3/21/10

Gerald and Michael

Cancer sucks. There is no way around it. Burkitts Lymphoma is in a league of its own. Over the past few days my heart hasn’t stopped aching and my eyes haven’t stopped welling up as I think about this terrible disease. This cancer is found mainly (90%) in subsaharn Africa and is spawned from the terrible effects of poverty. This disease affects malnourished children whose bodies are immunocompromised from either multiple cases of malaria and/or because of HIV. Burkitt’s is a VERY aggressive type of non hodgkins lymphoma. The cancer cells multiply very quickly and within 6 months the child can die. The sad reality is that the treatment for this is a two-dollar vial of chemotherapy given once a month for 6-10 treatments. If started immediately upon diagnosis the patients’ chance of survival is great.
Some of you may remember that earlier this year Suzanne and I had been working on making this Burkitt’s program an ‘on ship program’. God placed this idea in Suzanne’s heart after seeing this disease time and time again while working with palliative care last year in Benin. She ran into many difficulties while working with local hospitals. Because of these frustrations we decided to try and make this an On ship program for better control and outcomes. But God had bigger plans and the “on ship program” was denied.
So instead we created an Off Ship Burkitt’s program where we will partner with local hospitals. This program will be more sustainable and effective than an On Ship program. By educating the hospital staff and working with them we will not only help the few patients that Mercy Ships sees but we help the 100’s that come after we have gone. God’s thoughts and ways are SOOO much higher than our own.

So why the short lesson on Burkitts? Two reasons:
Gerald Male 4 years old lives in Northern Togo, brought to Mercy Ships after dental team spotted him while giving fillings to his uncle. Mass on right side of maxilla confirmed to be Burkitt’s Lymphoma.

Michael Male 2 years old lives in Northern Togo brought in during one of the screenings by his Mother. Protruding left eye/orbit confirmed to be Burkitt’s Lymphoma.


Both of these boys within two weeks went from looking completely normal to having these huge rapidly growing tumors pushing through their face.
As Suzanne and I prayed for each of these boys we were filled with nervousness, excitement and anticipation at the start of this program.
Now this is the point of the story where I could go into all the nitty gritty of Friday’s events but instead I will just say that throughout the day Suzanne and I ran into many walls and frustrations. Getting the patients admitted, wanting to do more unneeded tests, wanting to redo tests we already did, not willing to give the chemotherapy until Monday, not understanding the urgency of needing to start treatment, not being taken seriously because we were two white nurses… the list could go on and on.
As we walked through the pediatric unit at Tokoin my heart continued to break as I saw all the other patients dying before my eyes. Skin and bones, flies all around, the smell of urine, ughhh… As we helped settle in Gerald and Michael another mother turned to us and said what about my boy? Why cant you help my boy? My heart ripped out of my chest. God help me. What do I do? What would you do? How much is it for food, clothes, and medicine? How many lives could I save? How much is a life worth? Where do you push forward and where do you step back?

I felt so helpless, weak, struck down. I was exactly where God wanted me. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God be my strength, my hope, my love.
As I looked around at all these little kids and their desperate families I thought God please shine your light and love in this place. In Matthew 6:26 Jesus says “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not more valuable then they.” As my heart lay on the ground and my eye sockets ran out of tears to cry I thought if this is how I feel, imagine how God feels. I just met these kids, but God created them and they are his children. He weeps with us, he hears our prayers and knows our hearts.
Even in these dark places, God is shining his light. Even through these trials God is preparing us for something more. After these past three days I have a deeper desire and passion to serve God and his children. God has taught me through these past few days the importance of education, compassion, but also he has prepared me for the many walls I will hit as I go out to serve him and to love his children. Gerald and Michael are two examples of why we need to go out and serve and care for one another in love.
The devil is tricky and would love to push us down but God will use these trials and persecutions for His good.
1 Peter 1:7~ These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.

8 comments:

Anthony J. Courtemanche said...

Becca,

Whose heart cannot ache at such suffering? We can't help but ask 'Why'?

When I read your blog and asked "Why?" myself, I was immediately reminded of I Cor 13:4-13.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."


I think there is injustice and suffering we will never understand fully in this life. Yet God places us where He wills, never giving us more than we can endure in His will. The example of Christ teaches us that the one thing that we can be sure of is how much God loves his children, despite what it appears to us in daily circumstances or horrific tragedies.

Thank you for honestly sharing with us where God has placed you. May He continue to bless you for your service on the front line. We are praying for you and your ministry in Togo.

--Anthony

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Becca - I know NO ONE that has a heart bigger than yours. I truly commend you for the work you are doing - beyond amazing!! I would cry everyday!! When I read your posts and see the pictures my heart breaks and is filled with joy all at the same time (sadness for the people that you cannot help happiness for those who would continue to suffer without you) I am grateful to continuously be reminded of how lucky I am!!

My prayers are with you and the new program you are trying to start - good luck, I hope it's nothing but successful :-) As you say, God has bigger plans for that idea you and Suzanne had - something that will be there after you are gone in 6 months!!

I miss you terribly and think of you often!

Keep Smiling Darling!!

~Jess

Eleanore said...

What a brave girl you are, Becca. When I see pix of Gerald and Michael I wonder at your strength and devotion at such a young age, your selflessness in reaching out to them with caring hands and practical solutions rather than shrinking back from such an ugly disease. You are a real threat to the Enemy because your faith that God is with you and will deliver you through this trying time has allowed you to call on your prayer warriors to intercede for you, allowing us to take part in the battle. God bless you as you continue to walk in obedience to His call on your life.

Love,
Eleanore

Eleanore said...

What a brave girl you are, Becca. When I see pix of Gerald and Michael I wonder at your strength and devotion at such a young age, your selflessness in reaching out to them with caring hands and practical solutions rather than shrinking back from such an ugly disease. You are a real threat to the Enemy because your faith that God is with you and will deliver you through this trying time has allowed you to call on your prayer warriors to intercede for you, allowing us to take part in the battle. God bless you as you continue to walk in obedience to His call on your life.

Love,
Eleanore

Janet N said...

Sweet Becca,

You are such an example to your "state-side" brothers and sisters. Your post made me weep, but also cling tighter to the One who is sovereign over all suffering. And perhaps there is the mercy--that it forces us back into His arms and humbles our arrogant need for pat answers.

Blessings, dear one. You are in my prayers, and in our hearts. We miss you very much!!!!

Janet

Carol said...

Becca,

I learned of your blog via my daughter Maggie's blog as she serves with you onboard the Africa Mercy. My prayers will increase for you all as it seems the devil will try to discourage you. Know you are right where you are suppose to be to provide comfort and healing to the ones He chose before you even knew their names.

Psalm 138:3
3 In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.


Praying on,

Carol Schrenk

luc said...

dear becca - thank you for sharing with us the story of gerald and michael - these children need the help of the supporters of mercy ships - i started fundraising in belgium as volunteering boardmember and was visiting the africa mercy in june - you can see my pictures on my blog (in dutch):
http://luc-mercy.blogspot.com/