Rihanna isn’t the only one who found something in a hopeless place

And just like that, my wide eyed + bushy tailed world crashed into a million little pieces. Dad’s cancer is back. I knew what my mom was going to tell me before she even opened her mouth. Not my dadNot my dad. I wish I could tell you that we spent that night in the twin bed in prayer and worship. I wish I could tell you I prayed some beautiful prayer of strength and peace over my mom. I wish I could tell you that’s what the next month looked like. But I would be lying, because the terrifying reality is that cancer is a thief. It creeps in and tries to rob you of everything you love: your peopleyour faithyour joy, your hopeyour peace, just to name a few.

During my dad’s first battle just a few years ago, I was living in California for the summer as a nanny. Just a month before he was diagnosed, we lost my Uncle Robert to a long fight of pancreatic cancer. But for some reason, my dad’s cancer never seemed real to me. I felt the pain and battled with the fears, but I wasn’t home for it. I never saw my skeletal dad being carried out by my mom for his treatments. I never saw him asking my brother to pull over because he was going to be sick. I came back home to my ‘normal’ dad, with exception of weight loss + a feeding tube, and it was something that I regretted greatly. So, my life in Haiti got put on hold and it wasn’t even a question. But just like a rollercoaster, my brother was now the one far away, living in California starting a new life and career.

Stage four cancer had spread throughout my dad’s jaw and we had one month until his surgery, which was his only option to fight this thing. So many scary questions crowded my head. I constantly battled opening my bible or logging on to google for the answers. So much doubt, sadness, anger and confusion followed me like a dark, dark shadow. Cancer had robbed me of the hope that I was so certain I had flying home from Haiti just days before. I was on a rocking seesaw- one side trust and the other doubt, feeling sorry for myself in all of the shame that lingers with doubting God’s plans. Here is what 30 seconds in my head looked like during the month of July:

Why MY dad. I need him to walk me down the aisle one day. I know You’re the God of miracles. But he’s already beat cancer, has he not he been through enough?  I trust that You’re still good. I was so certain that I heard you, GodWhy would You even call me to Haiti? Even if. Nope. This is NOT how it was supposed to go, God. Don’t you know that? 

But for some reason my selfish questions + doubts were answered and I was reminded over and over again: he’s My son. It was the only thing I could hold on to. I guess You love him as much as we do. Maybe even a little more. But I’m still not okay. 

Fast forward a few weeks, many emotional car rides, breakdowns, and more grace from the man in my life than I ever knew was humanly possible (love ya, babe)- to the night before the surgery.

I laid in bed with my parents. We looked through a big stack of get-well cards that kids had made for him. Most of them had drawn my dad with a giant head and a tennis racquet, some drew my mom bringing him soup in bed. We laughed until we were all kind of crying but nobody wanted to say anything, because what do you say in those moments. And that was the night I begged. (And now I’m crying. I’m so sorry if you are!!!)

It was still dark when we left for the hospital the next morning, late per usual. I am not a fan of hospitals, maybe because I am a natural fainter and the thought of all that goes down in those places does all kinds of weird things to my stomach. But this day I was a huge fan. This hospital was about to house a miracle– and we were going to go in there #SADRISTRONG. We sat in the pre-op area for a while, and even though my dad was about to undergo 12 hours of intense surgery, he was still the one making us laugh. My dad handed my mom 4 cards. One to her, one to his son, one to his daughter and one for his two sisters.

Hope. And cards. Sometimes they’re the only things to hold on to.


Let’s hope you + this writer’s high stick around a little longer,


Life + FaithMadison Nelson