September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Each day I will feature a different guest blogger who will generously share their personal experience with childhood cancer. Stories are always more potent than statistics. The hope is that by learning about children with cancer, readers will be more invested in turning their awareness into action.
By Jessica Edenfield
I knew that children got cancer too, but I couldn't imagine my child getting cancer until it happened. In one day I went from "I can't imagine," to "Oh. Wow."
Silas, my youngest son, was just 3 1/2 years old when he was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma, a rare childhood liver cancer. Literally only about one in a million children are diagnosed with this deadly disease each year worldwide. There are few known risk factors, and my little Silas had none of them.
Silas was a happy boy, full of energy and life. He loved his brothers, sea turtles, Jesus, and the color gold. Gold wasn't always his favorite color. That happened because of the cancer. You see, gold is the color for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the color of Heaven.
We fought Cancer for thirteen months with chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and even some natural remedies. Nothing worked. The beast shrugged off everything we threw at it and continued to take over my little boys body. Thirteen months after he was diagnosed, they told us there was no "curative treatment."
It took me a few minutes to understand what they were saying.
I was in the room with three doctors telling me that although they had removed all obvious tumors only a month before, my now four year old little boy had nearly fifteen new tumors and they did not know how to cure him. My husband and Silas' brothers were downstairs waiting for us to be finished with the appointment. This was not the news we were expecting. This was just a follow up visit! We were totally blindsided.
When we told Silas that the doctors didn't know how to make his cancer go away, and we thought that maybe God was getting ready to take him to Heaven, he said "And get my new body!!??! Yay! I can't wait to have a new body!" He was beaming ear to ear smiling. There was such joy in his response, he was not afraid.
We had always spoken to Silas about Heaven, since he was a baby. We had many more conversations about it as his time to go there grew closer. We answered his questions openly and honestly. We told him what we knew of Heaven and when we didn't know, we told him he'd have to find out when he got there. He said his favorite things about Heaven were the streets made of gold and that he would get a new body in Heaven, a body free from cancer, pain, suffering, tubes, and IV lines.
One day, while lying on my arm in bed, Silas asked me to tell everyone "to paint their nails gold for childhood cancer awareness." I posted this simple message on his Facebook page. A simple request, surely many people could do this. I had no idea this idea would take off! Within a day people started sending me photos of their fingernails and toe nails painted gold -- men, women, and children! Even a few dogs and horses sported gold! People said "I painted my nails gold for Silas."
I told him this and showed him pictures, but his reaction was not what I expected. He shouted "NO! Not for me! I am going to Heaven soon and I won't have cancer anymore, they have to paint their nails gold for the other kids with cancer!" I shared what he said and after that thousands of people signed on to his Facebook page and painted their nails gold, making many more people aware of childhood cancer.
I think that God took a lifetime worth of grace, compacted it, and gave it to Silas all at once for his not quite five years of life. He was wise beyond those years and he really lived -- more in his short life than many have lived in 100 years! Everyone who met him loved him, even many who never met him, but heard his story. He had the most contagious smile.
Silas lived 2 1/2 months after the doctors said they could not cure him. Those months were filled with much joy for our family, but also much heartache as we knew we would not have him for much longer. It hurt worse than anything to see him in so much pain, to see his body being taken over by the cancer. I will never forget the amazing smile that came across his face when I showed him his package of nail polish and the bottom of the bottle labeled "Silas Gold." His eyes lit up and he smiled so brightly as he said "That's my name!"
Rocking in my arms, he took his last breath just ten days before his fifth birthday. We celebrated his birthday several times over those last couple of months, but he always told me "My real birthday is going to be at home in Heaven." He knew.
Silas cannot be replaced. My arms will always ache for him. It has only been a little over a month since he went "home to Heaven," as he said it. The tears still fall.
I think there is a cure out there. I think there is a reason so many children get cancer. We just do not have all of the answers yet. Silas is cancer free now, running down the streets of gold in his new Home in Heaven. But I hope and pray that you never have to know the pain of fighting cancer with your child. Be aware. Kids get cancer too.
Awareness. Support. Funding. Cure. Hope.
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