When God Moves
by Lauren Young
When God moves, no matter what we find ourselves doing in that period, some deeply rooted longing to be close to our Creator stops to listen to what He has to say. God began moving in our son Jeremy’s life long before we realized anything was happening.
In 2015, our one-year-old boy was a vibrant ball of light, constantly jumping up and down and always doing what he could to spread smiles. Nonetheless, I had a relentless nagging in my spirit that something was wrong. I watched as Jeremy’s belly appeared to grow beyond the size of a typical toddler tummy. At first, I thought that maybe we were overfeeding him, so I took my concerns to Jeremy’s 15-month well child check-up at Cincinnati’s Anderson Hills Pediatrics.
Our incredible pediatrician performed an exam—gently pushing on the area and asking me some relevant questions about his diet and behavior. No, she indicated, we weren’t overfeeding him, based on my description of his intake. “I don’t want to ignore a mother’s intuition, though,” she assured me. “Let’s meet back here in a month and check to see if anything has changed.”
On the follow-up visit, I brought my husband Mark along. This time, as the doctor repeated the exam, Jeremy wailed in pain as soon as her fingers barely pressed into his abdomen. As he sobbed, she very gently continued feeling around his tummy, and her face visibly changed. “I think I feel something, but I want to get a second opinion,” she said with a concerned expression. “Wait here and I’ll be right back.” She left the room briefly and soon returned with an older doctor from her practice. He, too, softly moved his hands around Jeremy’s stomach. Jeremy sobbed and writhed under the seasoned pediatrician’s touch. The somber look on the older man’s face told me that he felt whatever it was, too.
They called it a “mass,” but told us not to be frightened. With any luck—and both providers hoped it to be true—this strange, out-of-place bulge they felt was impacted stool backed up in Jeremy’s gastrointestinal tract. Just to be safe, we were immediately sent across the street to outpatient clinic where Jeremy would undergo a series of abdominal X-rays.
At about 10:30 that night, we received a follow up about the X-rays. Mark answered, since I was in the shower. I stuck my head out of the sliding door and watched his face turn grey. The mass was clearly visible on the scan, and it was large. The pediatrician and the radiologist both wanted us to follow up at the hospital. “If that’s stool,” the radiologist had remarked, “that’s a heck of a lot of it.”
The next day, while Jeremy played with a light-up “magic wand” that spun and watched the Curious George movie, multiple techs examined his abdomen. When a radiologist finally joined us, we were on pins and needles. “Do you know why you’re here?” he asked. I walked him through our recent experiences and added with hope, “they think this is impacted stool.” The man’s face fell. “Unfortunately, this is not stool,” he said. “We are not 100% sure what it is, but it’s located outside of all the major organs and is impeding on the bladder.”
That night, in a whirlwind of emotion—and I’ll admit it, fear—we learned from our newly assigned oncologist that Jeremy had a suspected case of something called neuroblastoma. This very rare form of childhood cancer often comes along with an array of telltale signs, though Jeremy’s distended belly had been our only indication something was wrong. If left to its own devices, neuroblastoma can certainly wreak havoc on a child’s body, spreading to other areas beyond where it starts and causing all kinds of concerns and issues. The oncologist assured me I had done nothing wrong—nothing I had exposed Jeremy to that caused this to happen. The neuroblastoma began growing inside Jeremy’s abdomen while he was still growing in utero.
Over the next five months, we were in and out of Cincinnati Children’s as Jeremy underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and numerous procedures, including a six-hour resection surgery in January 2016. Through it all, his smile never left his face, and his energy never waned. Stage 3, intermediate risk neuroblastoma put up a good fight, but Jeremy started and ended his journey in warrior mode.
My supervisor at the time, a dear friend, was concerned about how I would pay for the mounting medical bills. She encouraged me to work at least part-time at the office and possibly even do some work from home. “No,” I politely declined. I explained to her that we had no idea of the outcome of Jeremy’s treatment and I didn’t want to spend any time away from him. Out of nowhere, I said, “God will take care of us. We don’t have to worry.” It was the Holy Spirit, not my own words, and somehow, some way, I immediately believed that to be true.
Mark and I clung to many verses of Scripture, like Isaiah 41:10, as time went by. Both Christians before this very difficult time in our lives, we drew closer and closer to God while we worked as a family to clear the hurdle of Jeremy’s cancer. Though the illness was a devastating blow and forever changed our “normal,” God used it to strengthen our respective relationships with Him. We prayed as we never had before, and we leaned on Him for every ounce of courage the journey took.
Others often marveled over our strength in the storm, and we always pointed them to the One who gave us “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6). There was just no other way to explain it—God never failed us. He never left us. He held us up when it felt like our world was falling around us.
And, just as I was reassured in the beginning, we had everything we needed from Day 1. From the moment that we learned of Jeremy’s diagnosis until the end of his treatment, we never once needed a pack of diapers or groceries or money for bills. By the grace of God, loved ones and complete strangers provided every one of our needs. A parent at Jeremy’s daycare paid for a house cleaning service, others bought toys and movies for our little guy to enjoy, and countless people sent gift cards for meals and big box retail stores. At Christmas time, our living room was flooded with gifts for each one of us. My coworkers donated their vacation time so that for five straight months, I had a partial or full paycheck every single payday. Jehovah Jireh!
On March 23, 2016, at 21 months old, Jeremy officially beat cancer. In 2021, we will celebrate five years of remission. God is so, so good! I’m endlessly thankful for Jeremy’s healing, and I stand in awe of the Lord’s faithfulness. He never left our sides. Today, and since Jeremy was declared cancer free in 2016, we cling tightly to Psalm 30:2— “O LORD my God, I cried out to You for help, and You healed me.”