Friday, June 1, 2012

Can Our Children Handle Cancer?

It's my children's last day of school today.  I can't tell you how excited I am to have them around more again.  We are at a point where, in general, they get along and are helpful.  I told someone recently I will probably go nuts this summer with their silliness rather than their fighting.

But what to do we with our children when something bad comes up in our family life?  I think it's our natural instinct, especially as moms, to try and protect them.  I don't think it matters how young or old are children are.  We are like that mother hen we hear about who has snuggled all her chicks under her while a fire is blazing around them.  The mother hen dies, but the chicks survive.  It's a beautiful story, but I don't believe that's always the best to not show the trials they could be facing.

When I was diagnosed with cancer my children came to mind almost instantly.  How were they going to handle this news?  My daughter had already seem my mom die of the same cancer I now had.  How is she going to handle the possibility of her mom dying?  What about my boys?  They were only 7 at the time and are slightly autistic.  Could they even comprehend what was going on inside of me?

It wasn't until at least two years later that I realized how well they were coping with our family life being different.  I had one of those moments where I thought, "Of course they can handle this.  God has and will make sure of it!"

As adults we can look back at our lives and see the times that were hard and see how things have fallen into place in the past or the present that got us through those hard times.  That's not coincidence, it's God.  Our God has put everything into place to help us.  There are two verses that constantly remind me of this.

The first is Philippians 4:13.

This verse reminds me that I am not strong because of anything I have or can do. It reminds me that whatever trials I go through, God will be right there giving me the strength I need. He has shown that to me over and over not only in what I have had to overcome, but also by what my children have been able to handle.

The second is Jeremiah 29:11.

This has been a go to verse for our family ever since my diagnosis.  Why?  Because we are reminded that even in the worst times God has our backs!  He has a plan for all of us.  His ultimate plan, to get us to Heaven, was already taken care of when He sent His son to die for our sins.  Since that is already taken care of, how can I not be sure that His plan for me will also be wonderful.  It might not result in healing, but it will result in my going home to Heaven.

With these two verses we have been able to do things with our children to help them deal with our life with cancer.  From the beginning, we were able to be very honest and open with them about what was going on, at an age-appropriate level.  I was reminded at a recent parent workshop from a teen who saw her mom die from cancer that "Kids aren't stupid!"  They will figure out that something is wrong if you don't tell them.  One game we played when I was first diagnosed was guessing how much my cancer number had gone down.  Because at the beginning of this journey we were counting on a cure, it was a tangible way for them to all see that the chemo was working.

Another thing God blessed us with to help our children was our introduction to Gilda's Club in Seattle.  We have a wonderful children's counselor there who runs many programs for children and parents.  Our first glimpse of that was Camp Sparkle where they talked about cancer in the morning and went on a field trip in the afternoon.  It has made a world of difference in their lives ever since.  There are Gilda's Clubs around the country that might be able to help you too.

God doesn't give you more than you can handle.  While that isn't a Biblical quote, I believe it's true, not because of our strength but because of God's.  And if it's true for adults, it's also true for children.  Jesus brought children into his arms when He was here; He will be faithful to bring them into His arms today.


  1. Lisa,
    Love reading your posts and the insight you share. The Eph. passage is also one of my favorites. I have it "posted" on my refrigerator and as one of my quotes on fb.
    Thank you for creating this blog and for your wise words!
    Love, Lynn

  2. Oops! I meant to write Phil. I have an Eph. passage going through my brain right now!

  3. Lisa,

    Thanks for your reminder that God loves and cares for us and that he loves and cares for our loved ones. Two passages that support your last comment about God not giving us more than we can handle...

    And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
    1 Co 10:13

    9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
    2 Co 12:9

  4. Thank you Lisa for everything for sharing a glimpse into your and your children's lives at this time.