Spiritual Growth

A Weary Prayer: Fighting for Light in the Darkness

World Cancer Day is an international day marked on February 4 to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage its prevention, detection, and treatment. Ellie Poole Ewoldt is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and a friend whose days are spent in the craziness of caring for four little kids, one of whom is a cancer survivor. On July 31, 2012, her family’s lives changed forever with the words, “There’s a large mass,” catapulting them on a deep, complex journey through pediatric cancer. Today, she shares her prayer as she continues to fight the long term trials that cancer brings.

by Ellie Poole Ewoldt, author of Chase Away Cancer

Please God, not again . . .

The broken prayer . . . on repeat . . . yet again.

I raise a fist, almost absently, to pound the closed bedroom door—anything to relieve the tension—the pent-up energy of wanting to act when there’s nothing to do. The only thing keeping my skin from connecting with the scratched wood is the knowledge that my kids will hear.

The brain bleed isn’t a big deal on its own. Chase is okay today, but it’s one more thing to watch. One more thing to take care of. One more aggressive reminder of how broken he is—how broken we all are.

Chase was first diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain and spine cancer when he was two years old. At the time, it was estimated that he probably wouldn’t see his third birthday—that we probably had about six months left on this earth with our third child. Life stopped.

And then life didn’t stop. Somehow, we all lived through the excruciating anguish, all the treatments, the days in the hospital, and the complications. Somehow, we have survived to a stage where there are even days that feel remotely “normal.” And by normal, I mean that nobody rides in an ambulance, nobody goes to the hospital, and nobody has to see a doctor.

But then, there will be something that rocks us again—the death of a friend, more days in the hospital, having desperately hard conversations with small children, an unexpected brain bleed showing up on the latest MRI. It’s hard to explain because I’m still breathing, Chase is still breathing. I haven’t lost my faith that God is God, but I’m just so weary; and that’s when I start the desperate prayer on repeat once again.  Please God, not again . . .

God, I’m exhausted by the pain and suffering, the relentlessness of it all, the realization that we will be healed and whole once again, but it won’t be on this earth. I don’t want to wait for the day when there are no tears or pain, even though I know it will be worth it. I keep struggling to keep fighting with my head up—to keep my head on straight. To tune out the crazy and the impatient. When there’s no end in sight.

I promised myself things would get better after Chase’s initial brain surgery, when we knew what we were dealing with. And then it was radiation, and then the end of treatment, and then therapies, and then getting him into school. And now it’s nightly shots and conversations about his hearing aid and glasses and why he is mostly bald and so much shorter than the other kids. And he can’t remember the words and sounds he needs to read. Because sometimes that happens after you’ve had a six centimeter ball of cancer sitting in the language center of your brain. God, I know you know this stuff that I repeat again and again. You knew it all before the earth; but I didn’t, and it’s still fresh.

So, God, I’m coming to you again, and I’m seeking you again because my circumstances are outside of my control; and the only thing that hasn’t changed is you. Will you give me rest?

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The burden you give me is light? Cancer is light, God? A lifetime full of physical complications and utter brokenness is easy to bear? I know it must be true because you don’t lie and you can’t be mocked and these words appear in your Word, but I feel the weight of the fight on me every day. I believe, my Abba, but please help my unbelief. How can you say our burdens are light? How can you classify the human struggle as small? Will you show me how to accept that when my heart hurts?

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles that we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

Oh God, I understand fixing my gaze on something other than the troubles around me, but when I am surrounded by the blood and guts of a messy life, they scream really loud in my head. I know they will be gone and done some day; but today isn’t that day, and I’m weary, my Abba. Where do I look when all I see is pain? How do I move when my very bones are weary inside of me?

“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Okay, thank you, God, that we have this example; but right now, Jesus is with you at the throne, and while you’re everywhere, I admit in the darkness of my heart that some days it feels like you’re nowhere. Do you understand me? Do you know me? I know it’s selfish to ask because I know you do, but what’s the link from me to you in the weariness, my Abba?

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Oh, my Abba, my understanding Father who has bridged the gap forever, I know that I will continue to fall, continue to grow weary, continue to chafe in the long seasons with no rest; but I trust in the peace of your presence. I trust that you can make the weight light for the sake of your Light. I trust that you’ll give me the strength to keep running the race you’ve set before me; and when I fall again, as I know I will, I trust you’ll bridge the gap for me with your sympathetic, gracious love that knows no bounds.

I may never get to see the relief of trouble in my lifetime, dear Father, but I pray that you would help me to always see you—even in the darkest times.

Pressing on . . . moment by moment.

Ewoldt Family {left to right} Karsten, Bob, Aidan, Chase, Ellie, and Darcy

Chase Away Cancer by Ellie Poole Ewoldt

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You may think you know how this cancer story goes. The characters: a little boy, a loving family, the team of doctors. The diagnosis: terminal, little hope for a cure. There are two possible outcomes. Will his family be plunged into extreme sorrow or miraculous joy?

What if the answer was both?

Ellie Poole Ewoldt debuts with a memoir of desperate hope and fierce love; of a family who refused to give up even when they heard the worst possible news for their two-year-old son, Chase. Moment by moment, the Ewoldts faced brain surgery and chemo, spinal taps and transfusions. And yet, the true miracle lay not in the medicine or Chase’s prognosis—rather, Chase’s life shows us the miracle of hope, even through the darkest nights. If there is anything he and the Ewoldts have learned, it is that God is always good and will stay at your side through every moment, no matter what it holds.

You’ll fall in love with Chase through his story and be inspired to help chase away cancer—for this headstrong boy, his fighting friends, and all those in your own life who need hope for whatever tomorrow may bring.

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