I will lift up my eyes to the hills - from when comes my help? ... My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.
On Sunday March 6th 2011, my husband, Tim and I were thrust into a trial – one which we never expected nor could have imagined. Our 3rd child, Cameron (aged 6 at the time) had been vaguely unwell for a number of months, off and on. He had been having low-grade fevers, intermittent abdominal pain, and just prior to diagnosis he developed fatigue and a rash called Petichiae (a rash which appears due to a low platelet count).
As people talk in detail of their whereabouts on September 11th 2001, the same can be said of the day we were informed our boy had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.
We had an inkling that something was wrong when he wanted to be held on my knee at dinner, then lay down after the meal. The low-grade fever came in the evening, accompanied by heavy sweats, then suddenly, a rash which wouldn’t blanch when we held a glass to him.
Tim took him to the local Emergency Room. I stayed home with Cameron’s siblings, still believing that he would arrive back from the hospital fighting fit, and everything would be just fine.
One hour later I received a call from Tim: “Naomi, they have a needle in his arm and they’re doing blood tests.” My reply was “Oh, ok. Phone me, then, when you know more,” part of me not believing it could be anything more than a common childhood illness, and yet another part of me knowing that Leukaemia was a very real possibility.
He called back within a few minutes with the news that it was indeed serious. He had Leukaemia.
Disbelief, utter dependence upon God and emotions I’d never experienced before flooded my soul. I recall asking Tim to repeat it all and saying “What are we going to do?” “I need to be with him.” “What’s going to happen?” I don’t thinking I’ve ever experienced a feeling of needing to be with someone in such a strong sense.
From a healthy, strong and active little boy, we were now nursing a child who was doing very poorly. Our great need and dependence upon God’s help in the next hours, days and weeks was the air that we breathed. Three days after his diagnosis, we were told that he was also high-risk and was placed on the most intensive treatment regimen.
'Only your restless heart keep still
and wait in cheerful hope, content
in taking what His gracious will,
His all-discerning love, has sent;
for all our inmost needs are known
to Him who chose us for His own.’
‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord…’ Psalm 20:7
The Psalms became a great source of comfort to us – there they were, full of examples of David calling upon God for aid in time of need and trial. We didn’t read much else. Most mornings we woke up to emails of Scripture-filled encouragement from God’s people. We found in the distractions of a busy hospital ward that being spoon-fed God’s word was such a help. Dear saints from across the globe upheld us in prayer; those close to us sent meals to the hospital where Cameron spent a month isolated from visitors. His appearance changed on a daily basis from the harsh effects of chemotherapy and steroids.
Tim reminded me of the events which took place in the life of Abraham and Isaac.
Genesis chapter 22:
Some time later, God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
There he was, this great man being called to sacrifice his son! We can observe Abraham approach this painful trial with much faith. Effectively he said, “Here is the child you blessed me with – I place him into your hands, Lord.” As we know, the story ends well. Isaac was a test of Abraham’s faith.
We found ourselves in a similar situation. We knew all the risks of treatment, but we needed to give him this treatment. It was a matter of life or death, but we HAD to place Cameron into our Father’s hands.
As we cried out to God for His help, His comfort and healing, we felt compelled to remind Him of reasons why He should heal Cameron and give him length of days.
Hannah cried out to God for the gift of a child, so she could give him back to God! We believe that although her situation was different – she was childless – we had children – the same principle applied. We asked God to give us our child – let us keep our son so that we can train him up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and that maybe one day God would use him for His glory.
There were many occasions when we asked God “Why?” We still do at times – but does not scripture command us to trust in Him? Job, The Psalmist and Christ himself all asked “Why?” at times? We learned that is it ok to ask Him “Why?” and for us to wait upon Him to reveal His ways to us - but it is not ok for the believer to be bitter and un-accepting of any situation into which He has placed us. To have freedom to seek His face and ask “Why did you allow this to happen?” “Why did you choose us, and Cameron?” - - this was liberating to us!
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:1-4
Though-out this year and a half, we have experienced His goodness and His great compassion – and we are full of gratefulness.
Half-way through his 3 years of treatment, the intensive phase now over, Cameron has coped well and seems to be responding positively. He is full of energy, at times! (Though his journey is not yet complete, and he still has difficulties due to side-effects) We look back upon this dark, but blessed era in our lives, not with much pain and sadness but as a time when God revealed His ways to us – and while we would not have chosen His ways in this instance – they are always best.
C.S Lewis said, ‘We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.’ He always does the best for those who love Him, but He has promised to comfort us in our distresses!
He taught us (and is still teaching us) to be more appreciative of small things in life which can be so easily taken for granted; just being able to be together as a family was a blessing.
Even in the darkness (the contemplation that we could lose Cameron, and the separation from the rest of our children), we can now say:
‘I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders’ Psalm 77:6
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders’ Psalm 77:6
The words of this song are apt.
‘Is the midnight closing round you?
Are the shadows dark and long?
Ask Him to come close beside you
And He’ll give you a new sweet song.
He’ll give it and sing it with you;
And when weakness lets it down
He’ll take up the broken cadence
And blend it with His own.
And many a rapturous minstrel
Among those sons of light
Will say of his sweetest music,
‘I learned it in the night.’
And many a rolling anthem,
That fills the Father’s home
Sobbed out its first rehearsal
In the shade of a darkened room.’
~ Author Unknown
Naomi Millar has been married to Tim, a science teacher, for fourteen years. They have four children, Bethan (13), Jacob (11), Cameron (8) and Rhiannon (5). They are members of Magherafelt Reformed Baptist Church in Northern Ireland. Naomi is a full time mother and a very part time piano tutor/accompanist.