Editor’s Note: If you haven’t read the first part of Haley’s story, you should know that in the past year she’s fought the battle with Cancer and won! It makes this part of her story even sweeter to share.
Walking into the hospital today gave me a different feeling than it has the last ten months.
In the past I have walked in worried, exhausted, and sick. I always walked in dreading what was to come in the next several hours. It mostly consisted of having ‘poison’ shot into my body through IVs, being poked and prodded by several needles, and sitting in a room full of people doing the exact same thing.
After having spent the last ten months of my life battling cancer, the oncology ward has been a place where I could be my real self; someone who is quite literally fighting for her life and trying to maintain sanity in the process.
My journey has been full of moments, good and bad.
Today I walked in with my head held high, eager for what the day was going to bring. I wasn’t there to get treatments. I wasn’t there to get any sort of scans. I was there to hang out in the pediatric oncology wing as a person who has won her bout with cancer, but wants to journey alongside those who are still fighting.
As soon as I walked in, the familiar, friendly faces of receptionists, nurses, doctors, and patients greeted me. I started by checking into the volunteer station, receiving a pass that allowed me to have access throughout the whole wing.
I knew where I wanted to go first.
During my treatments at this hospital, I was astounded by the courage of a 4-year-old boy who sat in the chair across the room. The first time I met him, he was stuffing a Whoopie Cushion under the seat of my dear friend, Sheraya, and ran back to sit in anticipation of what was to come.
In that moment, I felt relieved. Relieved that this place, commonly known as hell on earth, could be a place of laughter and joy.
I could only hope that today I would bring that same joy to the face of this sweet little guy when I came to hang out with him.
As I walked towards his room, the nurse walked out looking a bit flustered. I asked her what was wrong and she replied, “He is refusing treatment today. He is literally fighting it with squirming and tears.”
This broke my heart.
I just wanted to turn and leave because I did not know if I could face this little boy without breaking down. I know what it feels like to want to refuse treatment because you often wonder how this poison could possibly be helping your body. In that moment, the hospital was the last place I wanted to be.
Instead I whispered under my breath, “Use me Lord. Help him see Your Joy through me.”
Upon entering the room, I walked over and joined him on his bed. All he said before he started bawling was, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
As I fought back the tears from streaming down my face, all I could muscle out while holding him gently was,
“I know, buddy. I know.”
We sat in silence for several minutes before he asked, “If I stop doing this medicine, does that mean I get to meet Jesus sooner? Grandma told me that she got sick because Jesus really wanted to meet her.”
I couldn’t help but smile, nod, and say, “I bet Jesus would love to meet you! Let’s play a game though. If Jesus were here with you right now, where do you think he would want to take his medicine?” He replied, “He would want a castle!”
The closest thing to a castle I could think of was a fort, so I started building one with a blanket and some chairs in the room.
His face lit up like I have never seen before. So I asked, “What if Jesus joined us in the castle today to take our medicine?”
And that was all it took for him to agree.
While the nurses got him settled into his fort with a seat for Jesus right next to him, I was able to sneak out for a bit to go to the other kids doing art therapy in the other room.
I sat back and watched and, as I did, I became fixated on the one-year-old who seemed to be having the time of his life. His hair was gone, he was very skinny and frail, and he was hooked up to a chemo machine.
As a tear rolled down my face I wondered if he even knew what was going on.
This hospital has made me grow in ways that I never thought were possible.
I have had moments where I wanted to scream, cry, and give up. But then there were the moments that I couldn’t stop laughing and the moments of celebration. But today was nothing like I have ever felt before. Today was the day that this place of pain also became a home.
I had butterflies as I watched the employees work with the families and patients with grace and hopefulness.
The kids here need hope and support. They need someone who understands what they are going through and are willing to just be present during the moments they want to give up, and the moments where they are crying from laughing so hard.
I could only imagine Jesus walking around this hospital doing just that.
If we go through trials in order to become more Christ-like (Romans 8:30), maybe this trial of mine has provided me with a “calling.”
This day was the moment I realized what I want to do for the rest of my life.
[Photo: Alex E. Proimos, Creative Commons]