This week’s blog post is full of celebration and thanksgiving! I’m celebrating my goddaughter, Sydney, who bravely fought and beat Burkitt’s Lymphoma this year. Woo-hoo! And, I’m joining her parents, Jennifer and Mark, in thanking all of you for the steadfast prayer, love, and generosity that each of you extended to them along the way.
October 24, 2015 marked the 1-year-anniversary that Sydney was officially diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. Jennifer said, “A biopsy confirmed it. There wasn’t a moment to spare because the tumors in her body were doubling in size every 24 hours. Mark and I will never forget how we stood in the waiting room, praying the rosary, and begging God for His mercy…watching as the doctors walked by…looking for any sign that we didn't need to be there…that we were sent to a cancer hospital with our child by mistake.”
Jennifer said, “When we were given the news, I still remember the shock and how I felt the breath knocked out of me. For someone who has never dealt with cancer firsthand, we felt like it was a death sentence. Sydney was still asleep from the procedure and we couldn't possibly be crying in the recovery room as she woke up. We had to dry our tears, hold it together, and put smiles on our faces for her. The strength we had for that could only have come from prayers. Looking back, we weren't standing on our own. Jesus and Mary were holding us up. Little did we know that we would soon have multiple saints and thousands of prayer warriors to help carry us in the days, weeks, and months to come.”
A few days ago, Jennifer shared a sweet story about apples on Sydney’s prayer support facebook page. I want to pass that along to you today:
“Erik and Michele (Sydney's Make-A-Wish volunteers) contacted us several months ago. They came to the hospital to visit Sydney in April, while she was undergoing her 8th round of chemo. At one point, Sydney really wanted an apple. Anyone who is familiar with kids undergoing chemo knows that when they have a craving, you have to deliver immediately. Otherwise, the moment could pass, and the food will no longer be wanted. With Sydney's poor appetite and low weight, an apple was not going to do much. However, if that's all she could eat, we would take it!”
“So, while Michele stayed with me and Sydney in the hospital room, Erik decided to go fetch her an apple. When he came back with an orange in his hand, Sydney frowned. Erik insisted that it was an apple when he picked it up. Somehow, it must have turned into an orange before he could get back to her room with it. (The Ronald McDonald Kitchen had no apples and he didn't want to return empty-handed.) Anyway, while Sydney did not feel good at all, she never forgot how funny Erik was and how much he made her laugh, even when she didn't feel well. And, we never forgot about how Erik magically turned an apple into an orange that day.”
Jennifer shared that Erik and Michele showed up at their home last week, after traveling 150 miles, in order to deliver nine apples and Sydney’s Make-A-Wish packet. They all remembered the love and the laughs behind the apples.
Jennifer posted a beautiful thank you note recently as well. I know it will touch you as much as it touched me. Here is some of what she had to say:
“I have wanted to write about this for the longest time, but I just never knew how. I mean, how do you thank people for dropping everything in their lives to cook us meals, babysit our children, clean our house, do our field work, shop for us (groceries, household products, clothes, etc.), send Sydney (and us) gifts, gift cards, cards, and money, set up a prayer support page, set up a GoFundMe account, donate to the GoFundMe account, give me an iPhone4 so I could text, design and order bracelets, thank you cards, and bumper stickers to help raise funds, set up and design a T-shirt fundraiser, order T-shirts, wear T-shirts, cut her hair, shave her head, put together care packages and Christmas gift packages, purchase and send hats for her cold bald head, plan a ‘Frozen’ party for Sydney and her friends (complete with face painting, cookie decorating, decorations, and party favors), take portraits of Sydney and our entire family, fill up our gas tank, get our oil changed, decorate our home for Christmas (inside and out!), shop for (and wrap!) ALL of the Christmas gifts for our children (and even us...), send Santa to our home, organize groups at schools, churches, and other organizations to send Sydney beautiful faith-inspired cards, gifts, and Christmas ornaments, set up a blood drive, donate blood and/or platelets, hold bake sales, donate money to St. Baldrick's, shave their heads, donate their hair, interview her on the radio, bring her "Debbie" (the pink fire truck), along with a meal for our family, drive Sydney and her sisters through town in the fire truck to go out for ice cream, walk outside in the middle of their ACTS meeting to wave to Sydney in the fire truck, visit Sydney in the hospital, send cards, cards, and more cards, paint paintings for her, make and/or send quilts, blankets, and prayer blankets, sew pillowcases, take time out of their family vacation to buy her souvenirs, ride their bicycle all the way from Houston to New York, travel to the Holy Land and bring back rosaries and scapulars that have been prayed over and blessed, let us borrow their precious relics and family heirlooms, pray over Sydney and us, and spend countless hours on their knees in prayer for Sydney and our family, day and night?! How do you tell someone ‘Thank You’ for offering to let us use their apartment, or have expressed breast milk for our baby, or banked cord blood for Sydney, should we ever need it? How? Where do you find the words? Where does one find the time to write the words that are so important to say?”
Jennifer also said, “Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a ‘thank-you-note-person.’ I have always written thank you notes for as long as I can remember. However, when we were thrown into this whirlwind a year ago, and everyone's kindness and generosity poured forth, I just couldn't keep up. It was overwhelming! I decided at the very beginning to just let it go and allow people to give to Sydney without keeping a record. That lasted about a day. It just didn't feel right. So, I did something that many of you might be surprised to know. I kept a running spreadsheet of each and every card, gift, money donation, and act of kindness that came pouring in. I may not have been able to write the note, but I did keep track of it all. I am not sure how I managed to do it, but I’m so glad I did."
"Something happens when you write it down…you remember peoples' names. You look at a blanket or a pillowcase or a music box or a rosary and you remember that person…a person you may never have even met, but you know they took time out of their crazy busy life to help bring you strength when you were weak. I remember the names of people on Sydney’s prayer support page that "liked" posts or commented on them. I remember the people who prayed unceasingly. I remember the ones who signed up for Night Owl prayer support…something I will never forget.”
Jennifer said that through all of this she has learned how generous people are…with their time, talents, money, and gifts. She remembers how everything, big or small, helped so much. She also wanted to let you know that they received your gifts, your cards, and the money you tucked inside of them. They remember what you did and they THANK YOU from the bottom of their hearts. They remember you in their prayers. They pray that they can bless someone else by doing what they learned from each one of you. You, your gift, and your prayers were and will forever be appreciated.
Sydney’s mom also shared, “October 24th officially marked the beginning of a new chapter in our lives…the start of a journey…one that all of you became a part of. Thank you for being a part of our journey and a part of our lives. We will forever remember and be grateful. May God bless each of you abundantly for the many ways you shared His love!"
I am beyond ecstatic to share that Sydney is in remission. Our precious Sydney is cancer-free! Praise God! Praise God!
So, what’s behind the apples, you ask? In addition to the brave and beautiful girl physically behind the apples in the photo above, it’s obvious to me that there are countless other gifts behind the apples.
The gifts of love and laughter came alongside Erik’s apples, for instance. And, in reflecting over this last year, I recall how each of you gave so deeply in your own special, personal, and unique way. You may not have given apples, but your gift was a part of you and is now a part of them. It’s what’s behind the gift…
I want to flip the thank you back around and send one to Jennifer, Mark, and Sydney…thank YOU for letting us in. Thank YOU for letting us witness faith, hope, trust, and love in its purest and rawest form. Thank YOU for letting us walk this journey with you, complete with hills and valleys, joys and tears. Thank YOU for allowing us a glimpse of letting go and letting God. Thank YOU for letting us be a part of a miracle.
We can’t thank YOU enough!