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.
A matter of belief
4 years ago