A Shared Burden

“...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2

It has now been a week since we received the heart rending news that our 6 year old Esther was diagnosed with cancer.   Since that time we have tried to absorb the impact of that information.   We don't yet have the exact plan of action for her treatment (we'll know that in a couple of days), but we know more than we did a few days ago.  Here are some thoughts from me (Matthew) and Evie (my oldest daughter) of where we are at on this difficult journey.

From Matthew:   This past Friday after spending 7 nights in the hospital, we finally got to go home!    It was SO good to see our other 3 girls.  Cherish & I have never both been gone from them that long throughout their entire lives!   During the week we were in the hospital Esther was sedated 4 times for an MRI, surgery, a CT/PET scan, a bone marrow aspiration, and a lumbar puncture.  To say the least she (& we) were exhausted in every way.   It was so great to be home.   Esther has bounced back famously from what was the hardest week of her life so far and is running around with joy and energy.    So far, based on the test results we have seen and a conversation with her oncologist everything is pointing to her cancer NOT having spread and remaining localized to the area where the tumor was removed.  That is wonderful news and a great answer to prayer.

From Evie:  These past few days have been really nice.   It's almost felt normal.   We even got to go and see two firework shows.   I'm so thankful that Mommy, Daddy, & Esther got to come home on Friday.   I was really happy to wake up Saturday morning and Mommy & Daddy in the kitchen and Esther watching TV in the basement.   I've missed the normalcy.   These few days have been like a reset for me.  I had been feeling very mentally drained but once they were home it was like a switch was flipped in my brain and all that went away!   I think I had been missing them a lot more than I even realized myself!

From Matthew:  The gravity of the situation is still sinking in.   One thing that makes this so difficult to comprehend is how healthy and full of life Esther seems to be.   When I began my treatment last year I was sick and obviously needed medical intervention.   Esther looks totally fine and normal to us.  Even her eye is lined up perfectly after her surgery and is healing up great.  The likelihood of two people in the same family being diagnosed with cancer so close to the same time is absolutely staggering. I'm guessing we have a better chance of winning some kind of lottery!   I had my port inserted (which I still have) on May 17, 2021.  Esther had hers placed on June 20, 2022, just over a year apart.  The type of cancer I was diagnosed with was unusual for someone of my age (testicular cancer is typically a young man's cancer).  Out of the 74 million children that currently live in the US only 400 children a year are diagnosed with the type of cancer Esther has.   Although I'm feeling great and am not on any cancer medication or treatment I am still not released from the care of my cancer oncologist (have more scans scheduled for the beginning of August) and my doctor has not yet officially said that I am in remission.   To me there is no way this is just sheer bad luck.    I am convinced that the message God has called us to bring through the love & truth of God's Word is a threat to the enemy of our souls who would like nothing more than to silence our voice and cause us to give up the fight.   Many other lives (none more so than our own children) would be affected if we abandoned hope and faith in Christ.    I do not believe sickness comes as a punishment from God.  He punished Himself for us on the cross, and "by His stripes we are healed."  We live in fallen world where sickness is part of the human experience but I do not feel this sickness is random.  It did not go unnoticed to me that the very next day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe Vs. Wade, saving the lives of thousands of unborn children, my little girl was hospitalized for cancer.   Cherish & I have sought for years to be a voice for the unborn, not just by standing against abortion but in seeking to help families that take in children and centers that support mothers who choose to have their baby.  We have also been greatly burdened for children who are trafficked in modern slavery.   Matthew 18:1-14 tells us that children are VERY precious to the heart of God.   We are in a battle, and the enemy of our souls, who was not able to take me out me last year has now very cowardly gone after the most vulnerable in our family. I am determined, as God gives me strength, to fight for her healing through prayer and by trusting in the goodness of God as well as continuing to stand for the truth of God's Word.

From Evie:   Esther being diagnosed was shocking.  She looks so healthy & happy.  The complete opposite of Daddy when he was diagnosed.    It is unreal.   I'm still having a hard time believing it.    I fell like I will blink and everything will be normal again, like this is some scary day dream I'm having.   But no matter how many times I blink, it does not go away.   My littlest sister still has to go through treatment, my mom & dad still get calls from the doctors at any time of the day.   I want to send the Devil to Hell for this, fortunately he is already there.  We will fight against this war that is going on in the spirit realm.   We will cheer for the angels and pray to God because this is all in His hands.   We must remember that this is not God's doing, but the Snake himself.    There is a quote I just read, "great heroes need great sorrows & burdens or half their greatness goes unnoticed" (Peter S. Beagle).   If this is true then my dad and little sister must be two of the greatest heroes.   They have both been through so much.  I trust God has a plan for our lives and that one day Daddy can tell his grandkids, Esther's children, about everything they have gone through as if it were an epic adventure from fairy tales.

From Matthew:
  Among all the hard things that we have had to deal with this past week we have received such great encouragement by those that as Galatians 6:2 says are fulfilling the law of Christ (loving God and people as ourselves) by helping to bear our burden.   Those that have committed to fight with us.    I can't overstate how strengthened our family feels by those whose hearts have been touched by Esther's struggle.   The doctors and medical staff at the UNC Children's Hospital have been fantastic.   Esther is a very inquisitive little girl and has asked many questions and wants to understand as much as possible.  The medical staff have been very caring and patient with her, and with us.  Over 50 people showed up for a special prayer meeting just to pray for Esther last week.   There were more comments on last week's blog than ANY of the blogs that I wrote last year.  As of this writing the Facebook post that I put out on June 29th sharing Esther's diagnosis has been shared 135 times.  That's 135 people that have made her post their own.   I am still working my way through the 250+ comments on that post alone and am seeing that multiple churches stopped and prayed for her this past Sunday.   Esther has been sent stuffed animals, toys, get well cards, as well as financial gifts.   We have been directly contacted by people we didn't previously know who have prayed with us, offered us a place to stay, and more.   Many people have changed their FB profile picture to one of Esther in order to show their support.    Such an outpouring of support from those we already know and love and those that we had never before met.  We are so grateful.  

From Evie:  I am so amazed at how many people have reached out to give us encouragement or to pray for us!   I couldn't believe that other churches stopped their services just to pray for our little Esther!   Most of these people probably have never met her, yet they are praying for her and have sent her presents.  I can't wait until Esther is older and reads all the comments people have written.   I'm sure they will bring tears to her eyes.    I don't think Esther still really doesn't understand what is going on.  She still doesn't know that she will probably lose her hair.  She is only six, although she acts older, it would break my heart to see her have to shave her head like Daddy.  But, even as tears flood my vision I will hold her hand through because she is my littlest sister and I her biggest sister.   Thank you for all the support & prayers.  

From Matthew:  We will write another blog in a few days once we have more details about Esther's treatment.  In the meantime I just want to say on behalf of my family how thankful we are for your love and support.   The greatest thing anyone can do is give their time to stop and pray for us.  Physical gift are great, cards and stuffed animals do bring much needed smiles, but the only thing that can heal our daughter is the power of prayer.  For that we are the most grateful. We love you all.  Thank you for helping to share our burden.  God is good... all the time.


Mawmaw Sissy - July 5th, 2022 at 11:02pm

United In prayer with many to see our beautiful precious Esther cancer free! Oh how God loves her & you all. The plans He has for her is to give her hope & a future. The devil is a liar & a coward! The mawmaw is fighting mad!!!! Gods got this & the enemy of our souls will pay!!! We give God all the praise! He’s a good good God🙌❤️🙌 No weapons formed will prosper! Love you all ❤️

Beth Hamm - July 6th, 2022 at 5:52am

Continued prayers. Makes me think of this song "The love of God how rich & pure, how measureless & STRONG, it shall forever more endure, the saints and angels song" God is near family.

Barbara Price - July 6th, 2022 at 7:21am

Continued Prayers

Evie,your family, a whole family of heroes. Love you all.

Jon Delp - July 6th, 2022 at 7:29am

You all are in my prayers and I pray for good news today for your baby! God has her and you.

Raquel Berg - July 6th, 2022 at 7:55am

Love you all. Lifting her and your whole family in Prayer!

Grandma Jean - July 6th, 2022 at 8:34am

What a tag-team! 1 puts 1000 to flight, but 2 puts 10000 to flight. I love it. That old cancer doesn't stand a chance.. but there are hundreds or more in this battle. And we know Who always wins. We are on His side arm in arm standing shoulder to shoulder. Victory in Jesus!

Carol Puckett - July 6th, 2022 at 1:46pm

Thank you so much for sharing your hearts with us, both you and Evie! Continued prayers for total and complete healing for precious, Esther. Prayers for her mom and dad, each sister, John, Jean, Elizabeth, and every family member. Love you all!

Grandpa John - July 6th, 2022 at 8:57am

Mum & I are praying for you today. God is with you & will bring you thru stronger. We don't always understand the turns in the road but He is with us thru it all. He. 5:8says " Even though Jesus was God's son he had to learn from experience what it was like to obey,when obeying meant suffering." Heb:5:8

Great blog from both you & Evie.

Much love & prayers Dad & Grandpa.

Elaine Smythe - July 6th, 2022 at 9:50am

I am usually good with writing & "words" has always been my mode of encouragement, but suddenly, I find myself in a position where all I can muster up are prayers & hugs. Know that I am praying unceasingly for our Esther & anytime you need someone to wrap their arms around you, I will be there. Gary & I love you & your family more than you will ever know!

Debra Davidson - July 6th, 2022 at 9:55am

Praying for God to intervene on Esther' s behalf as her treatment begins. Will

continue to pray for your family as you travel this path with her. Love and prayers for all. Debbie Davidson

Johnsons - July 6th, 2022 at 10:07am

Praying for you all! You are a beautiful family who honors the Lord. 🙌🏻 Much love

Edward Saunders - July 6th, 2022 at 4:55pm

From to many miles away just know ours Love and our prayers are with you all six family members. Esther the Devil is not going to win this fight as it is already stacked in your favor a million to one. Matthew stand strong you whip this cancer once you and Esther can whip it again. Love and prayers to all

Nannette Hulett - July 10th, 2022 at 8:24pm

Matthew, tears flow down my face as I read your blog. Please know that Esther and your entire family are in mine and Mike’s prayers. We pray for healing and strength during this time. Isaiah 40:31 kept coming to mind as I read your blog. God is so good all the time.