Childhood cancer brought the presence of God in ways they never knew existed.
Cancer is no way to spend a childhood.
In mid-2017, I received news that rattled me to the core. My sweet friend shared her little boy was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer. As a mother of two young girls, my heart immediately skipped a beat–or five.
I remember mentioning this family in my morning devotions until my journaling came to a fierce halt as I sobbed. The tears would not stop falling. Yes, it was the ugly, uncontrollable kind of bawling you never want anyone to witness.
How are my friends truly doing? How are they carrying this unbelievably gigantic weight on their shoulders? What if this were my child–how would I respond to this kind of devastation? What kind of conversations would I have with my heavenly Father. The honest thought racing through my mind was, Please, God, may this never happen to my child.
Fast forward four months later, our eldest daughter, Bridgette, at the age of eight, was diagnosed with germinoma which is a type of brain tumor cancer located on her pituitary gland. Childhood cancer quickly gained our utmost attention. We were introduced to a medical community that soon became “Team Bridgette.”
Top doctors, skilled nurses, technicians, social workers, child life specialists, school advocates, and psychologists entered the Czarnecki hub becoming like family. Masks and disinfectant were popular items in our home long before COVID-19. Blood transfusions and platelets were common along with surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Keep It Real
We explained to Bridgette that there would be hard days. Our desire was to be upfront giving her mostly necessary details as to not overwhelm her. We could not sugarcoat this situation because pain, whether physical, emotional, or mental are real and should not be ignored or dismissed.
Her treatments kept her from attending school and interacting with friends and family beyond FaceTime. She missed her younger sister who was cared for by loving family and friends when we couldn’t be in two places at once. In no way did we want her to bear this cross alone. However, our own strength could only carry her so far.
My husband, Jeremy and I had a conversation about our faith in this challenging journey. We knew that this was a defining moment for our family and recognized there was a distinct difference between believing in Jesus and believing Jesus. That day, we chose to believe Jesus and have zero regrets even on the crummiest day. We made Jesus front and center.
We chose to look for opportunities to be on “mission” as I called it. There were times Bridgette was admitted to the hospital due to unexplained fevers and we purposely kept our eyes wide open for opportunities to pray with people or share our love for Jesus. After all, who could resist a bald child with curious blue eyes offering to pray over you?
Working Through the Why
To this day, we never asked why God allowed her to battle through cancer. This is not because we possess perfect, unwavering faith without any trace of fear. Jesus made a bold statement declaring that in this world we will have trouble, but to take heart for He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
We hung on to truths found in scripture believing He is our ever-present help, sovereign over all, our portion and strength, the Living Water, our Divine Healer, and Victorious King. We did believe wholeheartedly that the Lord could heal Bridgette. His power is limitless. We also knew that God had complete authority to deliver her from this disease straight into His loving arms.
Although we desired healing on earth, we recognized that if God was Lord and Master of our lives, our trust in Him was paramount. Whatever the outcome, our hearts and minds remained steadfast.
The Lord called me into music ministry as a Christian singer and songwriter at the age of 14. God used music to bind my heart to His. During this season, the Holy Spirit gifted me with this simple prayer in lyrical form:
May the cry of my voice reach the center of Your heart, Every doubt be silenced by great faith, May Your healing flow, God let it fall like rain. Jesus, hold my everything.
Childhood Cancer Community
Over the course of Bridgette’s cancer journey, we had the great pleasure of meeting families faced with similar battles. We noticed how many people were barely surviving. Marriages were struggling. Medical bills were piling up and jobs were hanging in the balance. They were depleted and without hope. They felt as if their prayers were ignored and were literally scared out of their minds.
Many did not know Jesus personally, but some of these precious folks were fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In no way did we even begin to judge or compare circumstances.
Each cancer fight is unique. No tumor is the same. Reactions to medications and treatments vary in every patient. We celebrated with children who received the gift of healing and wept with families whose children are now in the presence of Jesus–completely and perfectly healed.
We decided to simply listen, hold the hand of trembling mothers, and stretch our hands over sick children–praying for God to intervene, sending text messages of compassion, empathy, and understanding, but never trying to fix their situation. Instead, we sat in the heavy moments with them without offering solutions or promises. Only God Himself could do that. Although, we did our best to gently remind them we have a Father who is near to the brokenhearted and that He alone can be trusted.
Getting Through the Tough Times
In His goodness, Jesus chose to heal Bridgette. She has been cancer-free for several years. At a recent check-up, her doctors said her scans were “boring.”
Today, Bridgette is a vibrant, Spirit- filled teenager passionate about sharing her testimony.
She began a Bible prayer group at her public school that meets during lunch. She encourages her friends, teachers, and leaders by reminding them that God is their Anchor in the storm.
Both of my daughters expressed that not one person could ever tell them that God does not exist. They experienced His presence in ways beyond imagination. Although no parent welcomes difficult trials into the lives of their children, I am convinced this hardship has allowed our girls to endure and will empower them to step into their future with blessed assurance.
This will be their story. This will be their song–praising their Savior all the day long.
© 2022 by Mandie Pinto. All rights reserved. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.