Blessings and cursings

The cause of Marissa’s cancer is a genetic mutation. Every person gets two BRCA genes–one from each parent. In Marissa’s case, she received one good gene and one mutated gene. This gene suppresses tumors and repairs DNA, so when one is damaged, a female has up to an 87% chance of breast cancer and a 60% chance of ovarian cancer in her lifetime. Our oncologist says it is not if you will get cancer, but when. (Males have higher risks of certain cancers as well, but they are not nearly as high.)

My husband’s mother died of ovarian cancer at age 40. Two of her sisters also died of ovarian cancer at young ages. One of their daughters is right now battling Stage IV ovarian cancer. Marissa is the first to have breast cancer that we know about, but that side of the family is scattered–too many mamas gone to hold it together.

My husband has this genetic mutation. And each of our 9 children has a 50% chance of having this mutation. Not all of our children have been tested, but 3 have the mutation that we know about.

It can feel overwhelming. It is hard to wrap our minds around the future, hard to line this up with faith. It is hard not to feel cursed, not to wonder why. My husband bears a heavy sorrow, a remembering and a dread.

But we also remember that we are blessed. We remember all the beautiful gifts we have been given. Every day we see the evidences of the kindness of God.

We are not the “think good thoughts and good things will happen” people. We are the people who trust in God. We are the people who were lost and now are found. We are the people who were blind but now can see. We are the people who were cursed and dying and chained but now are blessed and alive and free.

We are safe in the arms of Jesus. We are eternally His. We are blessed.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The LORD redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalm 34:22


Peace with what is

She was smiling when they wheeled her away for surgery. I was smiling through tears.

It’s been a crazy week filled with information and doctor visits, travel and tests, and to be honest, some fear and regret. Humans tend to look back and wish things had been done differently, or they had turned out differently. We’re all looking for a happy ending, and we like it best if the beginning and middle are happy, too. We think about our future and we imagine it pretty and perfect and pleasant.

I’m human, too. And I’ve had a life filled with pretty and perfect and pleasant. Really, I will tell you than even in these last eight months of the hardest trial I have faced, my life has been filled with many beautiful, perfect moments. So much grace.

But we live in this fallen world and there are those other moments. No less filled with grace, but tainted with pain or regret. Filled with fear and uncertainty.  Covered with a thick cloud of darkness. Peace is a struggle and truth is in our minds but seems far away from our hearts.

But it is there. The truth is there. The truth of God’s reality, of His power, of His absolute sovereignty, of His love.

He is there.

Marissa’s tumor has grown alarmingly fast since her chemo. It would be easy to regret decisions made. It’s natural to wonder what could have been done differently. We want so much to have pleasant news, a perfect resolution, a pretty outcome.

But it is what it is.

And we have peace with that. Because of Christ and the peace we have with God through Him.

Truth settles in the heart once more.

Send out your light and your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Psalm 43:3





Cancer love and plain old love

Marissa is easy to love.

It’s hard to remember before cancer, before diagnosis, before fear. But it’s not hard to remember her. It’s not hard to remember blonde curls and dress-up days and tea parties. It’s not hard to remember soccer games and family trips and bedtime chats.

I remember. I remember that I have always loved her. That from the moment I knew she was growing inside me, she was forever cherished, forever loved.

But there is no question that cancer increased love’s intensity. It increased love’s actions. It increased love’s sacrifices.

When you know your child is facing a grave illness, there is something tight that winds up inside you. Something that stays tight until love unwinds it, loosens it, and lets it go. The action of loving brings some focus and purpose to bleak days. It’s always easier when we can do something to help, when we can fill up our day with doing.

And I find myself serving Marissa. Dropping whatever I’m doing to make her breakfast or a snack. Leaving the dishes to take a walk around the block. Changing my schedule to go to doctor’s appointments. I find myself delighting in her and trying to make her laugh. I listen to her and look for opportunities to let her talk. I spend my free time researching her cancer type and emailing researchers and doctors. I copy articles and read books and take notes.

I am purposeful and joyful in loving her. I count it a privilege to be her mom and to have her here and to minister to her.

Cancer love never minds being interrupted. It never overlooks an opportunity to help. It never gets annoyed at delays or changed plans. Cancer love gives up its own agenda, is always concerned for another’s well being. It extends itself, joyfully serves, faithfully gives. It is content to make someone else happy, to meet someone else’s need.

Cancer love is a lot like 1 Corinthians 13 love. Turns out it’s a lot like plain old love.

I think my husband and my other children would benefit from some plain old love. I think I’ll remember that there is no guarantee of tomorrow. That I have been given this day to love my people. That each one of them is precious and priceless and mine.

I’ll remember that babies turn into toddlers who turn into children who turn into teenagers who turn into grownups. And while some of those stages are more tiring, more stressful, more challenging and require more sacrifice, they all require love. Love that unwinds and loosens and lets go. Unwinds its tight grip of self; loosens and lets go of its rights.

Cancer love. Plain old love. God’s love.

Love is patient and kind. Love does not envy or boast. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. l Corinthians 13:4-8