancer in the rest of his body -- about 10 years after he had initially been "cured" from cancer. According to the article, Ben is getting weaker by the day, and he will likely be on this Earth for weeks... months. Ben has told his mother that he is ready. He will go to sleep and wake up in Heaven.
The story breaks my heart, of course, for the many reasons that others are so touched by his life. But, as a cancer mother, it brings back a sense of reality that we will never stop worrying about every headache, stomachache and fever. That we know there may be a day when Tylenol or a good ice pack will not be enough.
I am reminded that it sometimes is never over. I am reminded that a struggle is a struggle - no matter how people want to tell you that it's in the past, that one is making too much of a matter, or that we all just need to think positively. Race or cancer. It's often the same conversation here.
Our prayers are with Ben and his family. We know that God has chosen a beautiful angel on this Earth and in Heaven.