Where do I start?
Bethany has asked me to write a post for our blog. Something that might give a glimpse into my side of all that has happened.
Before I start, let me say that Bethany has been amazing. I always knew that she was a great mom and a wonderful wife. These are the times when so many people can drift apart because they can’t deal with tragedy together. She has been everything I’ve needed her to be through this. She is my perfect partner…My Amazing.
So what do I say about all that has happened? Everything I knew or thought I knew about our life was shattered? I could say that the silence after that moment was deafening. I couldn’t hear myself think. I couldn’t breathe. It felt like my heart was cracked down the middle. The pieces of our shattered lives lay on the ground outside of a car dealership in Wenatchee. I couldn’t do anything.
Bethany was on the phone when I showed up but I couldn’t read her. She looked stunned but I hoped that could be a good thing. Maybe the doctor was saying that it was just a scare but we can move on with our surgery to remove the tumor because as first expected, it was just a fatty tumor. Then she hung up the phone and in that moment her eyes told me everything. They told me all I needed to know, more than I wanted to know. Our baby has cancer. BOOM!
In that moment our lives and all that we thought we were doing on this adventure came to an end.
How can this happen? My innocent little girl? She still loves to linger, and I love to watch her linger, in the 6 month to 2 year old toy section at the grocery store. I see the joy in her eyes as she finds toys that we bought for her when she was 2. Her eyes are full of possibilities. I don’t know how to express the love I have for her. She’s my sweet Laney Bug. She has an eternally optimistic smile. Her hugs are the best this world has to offer. Her laugh is like music to my families ears. She loves to be tickled. She is all that is perfect in Bethany. Everything I fell in love with 9 years ago is wrapped up in our little girl.
And me? I am supposed to be daddy, the protector of this amazing innocence. I’m the one that is supposed to take away the pain. I was helpless. I am helpless. The pain of knowing that no matter what I did, no matter how much I wanted to take all of the bad and put it on my shoulders, to take the cancer into my own body and fight it for her, I couldn’t. Those words still tear me apart now. I can’t do anything to take it away from her. Oh, how I want to take it all away from her. I’ve asked the doctors to give me shots when she gets shots just so she doesn’t have to go it alone. They just laugh. I was serious. When she gets her tape off from where her port is accessed, it hurts. The nurses say that it is usually the worst part for all the kids. After I saw how much she feared it after the first time I gave her my arm. I told her to pull my hair from my arm and I would share the pain with her. She did.
I am not a gluten for pain or punishment but I made my girl a promise. I will be with you every step of the way.
We were swimming together at the lake. Just her and I. We were splashing around in the water. I was soaking up every moment with her while she was unaware of all that would come in the next year. I was holding her in my arms when her eyes looked past me and caught something that excited her. “Daddy, I want to swim to that pole.” I turned to see which pole she was intending to swim to. It had to be a couple hundred yards away and probably 200 feet from shore. “We can’t do that. It’s a long way away.” She looked at me with her blue eyes and said “Please, I want to go there.”
We went. In reality, I went and she held on. She kicked her feet and I let her swim a little but very soon after departure she was tired. It was my opportunity to show her that we could beat anything together. We created our own victory chant in the water. “We are strong. We are warriors. We can beat anything together. Nothing can stop us.” I promised her half way through that when we made it to the pole I would carry her on my back all the way down the beach back to our spot on the grass. We made it. She hugged me and I kept my promise and carried her all the way back on the beach.
She still talks about the pole we swam to. She asked me during chemo this last week if I still remembered it. Of course I do. I asked her if she remembers what we talked about. She said, “We can do anything together.”
This story of ours, the Sanwald family, has many parts to it now. Pain, hurt, anger, hate, fear. These are where it began. Our real story has been replaced with Joy, faith, hope, Love, lots of love.
Ours is not a story of cancer. It’s not one of defeat or fear. Our story began on a cross. Many times I have lost sight of our story, not for a day or a week but years at a time. Jesus Christ is my friend. While I’ve turned my back on my Friend many times he has never let me go. He is in the lake with us swimming with us to the pole. When we are weak, He is strong. He has promised to carry us home when we reach the end. Our story has changed from the temporary, the mortality of this world and has become about the eternal.
I can’t say that I trusted God throughout this. I can’t say that my relationship with God was perfect. I can’t even say it was good. I knew that God was real. I knew the Bible was true and that Jesus Christ was my savior. But my relationship with Him was close to non-existent up until a few months before we moved to Idaho. He had begun to orchestrate undeniable things in our lives that brought us to where we are now.
Because I knew that God had brought us out of Chicago and into a place foreign to us I was ready for a battle. We fought…I fought. He listened. I sat in the basement and I let it all out. How dare you? She’s mine! Don’t you hurt her! He let me be angry. He let me scream. He let me cry. He cried with me. “She is mine too and I love her more than you will ever understand.” He held me close. He didn’t let me go. Peace settled over me. Peace settled over our home. We can do anything together.