Hope Falls in Winter ~ Part 2

Lonely Tree in SnowA Note to My Readers ~ Three weeks ago, I sat down with my journal and began writing an account of my life over these last 2½ years—a season filled with one hardship after another for my precious family. Many tears fell as I remembered the difficult times. And yet, in the midst of the heartache, I saw many glimpses of hope and joy and peace. I saw God’s love and faithfulness to my family during this long season. He was there every moment. It’s my prayer that as you read the stories within this three-part series, you will also see the hope I found during this winter season. Please click here for the first part of this story.

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Certain dates and moments remain imprinted in my memory.

On February 28, 2011, my dad called me with wonderful news—a scope of his throat showed that the cancer was gone. Joy brimmed over as I celebrated my dad’s third victory against cancer.

A month later, uncertainty and worry tainted this joyous moment. A routine colonoscopy revealed that the same type of cancer in my dad’s throat was now in his colon. Highly unusual and concerning.

And then on April 14, 2011, devastating news catapulted my family into winter’s fury.

Another cancer diagnosis. This time, stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma, metastasized in my dad’s bones from his head to his knees.

Alone in my car, I wept uncontrollably as my mom delivered the doctor’s prognosis: four to six months to live without treatment, up to a year with treatment.

The days that followed remain hazy. Vague memories of my young son asking his dad why mommy was crying all the time. My mind unable to grasp what the future held for my family.

Dad

Photo taken of my dad while he was staying at CTCA and receiving radiation and chemo treatment.

And then a call from my mom.

My dad agreed to visit the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa for an evaluation and a second opinion.

I captured a wisp of HOPE and held it tight.

Maybe, just maybe, my dad could beat the cancer.

On Easter Sunday, my parents boarded a plane headed for Tulsa. A few days later, my mom called with the results of the evaluation.

The morsel of HOPE I’d been clinging to blossomed.

The doctors at CTCA believed there was a chance to get the cancer into remission. The battle for my dad’s life began that day—the fiercest my family has ever fought.

We almost lost my dad a week later when calcium leached into his blood and his kidneys began to shut down. He spent a week in the hospital, with a frightening visit to the intensive care unit.

But God carried my dad through this storm.

Hayden with Papa

My son with his grandpa {photo taken 7 months before my dad’s diagnosis of stage 1 throat cancer}

HOPE flourished.

In the days and weeks that followed, we cherished many moments together as a family. Laughter pierced through the agony of cancer, and visits by family and friends revived low spirits and restored old relationships. A legacy of faith unraveled before us as my dad drew closer and closer to Jesus. A peace that surpassed all understanding rested upon my dad, one that only Jesus could give.

Beautiful moments orchestrated by our loving God, cloaking us with HOPE.

And then winter’s icy breath delivered more heartbreaking news. My grandma—my dad’s mother—was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer two months after my dad’s diagnosis.

A month later in July 2011, family surrounded her bed in a small hospital room in Ohio as she faded from this life and into the arms of Jesus.

Many more prayers poured out for my dad as he continued to fight cancer—a fight resulting in more than a dozen areas in his body radiated, chemo treatments every few weeks, and the loss of his hair and mobility.

In mid-August, my dad came to stay with my family for a few days before he and I were to fly to Tulsa for his next chemo treatment.

We never did board that plane.

My dad’s health worsened, and he was admitted into the hospital, the calcium levels in his blood dangerously high and hampering his ability to function and think clearly.

Though the doctors gave no hope that my dad would recover, my family still clung to HOPE.

A HOPE for healing.

On the night of August 27th, a group of family and friends surrounded my dad’s bed and prayed for him. Oh, there was no mistaking the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the room that night. As we finished praying, I looked up at my dad. Though he was unable to speak, a tear tumbled down his cheek.

HOPE swathed and comforted us

as we still believed God could heal my dad.

Early the next morning my dad passed away, leaving this world to be in the sweet, glorious presence of Jesus. A peaceful departure after a hard fight.

Tears dampened faces and hearts broke over the loss of a beloved husband, father, grandfather, friend, and believer in Jesus.

And though the grief over this loss penetrated deep, so did HOPE.

HOPE in God’s promises

that those who believe in Jesus

have a citizenship in heaven (Philippians 4:20)

and that they will receive new bodies

made by God Himself (2 Corinthians 5:1).

As a family, we don’t understand the reasons healing never came.

But still, we hold onto the HOPE

that can only be found in trusting God.

In the weeks after my dad’s funeral, some family and friends expressed their concerns that the cancer center gave us “false” hope. But I don’t see it that way.

The whispers of HOPE by the doctors gave us the courage to fight for life, grew our faith and trust in God, and showcased to others the joy and peace of knowing and trusting God in the tough times of life.

The HOPE we treasured during this four month battle wasn’t in the doctors or their evaluations.

Our HOPE was in God alone.

~TO BE CONTINUED~

Please stop by tomorrow for 3rd and final part of this story.

9 comments on “Hope Falls in Winter ~ Part 2

  1. I am so sorry for your loss, Juliet! Your dad looked so young. You held onto hope when, in the natural, you shouldn’t have – that’s the faith of Abraham; it’s genuine faith and, despite the outcome, it was not false hope! For the rest of your life, you (God through you) will be a hope-giver.

    • Bill, thank you for your kindness, wisdom, and encouragement!! I miss my dad so much. I often have a deep longing to see him again, to hear his voice, to ask him for advice and wisdom, and to talk about spiritual things with him. I was so blessed to have a wonderful and loving dad. He left us a beautiful legacy of what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, especially during the last months of his life, and I will forever treasure that. I find peace and comfort in knowing that one day I’ll get to see him again.

      I want to take this moment to thank you for the hope you share in your blogposts. You are courageous and inspirational to many. Thank you for the blessings you give! :0)

  2. Hi Juliet, I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m sure it’s hard not having your Dad around. Despite the hardship that I’m sure it’s been, you still have a BEAUTIFUL perspective. Your message of hope is exactly what we all need to hear. No matter what is going on in our lives, we can always have hope in the Lord. I so appreciate your faith in God and your beautiful heart. Really, it is such a blessing for me to read your posts. Thanks for sharing your heart, Hannah 🙂

    • Hannah, thank you so much for your sweet and encouraging words!! You truly blessed me today! And I’m so thankful that we’ve connected through our blogs. :0)

  3. Oh, Juliet. Words cannot express how sorry I am for your loss. Excuse my language, but Cancer Sucks! I’m so, so sorry you had to endure this and lose some very important people.

    • Oh Pam, thank you so much! Cancer is nasty and I hate it. I pray for a cure so that other families don’t have to go through what yours and mine have.

  4. Wow…You sure have a strong faith. Thanks for sharing it! I’m sorry for you dad and truly admire your courage and your trust in God. My aunt has cancer right now and everyone in my family slowly stops hoping. Your post is a true inspiration to keep holding on and hope, no matter what the outcome is.
    I’ll keep passing by, this is a really great blog!

    • Jaeolin, my heart aches for you and your family. It is so difficult to watch someone you love fight cancer. It tests and tries you and those you love in ways you never imagined it could. Oh, I will be praying for you and your aunt and your family–for God’s healing touch on your precious aunt and for God to fill your family with hope.

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