Gratitude

As rough as the last few months have been—and as rough as Kohen’s rehabilitation and continued chemotherapy will be—we’ve been granted opportunities that remind us others have it far worse than we do. 

Like the little girl at the hospital (no more than two years older than Kohen) who has no legs below the knees and no arms beyond the elbows. Or like the parents who are spending weeks and months in the hospital waiting and hoping for an organ donation so their child’s life can be spared. Or the little kid across from Kohen’s room in ICU who passed away. 

All of these examples served to keep us from wallowing in pity for our own family’s plight, and they reminded me of the story about the man who lamented his lot in life because he was too poor to buy shoes, until the day he saw the man who had no feet.

This brings me to the subject of gratitude.

My wife and I are grateful beyond words for the mercy God has shown us throughout this ordeal, even during the times of greatest darkness and despair. It’s been a mercy we neither expected, nor deserve. 

In this spirit of gratitude, we wanted to take a moment to extend our gratitude to everyone who’s played a part in Kohen’s recovery so far. We are nowhere near done, but so many individuals and organizations have come together to assist us, it’s been a tremendous sight to behold. 

However, I’ve been fearful about doing this because I know I will leave someone out. It’s almost better to not publish this post than to unintentionally fail to mention even one person, but I trust if I neglected to mention you, you will forgive me and understand that our lives have been a whirlwind lately. There have been so many people who have helped and encouraged us, and in the chaos that has been our life for the past four-and-a-half months, sometimes our attempts at thanking each of you individually (and in this post) slips through the cracks. Please know our hearts and intentions are pure in this endeavor, and forgive us if we’ve forgotten you.

Thank you to all the family, friends, coworkers, and total strangers who have donated to help Kohen and alleviate some of the expenses of this ordeal for our family. The burden you have helped ease will never be forgotten.

Thank you to those who have taken on the task of watching our other children while we’re in Utah, as well as when Kohen and mommy are in chemotherapy and daddy has to go to work.

Thank you to those who have coordinated fundraisers on Kohen’s behalf, including Deacon Carlo & Debbie Managlia for hosting a fundraiser dinner, and Melissa Thomson for the “Kohen’s Warriors” t-shirt fundraiser. 

Thank you to those who’ve spread the word about Kohen’s plight, and thank you to those who’ve purchased the “Kohen’s Warriors” t-shirts.

Thank you to all the families who have provided meals for our family.

Thank you to all the doctors and nurses at Renown Hospital in Reno, Nevada who helped Kohen through his first 1/3 of Chemotherapy treatments.

Thank you to Dr. Jones and his staff at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah for successfully removing the tumor from Kohen’s femur, and for the rotationplasty surgery that will allow him—with the aid of a prosthetic—to one day walk again, and live a normal life.

Thank you to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (our home away from home) and their wonderful staff for making our burden that much lighter while in Utah.

Thank you to all the families, groups, and organizations who made meals for all the families staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

Thank you to the Hartford, Connecticut SWAT Team for the gifts for Kohen (and making him an honorary SWAT member). 

Thank you to the Beverly Hills Police Department for the challenge coins

Thank you to Helping Hands and the Joshua Farler Foundation (both in Yerington, Nevada) for your donations.

Thank you to the Brooks Foundation of Reno, Nevada for your donation. 

Thank you to the Kiwanis Club of New Orleans for your donations.

Thank you to the Utah law enforcement agencies for all the swag, including the Salt Lake City Police Department, South Jordan PD, Herriman PD, and the Salt Lake City FBI. 

Thank you to Aimee Carr for all the hard work you did in procuring all the aforementioned Utah law enforcement paraphernalia.

Thank you to the Philadelphia schools for their gifts, cards, and encouragement from the students.

Thank you to the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation in Reno for all the financial support as well as all the technical support to assist us in navigating these unfamiliar waters (that have now become all too familiar to us).

Thank you to the Paterson, Powers, and Grimm families for helping to make our holidays brighter. 

Thank you to the employee from the Moran Eye Center in Salt Lake City who bought my lunch when I got lost in her building.

Thank you to the Give Hope Foundation of Northern Nevada for their generous donation.

Thank you to the Tic Toc Diner, Mr. Roos, Acropolis Restaurant, and Spudley’s Super Spuds for the donation boxes in their respective Louisiana establishments.

Thank you to the Louisiana State Troopers (A & B) and the Nevada Highway Patrol for the police swag. 

Thank you to the East Jefferson Business Assoc., Living Water, CBD Wealth Management, A-1 Signs, CBT Construction, Entrepreneur’s Source, Elm wood Storage & Wine Cellar, Jefferson Parish Performing Arts, Bavarian Wealth Management, N.O.Vative Printing, and Jefferson Republican Pachyderm, all of the great state of Louisiana.

Thank you to the anonymous cop who sent Kohen his State of Ohio Combat Cross medal, stating that he wanted Kohen to have it because Kohen is “fighting harder than I ever did.” 

Thank you to Dawnbusters Kiwanis of Louisiana for their generous donations.

Thank you to the numerous police agencies throughout the nation and the world (too many to list here) who also sent patches, shirts, challenge coins, cups, and other swag for Kohen. 

Thank you to the members of Fellowship Bible Church of Carson City for their continued support and encouragement.

Thank you to Parkside Bible Fellowship Church and Logos Christian Academy, both of Fallon, Nevada, for their generous donations and delicious meals.  

Those I’ve mentioned above and those who I’ve failed to mention (please forgive me), have helped us more than you may ever know, and I well up with emotion when I consider how much Kohen is cared for and how much time, money, and resources people have sacrificed on our behalf. We couldn’t have done it without all of you.

When this trial began it was my intention to repay everyone who donated to help us, but it quickly become so much, so fast, that I’ve had to concede that there’s no way I could ever repay you all. However, during this ordeal our eyes were opened to the world of cancer sufferers that–to my shame–had been under our noses all along; we just never realized it. But now we are cognizant of this subculture of suffering, and as soon as we get through this we’ll begin doing our part to pay all your generosity forward for future families that will be enduring this ordeal . . . but who just don’t know it yet.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!

Sarcoma, Suffering, and Sovereignty

As we rapidly approach the end of January, I reflect on what’s transpired up to this point. It seems like it was six months ago when we got the news that turned our world upside down. Unfortunately, we only just passed the two month anniversary.

Regardless of what the passage of time since then feels like or what it actually is, I can tell you for sure that it feels like I’ve aged five years in those two months.

During these past couple months I have longed for those beautiful moments of mercy. Those moments when the pain is eased, even momentarily. That’s why I’ve coveted even the normally mundane in my life, these blessed times of distraction like going to work, taking care of the kids, and helping to keep the home standing upright. I’ve also buried myself in my writing, determined to get my next book published sometime in late 2020 or early 2021.

Since finding out our youngest son has cancer (Osteosarcoma), it has been one trial after another, including a trip to another state for a biopsy, enduring the grueling ordeal of a fractured leg, and the joys of chemotherapy which includes our family being separated for extended periods of time (just to name a few of our trials).

We have learned to appreciate the little things that we once took for granted, and we are thankful for the moments of relief from the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual anguish that has been our constant companion since November 15, 2019.

We have been blessed by so many people—even complete strangers—during this time, we just can’t thank them all enough. So many people have helped us financially, with meals, with cards and letters of encouragement for Kohen, with gifts for our kids, and with being there for us during this incredibly difficult time, including a wonderful visit from friends who I haven’t seen in 21 years who drove in from California for a visit and to bring gifts for Kohen.

I understand the clay is not owed an explanation from the potter as to why Kohen got cancer, for who am I?

I shall not ask, as some are tempted to do, why do bad things happen to good people? I already know that answer. By God’s standards there are no good people, for none are good, not even one . . . myself and my family included. The more appropriate question to ask is how can God, who knows the wickedness of my heart, allow me to live another day?

Grace. That is why. And that is why I do not to seek an explanation for why this is happening. The fact that I have drawn another breath as I write this is a testament to His mercy. That fact that I have lived a long, comfortable life, and been blessed with a wonderful family when I deserve none of this, is a sign of His grace. And if Kohen survives this ordeal, it isn’t something any of us are owed, but it would be a blessing beyond what our meager words could express.

When things are going good, we’re oftentimes too busy to recognize His mercy in our blessings. And when tragedy strikes, we’re oftentimes too busy grieving to recognize His sovereignty in our suffering. But in all things, even in the storms, we are to give thanks to the Lord just as Job says:

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

In the whirlwind of chaos that has become the new normal for us, we have been blessed to experience God’s mercies in this storm. Like how our family intersected with other families who have suffered the ravages of cancer and who have now become a support to us, including one of their children who survived cancer now being able to provide direct help to our son at the hospital.

During this storm we’ve also had the opportunity to experience the comfort of God’s sovereignty. On December 11, 2019, while Kohen was on his second day of his first round of chemotherapy in the hospital, he fractured his leg. As you can probably imagine, this became an even greater challenge for us. We quickly discovered that trying to perform even the slightest of movements caused excruciating pain for Kohen.

I remember being angry that this happened. It was just another layer of grief on top of a constantly growing mountain of tribulation. But once the dust settled I realized that—because of the tumor and the biopsy—it was only a matter of time before this break in Kohen’s leg would have happened. And then it occurred to me: by God’s sovereign grace Kohen didn’t fracture his leg at home. It happened at the hospital where all the treatment he needed could be immediately obtained. It was then I could see that behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

We are benefactors of unmerited grace, tender mercies, and the comforting sovereignty of God that reaches beyond our finite comprehension.

So, again, I don’t ask why this is happening to us, I only pray that we don’t miss the purpose of this trial when it’s finally revealed. It is also my prayer that through all of this we are being sanctified and can one day provide help and support to others in similar situations, like only those who’ve been through this themselves can do.