“‘Told you I’d live.’
The first warm days of late spring were rolling in, in central Texas, and we had just finished up a trip to the lake with our family of 12. Little did we know that would be our final water adventure for the year.
The evening came to an end and my husband and I began our nightly journey going bedroom to bedroom for prayers, tuck-ins, and kisses. The older boys are typically last, because we spend more time talking with them, and just before we left their room we heard Brayden, our 11-year-old son, say, ‘wait.’
I’m going to pause for a moment and point out a monumental slice in time here. These were all of our final seconds of ‘innocence,’ so to speak. Sometimes I’ll even daydream about that mother and son. I like to explore their minds and witness their innocent joy, void of worry and fear, and lack of oncology knowledge.
‘Wait,’ he said. ‘Is this normal?,’ and as he turned his neck 90 degrees, a lump of tissue appeared to pop through. My first initial thought, as a mama of 10 children, was lymph node. Then, I touched it. Looking back, I knew.
The following day we were banging on the doctor’s office door at 8 a.m. Although the consensus was ‘pesky lymph node,’ I requested labs, scans, and anything else I could possibly think of. Our health-share needed weeks for upfront payment, as this was not considered urgent, so we threw a spout on our savings and opened up the floodgates.
On the way home that first morning B asked me if he had cancer. At that point in time we had no scientific reason to believe he did, so that is precisely what I told him. He looked deep into my soul and said, ‘Mama, it’s ok if I have cancer, God has a plan for everyone.’
Those aren’t words you ever forget. I will hear that little voice comforting me the rest of my life.
After diagnostics and labs, my husband and I decided to stop fooling around with these arbitrary diagnoses. We sought out a surgeon to remove it and send the mass for proper pathology. Of course, once again, our health-share couldn’t classify it as an emergency, so we either needed to wait a few weeks or pay up. Well, that’s not really a choice is it, this is our son. A few days later I loaded up 10 kids, rented a house in another state, and we hit the road.
5 days after surgery we had made it home to Texas and I waited not so patiently for the final lab reports. The initial examination reports were positive, but these final reports were the ones we held our breaths for.
I was making sandwiches. I’ll never forget which step I was on, because that’s how they stayed. It was 12:10 p.m. on June 10th, I was almost 12 weeks pregnant with our 11th baby, and the surgeon’s number popped up on my cell phone. I momentarily asked myself if I would remember making these sandwiches the rest of my life and the short answer is, yes I will.
He asked me to walk away from the children and then said he’d stay on the phone with me until someone could arrive.
My heart screamed, ‘NOT MY BABY.’
And my soul wept, ‘Oh God, why have you forsaken me?’
The truth is, He hadn’t. He was kneeling next to me, collecting my tears, and infusing strength into my soul. We were about to embark on the most powerful spiritual journey we had ever been asked to travel.
Upon further testing over the next week we discovered the news even worse than we had first expected; B needed a very specific doctor and non-protocol treatment plan for his particular type of t-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma (there are many different types of NHL). The cancer was spreading at an unprecedented rate, so I quickly prepared my home, hired a nanny, and booked 2 one-way tickets not knowing when we would be back.
We lived out of a hotel room for the first days and then on June 25th, 6 months before Christmas, B’s cancer treatment officially began.
Something to know about B is that he is an extremely faithful servant of God. Every breath he breathes is a breath of kindness and gratitude. B is also the self-proclaimed family ‘baby whisperer’ and has the most gentle touch and loving heart with his little siblings. One day during treatments he told me he KNEW he would live, because he had a new sibling coming that would need to be swaddled and rocked after birth; something he has done now for several children. I wholeheartedly believed him.
The weeks turned into months; Robert and I fought and heavily invested in bringing him home between treatments. I’m a firm believer in the biggest part of healing being mental and we knew B had a BIG life to explore in the interim. We were going to LIVE, not just survive.
Course after course, round after round, isolation after isolation, B has fought, thrived, and LIVED. He has kicked every negative expectation to the curb and proven that science only goes so far and then there’s God. On November 26th, 2 days before Thanksgiving, he finished his final round of chemotherapy and immediately flew home to celebrate for the holidays. Remission scans are slated for mid-December of this year, so until then we will love on one another and basque in the bliss of normalcy. We will not fear or be afraid.
I am thankful for this journey. A weird proclamation to make, I know. I have watched my child walk this journey spreading the grace and love of God, despite facing his own mortality at 11 years old. I have learned that within a storm you will find some of the most beautiful moments life has to offer.
Everything has slowed. God has gifted me the purest level of JOY I’ve ever experienced; the smiles are brighter, the laughter is louder, the tears are more eloquent, the sun glimmers brighter against my children’s skin. I am now making memories so detailed I can feel the breeze across the picnic blanket while dreaming. So yes, I am thankful for this journey. I have never felt God’s overwhelming presence in my life more than I have the past 6 months.
Now, to the harder part. Please know that as his mother these are the most gut-wrenching words to write, but I must make myself very clear.
No matter the result of B’s cancer journey, he WILL be healed. Whether it’s an earthly healing or an eternal healing, he WILL be made whole and either one will be a MIRACLE.
However, B has BIG things to do here on earth, and I know deep down in my soul that I will rock his babies one day.
On December 1, B conquered; he swaddled his freshly born sibling, and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and while he rocked him he whispered, ‘Told you I’d live.’”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Clara Nollkamper of Texas. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read Clara’s powerful backstory of being a mom to 10 kids:
‘Certainly these aren’t all your children.’ At 29, we welcomed our 10th baby. I looked like I had stepped out of a junior high locker room. ‘I can’t believe your mother left you with all these siblings!’
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