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OPINION: The Faith of a Child

I’ve written before about my father’s battle with Stage IV melanoma, and a year-and-a-half in, things haven’t gotten much easier. 

Treatment after treatment hasn’t provided the result we all hope for, that the cancer invading his right lung will be completely healed. At this point, I’m not sure if being “completely healed” is a realistic goal, and am instead adjusting to the idea that things will be okay if his doctors can manage the diseased area, keep it from spreading and maybe shrink it a little bit, if they’re lucky. 

Despite all the bad news and seeming stagnation, one thing I’ve found remarkable is my dad’s commitment to showing others their prayers have made a difference in his life. 

“I sure have a lot of good people praying for me,” he told me.  

And he does – perhaps none more so than Annalise, a little girl at my parents’ church. Although she’s only 7 years old, Annalise has spent the entirety of my father’s cancer battle devoting her nightly prayers, blessings before meals and Sunday School prayer requests to “helping Mr. Jake feel better.”  

As if that wasn’t precious enough in itself, Annalise’s childlike faith that God will heal my father is only matched by his mission to show her that her prayers mean something: they’re helping him live the fullest life possible. 

In a conversation with my mother, she told me about my dad’s commitment to showing his young friend the power of prayer.  

“I’ve gotten to walk my daughter down the aisle. I’ve sent my son off to college. I’ve gotten to be here for the birth of my first grandchild. And I’m going to be here to raise her, too,” he told my mother. 

Most importantly, he’s making sure Annalise knows her contribution matters. 

In a way, I envy this childlike faith, the way a second-grader has absolutely no doubt in her mind that God can heal my dad – or do anything else, when she calls up on Him to do it.

Anyone who’s been through a battle with cancer, or has walked beside a loved one diagnosed with the disease, knows it’s an endless roller coaster ride of emotions. If it’s not the physical side-effects of treatment, it’s the lurch in your stomach when you hear all that suffering was for nothing and the treatment didn’t work. It’s a glimmer of hope when you feel better for a few days, and the high of knowing a treatment or procedure was at least a little bit successful.  

It’s hard to be optimistic in the face of every obstacle, even harder being let down when something that’s supposed to help, doesn’t. It’s not a matter of giving up or losing hope, but one of plugging along and willingly enduring whatever it is the doctors say will make you better. 

So many times, I’ve dwelled upon the idea that this diagnosis will one day be a death sentence for my dad – not a healthy mindset, might I add. Being faced with the mortality of a parent isn’t something I’d wish upon anyone.  

What pulls me out of that pit is simple: diagnosis notwithstanding, we’re making every moment count with him. And it’s that same faith, like a small child, that helps me believe we’re all going to be okay – and maybe one day, I’ll get to see my dad’s face as my husband walks our own daughter down the aisle.