Childhood cancer often wins the fight. Although more kids than ever are surviving, still thousands die every year. Not all the kids die from the cancer, many die from the treatments or infections that result from the severe immunosuppression produced by the treatments.
With leukemia, remission is not the hard part. Doctors have discovered a sure-fire way to get 98% of kids into remission within a month. A monumental discovery. [Of course, Harrison was in the 2% due to the rarity of his form of leukemia, but an experiment with Gleevec worked within two weeks]
But massive numbers of kids with leukemia relapse. Some relapses occur because the cancer mutates and becomes resistant to the chemo. Many more relapses happen because one or more cells survive the chemotherapy, usually by hiding in a “sanctuary site” such as the brain or the testes in boys. Three and a half years of chemo is supposed to be enough to get all of the cells, but often it isn’t.
We have been following the story of a twelve year old in California who’s inspired us since Harrison’s diagnosis. He showed determination in his fight against cancer, playing baseball and helping others. In so many ways he reminds me of Harrison.
In May, he completed his three and a half-year regimen of drug taking. Pictures on his website of him taking his last 6-MP pill (which he took EVERY NIGHT) were inspirational. I rejoiced internally with his parents; the long, hard journey was over.
But merely a month after completing treatment, he has relapsed. The monthly examination of his spinal fluid revealed two abnormal cells. Further studies confirmed an isolated late central nervous system relapse.
Go to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Back to the beginning
As bad as things can be, they can and do get worse. There is no certainty that things will turn out like anyone wishes.
But there is the certainty that our God is moving all things to a wonderful end. Scripture calls it the “eschaton,” the final and ultimate end in which God will restore all things through resurrection. The new heavens and new earth. A time, like in the beginning, where there is no more pain, sorrow, tears. And while our suffering here is real, it is nothing compared to the wonder of that Promised Land. This suffering is not the end God had in mind when he made all things, so he will see to it that suffering ends. We trust him to, in Christ, restore that place of unspeakable joy. Until then, he find peace in his presence. Our peace is his nearness to us.