Saturday, April 18, 2009


Courage is an amazing word. It is a concept that I never truly understood until I watched my son and many other young people fight cancer. Courage, it seems, requires an incredible combination of both passion and carelessness toward life. It is the passion for life that allows these kids to endure the horrific treatments that destroy the cancer. But the battle also requires a carelessness toward life, otherwise the risks involved would freeze them into inaction. I have seen adults ignoring options out of a fear of the consequences. But these kids willingly walk though their fears, placing their life at great risk with each treatment. They are ambivalent toward the "statistics" of success or failure. As Stef once told me, "I have no fear of death. I'm just not ready". They seem to clearly understand the words of Jesus,"Only he who is willing to lose his life shall find it."

Against every obstacle, they continue to fight. There has never been a single time, not a single moment, that these kids have given up the fight. They refuse to lose. They fight to win.

But it took me a long tome to understand the difference between fighting and struggling. Often the fight requires difficult decisions. What risks should be taken? When to deviate from protocol? Should extreme measures be taken? Is there a time to stop the treatments? Families research everything, seek advice everywhere, question and document everything. They seek advice, but the decisions are theirs alone to make.

I received a lot of criticism when I began looking outside established protocols to treat Tyler's cancer. They said all the research and travels to other hospitals were a waste of time and money, and ultimately did not alter the outcome. And I hear criticism as close friends of mine conclude that all viable options were exhausted, and that the medical struggles need to come to an end. But how could you ever criticize a parent desperately searching their heart for the answers for their child. These decisions do not belong friends, pastors, or onlookers. Not even to doctors, hospitals, or insurance companies. With incredible courage, parents sit with their child and make unbearable decisions. They seek God and search their hearts. Some stay the course. Others pursue experimental treatments, at times against all odds. Some decide to end the long medical struggles. But every decision is made with incredible courage. They may stop struggling, but they never give up the fight. They always fight to win. Their courage never ends. Never.

I am doing fine because I refuse to do otherwise. That much is mine. Attempts to extinguish my fire thus far have only intensified it. With each crashing wave, I plant my feet deeper in the sand and become more resolute. If my health declines, some may say I “lost” my battle with cancer; but as for me, I can’t think of too many ways in which I could have been more victorious. If it comes to it, I’ll go down in magnificent flames purely for the principle glory of the thing. But hopefully it won’t come to it.
--Miles Levin

Stories of Courage

Mason McLeod has been courageously fighting Burkitt's for over 13 months. Like so many stories with cancer, any good news is followed by bad news. Traditional medicine offers few options for relapsed Burkitt's. But with incredible courage, mason and his family have left no stone has been left unturned. The fight continues.

Matthew Barr also fights courageously. The progress is some good, some bad. And a whole lot of waiting, which sometimes requires the greatest courage. Matthew continues to fight with everything with every ounce of his young body.

Our good friend Ryan Salmons continues to fight as his incredible battle crosses the one year mark. Ryan refuses to lose. He fights to win. Although his recent relapse eliminated any realistic medical options, he continues to stand with courage. As Ryan's dad says, "We have fought long and hard. Ryan has given it his all. We have all given everything we can. Yet, we stand here today with our only option being a miracle. Still, Ryan continues to have a remarkable spirit and zest for life."

I might be more than a little disappointed with the hand I've been dealt, but it is what it is. Thinking about what it could be is pointless. It ought to be different, that's for sure, but it ain't. We deal with realities, not pretty possibilities. And I'm sorry, cancer, but I refuse to stop enjoying life. I made that decision at the outset.
--Miles Levin


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