In the last two years I have cried until I feared my heart would burst and I have laid awake at night worrying. Why? The answer is simple my 8 year old son has Leukaemia.
I will never forget the words of the doctor in January 2014, “We have got Evan’s blood results and they are showing some abnomalities and we know from these abnormalities that Evan has Leukaemia.” Our son who had been playing football one day earlier was seriously ill. We were not allowed to take him home as treatment had to start immediately. There followed five weeks of intensive Chemotheropy and steroid treatment in hospital and the child we brought home was unrecognisable. Evan was unable to sit up without help, he needed to be carried to the toilet and hand fed. His hair was falling out and he had a feeding tube in his nose for us to give his medicines and extra feeds.
During those first weeks it is fair to say we were in a state of shock, it felt like we were leading another family’s life and I did half expect a doctor to appear and say that they had made a mistake and Evan was fine. Over the following months we tried to make family life for our two girls as normal as is possible when one or other parent and their brother were in and out of hospital for treatments. Evan is now two thirds through his treatment, he is on lower doses of Chemotherapy and back at school when well. He has good days and bad days, so our life is getting back to normal or a new normal as a friend called it.
I would like to put straight a misconception about families like ours who have a sick child. People often say things like, “you’re an amazing family,” or “you are so brave.” We are no different from your family, no braver or any more amazing. We are coping and at times it feels like our family could fall apart at any minute. So you are probably wondering why I have a called this article Joy, Well there have been moments of true happiness, Evan walking again for the first time, taking him for his first hair cut and a trip to meet his favourite team, Chelsea, to name a few.
Over this time I have come to the realisation that in the deepest depths of sadness, as a Christian I have been able to stand in our church and sing with real joy to my Saviour. I believe there is a difference between joy and happiness, hence my ability to feel joyful as I praise God when I am at times unhappy. The story of Paul, a follower of Jesus, is told in the Bible. It tells us how Paul and his friend Silas were chained up in prison and things were looking pretty dire for them. (The story is told in Acts chapter 16 verses 22 to 25.) They could not have been happy about their situation and yet the Bible says they sang to their Lord with Joy. As I sing at church I still feel the sadness of my son’s illness and at times I feel angry that this has happened to our family, but I sing with joy because I have a God who is with me even in the darkest times and who leads me forward one day at a time.
So I can sing the words of the Matt Redman song with the knowledge that it’s a good thing we don’t know what the day will bring, but if we can still be singing praise in the midst of all our trials then that is true JOY.