Hospice. Ugh. I couldn’t get that word out of my head. I know what the word means and some of what it entails, but I don’t know much about actual hospice itself, much less what hospice looks like in Kenya. How much does it cost? Is morphine all that’s available to relieve pain? What is it like to watch someone die? The doctor prepared us that at his next appointment we would be looking at surgery to remove the tumor, amputation, or hospice. As one of Isaac’s guardians, I began preparing myself for the worst-case scenario, and readying myself to make decisions no one should ever have to.
As the informally adoptive mother of a teenaged orphan with cancer, this whole journey has been one of stumbling, crying, and trusting God to with impossible decision after impossible decision. I believed for most of the two-and-a half-year journey that Isaac would be healed, but in the last month or so, my faith waned. He was still in a lot of pain, and we had exhausted all chemotherapy and radiation options available in the entire country. So, we made the “big” appointment and waited.
I don’t think I even prayed that much – I clumsily moved from demanding healing from God and begging Him with every inch of my being, to then resigning myself to hospice, knowing that when you do the type of work I do, eventually you might lose one of your precious kiddos.
I had no idea what was coming or how I would feel or how Isaac would feel. It scared me; the thought of making decisions about a young man’s life and future. Several times, I felt as if I were buckling under the weight of it all.
Finally, Tuesday, May 12th arrived. I was anxious, concerned, and prepared for the worst. Pastor Michael, Isaac, and I flew to Nairobi and headed straight to the hospital for the CT scan. After mounds of paperwork, running back and forth between radiology and the cancer center down the street, and paying the bill, Isaac was finally given the 5 glasses of liquid he had to ingest before the scan. After waiting for hours, he was called back. Pastor Michael was alternating between reading his book and pacing around outside. I was lying down across a row of seats in the waiting room, staring at the ceiling, pretending to guard our bags.
After the CT scan was done, they released us for lunch and told us to return later that afternoon for the results. Lunch was Isaac’s choice. Kentucky Fried Chicken it was. We then walked across the street to the mall and got Isaac some ice cream. Michael read and guarded the bags while Isaac and I paced the mall until it is time to return to the hospital. When we returned, Isaac and Michael went to radiology to pick up the results, and I went to the cancer center to get our name on the list to see the oncologist.
When they arrived, I took the results, and Isaac headed to the bathroom. We were called in, and Michael went to get Isaac, so I went into the room and handed over the results. Who knows what was going through my head? Life is about to change forever, probably for the worse.
Dr. Vijay opened the results and began reviewing them right away. He displayed the slides in the light box on the wall. I stared at them blankly, looking to make sense of what I was seeing. Dr. Vijay started to smile and picked up the written report from his desk. Then, he started to laugh. I was dumbfounded and confused and a million questions seemed to fly out of my mouth all at once. What was he seeing to make him react this way?
He pointed out different parts of the scan results and highlighted sections of the written report for me. NO CANCER. Um, can you say that again? NO CANCER. Wait, really? No cancer? The tumor has been gone for months?! The same radiologist has done all of his scans, so he knows what to compare it to, as does Dr. Vijay.
As I stood there, completely in shock, Isaac and Michael walked in. I asked Dr. Vijay if I could share the news, and as I started to open my mouth, I burst into tears. I couldn’t get the words out. Finally, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I grabbed his face and told him “There is no more cancer. It is gone. You’re ok. You’re going to live.” Dr. Vijay pointed and explained while Michael looked at the report.
No hospice after all. I worried for nothing. God graciously chose to heal our boy. Dr. Vijay told him it was time to go back to school and start to live a normal life – and to come back in 6 months for a final check up, where he would be declared in remission.
We walked out of the office and a handful of nurses and staff stood there shouting, “Praise the Lord!” and lifting their hands in celebration. We graciously and tearfully thanked the staff for all they’ve done and headed for the door. Michael stopped us to document the moment with pictures, which wouldn’t have been complete without a selfie including Dr. Vijay.
In the midst of this, I looked over to see Isaac sitting by himself in a waiting room chair staring straight ahead. He couldn’t say anything. He didn’t want to say anything. He asked us not to tell anyone for a few hours, so he could try to wrap his mind around the fact that instead of being sentenced to an early death, God had healed him and given him another chance at life.
In the coming days, we ate ice cream, watched a movie, and spent lots of time together, but the sweetest part of the whole experience was watching Isaac’s solemn, dark eyes light up again. Back to school? Back to soccer? No more medicine? The pain he had been experiencing was nerve damage, which will repair itself. With each passing day, hope, joy, and a feisty teenage attitude returned to our Isaac. My kiddo, our kiddo, is going to be ok. We made it. We have seen the goodness of God. He lives and so does Isaac.
Thank you for laboring in prayer with us these two-and-a-half years, and giving so generously so that we could see this journey through!