Four Words No Parent Wants To Hear

Four words no parent wants to hear

by Jim Lyke, Milton, Wis.


“Your child has leukemia.”

I sat numb in the hospital room as the doctor explained that my 21-year-old daughter’s blood test contained cells that 95% of the time are an indication of acute leukemia. He assured us that the diagnosis wasn’t a death sentence, that treatment had advanced in the last decade, that there were lots of reasons to be optimistic.

Of course, there was still a 5% chance that her illness was an infection of some sort, so an MRI was scheduled for the next day, not to mention a spinal tap and a bone marrow biopsy. The bone marrow biopsy was the critical test, the one that would positively confirm (or rule out) leukemia.

Various thoughts swirled. How do we tell our son? How do I tell my mother? If she needs a bone marrow transplant, can I be the donor?

How quickly things had changed in the span of about 60 hours. Two days before, Corrine had been at a farm in northern Minnesota, the site of her summer employment, when she suddenly passed out. It was the culmination of a week in which she progressively experienced symptoms that included headaches, fatigue, insomnia and night sweats.

My wife and I dropped everything on a moment’s notice and drove over 13 hours to bring her home.

Obviously something was wrong, but leukemia? We weren’t prepared for that, and we are a family that’s had our share of cancer. My mother-in-law lost her battle with it last fall. It also struck my children’s other three grandparents, with only one surviving the ordeal. And just the week before, my wife’s sister had a melanoma removed from her leg.

Leaving our daughter at the hospital, my wife and I went home—scared, tired and stressed. We stood together and prayed. I stood hand-in-hand with Linda as she prayed that the bad blood cells would disappear.

I’m a believer in prayer, but I found myself doubting that such an outcome was possible, and that we needed to be concerned now with healing. I kept those thoughts to myself as she prayed and then emailed our church’s prayer chain, requesting that everyone ask for the same miracle.

The following day, the bad cells disappeared.

All of Corrine’s subsequent blood tests showed no evidence of the cells that led to the initial leukemia diagnosis. We didn’t know for certain until the biopsy results confirmed it, but within a day of that terrible news, several signs gave us confidence it wasn’t cancer. Instead, it was a nasty virus that should have no long-term effects.

So was it a miracle? Did God answer the prayers that we and so many others had made on my daughter’s behalf?

Non-Christians—and perhaps many Christians—will say it was pure coincidence; that it was simply a case of medical personnel misreading the first blood test and drawing an incorrect conclusion.

Others may say we’re being presumptuous. Why are we so special that God would answer our prayers and not those of others? Only God can say why some prayers are answered with a yes, and others are not.

We don’t know His plans for us, but the Bible is peppered with verses that encourage us to pray and to offer petitions. Those passages are obviously there for a reason.

Some think I should be incredibly incensed that on the basis of one initial test, a doctor told us with almost absolute certainty that my daughter had cancer. It would be easy to feel that way. His explanation and his delivery of the news was not handled well. Based on what he had seen, however, that was the logical conclusion.

Regardless, what the doctor said to us in that hospital room is not important now. What is important is that my child does not have leukemia.

And, that 95 percent is still less than 100.


       Jim and Linda Lyke are members of the Milton, Wis., Seventh Day Baptist Church. This first appeared in The Janesville Messenger, August 18, 2013.

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