Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Sullivan 5

Monday, March 8, 2004

I wanted to give you all an update on Chad's surgery. Things didn't go as well as we had hoped for a couple of reasons. One, the tumor was wrapped around a nerve. The surgeon was able to extract the tumor without damaging the nerve, but this heightens the risk of a recurrence because cancer cells were were probably left behind on the nerve itself. Two, there were 5 or 6 lymph nodes affected that the surgeon didn't expect to find. Dr. Salo believes they are malignant, but we won't know for sure until the pathology reports come back in a few days. It could be that the nodes were just inflamed and irritated by the tumor itself. If in fact they are found to be cancerous, this also heightens the chances for a recurrence, and the surgeon is recommending radiation. We had hoped to try and avoid that. My folks are, again, looking at all the options. Big decisions ahead.

I am going to keep reminding you all to lift this up. We pray for good news at every juncture, and that God's will would be to heal Chad in a time that would bring the most glory to Him. Pray for a good pathology report, and that Chad's body would be receptive to the treatments and therapy he receives. Pray that all of us keep our eyes on God and His plan and love for us...pray that we would have the strength to hand Chad over to Him. You think you have faith...and then something like this comes along and it's so hard to say, "Whatever you want, God." Pray for my mom. She continues to struggle the most.

I so appreciate all the support and compassion. I hear from more and more people every day. Thank you. It means a tremendous amount to my family and I.


I remember this day vividly...the day Dr. Salo walked into our waiting room with the news of Chad's surgery. The day had been agony. We had gotten there at the break of day, it seemed, and the surgery lasted hours longer than originally scheduled. They had said we should wait only 2-3 hours, and the surgery wound up going almost 7 hours. Those times Chad was in surgery were the longest of my life. What I remember most about this day was not that time of waiting, it was the time after we had received the news of the surgery. The doctor was sober, and I was very suddenly made aware of the gravity and longevity of the situation. It was almost as if, up until this point, I had been trying to pretend like nothing had changed and, soon, all would be back to normal. Reality was setting in.

I remember my mother asked penetrating and bottom-line questions, and my father's hand was on his face, the way he does when he is worried and thinking and introspective. When the doctor left the room, my mother laid in the middle of the floor and wailed. We had a private waiting room, so the only people that witnessed this were my father and I. My father let her be. I left the room.

It has been...interesting I suppose is the right word...to watch my family deal with and change through this tragedy. My father has become even quieter and more introspective than before, but also more laid back and relaxed about life's little snafus. He is also far more willing to do something extravagant and frivolous, realizing life is short. He is and always has been our family's rock, an ever-present blessing and peace to me, but I have seen his humanity in this journey. I'm somehow thankful for that. Alex, too, has turned inside himself even more than before Chad's illness. He's more serious, not as silly and goofy as he once was. Because he is the baby, we all worry and fuss over him, but he is a strong and capable man...this journey will only make him stronger throughout his life. Alex is no quitter, just like his big brother. I sense God working in Alex's life, and I am grateful and rest in His strength, provision, and timing where my baby brother is concerned.

The change in my mom has been the most challenging for me personally. My mother was a very hands-on mom as we grew up. She stayed at home with us, and she was strong and capable as well...she was wise and discerning and very controlled in her parenting. She rarely if ever cried and, although we all knew she was crazy over us, she rarely hugged us or doted over us very much. My dad was the affectionate one, my mother demonstrated her love for us in other ways which were not usually emotional in nature...time, sacrifice, creativity, and absolute loyalty to the call over her life which was to be a wife and mother. She was the best at that. I grew up with godly parents, and not a day goes by that I am not reminded and thankful for it.

My mother has probably changed the most since our journey with Chad, and it has been an adjustment for me. That day in the waiting room was the first time I had seen her demonstrate such raw emotion, and I have witnessed it many times since then. That day, I had to leave the room . That sort of emotion is not what I was accustomed to in regards to her, I have many times made the mistake of becoming frustrated and even angry at her over it. I don't like for her to cry or grieve in front of me. Even now. That's just me being terribly honest. I grew up with two parents in control and Christ-focused...the grief I have seen my family endure has been completely new and by far the hardest piece of this journey. Not only because it pains me to see those I love the most suffering, but because I was simply not accustomed to the level of emotion and abandon it has required of us.

I was wrong. I've been too hard on her so many times. There is no greater sorrow on earth than a parent losing a child. She deserved more grace than I have given her at times...many times.

My mother now likes to hug me, hold my hand, tell me she loves me, and just pet on me in general. I have grown more accustomed to it, understanding...if at all possible...she loves me even more on this side of her tragedy. I have learned that I have to give her grace in ALL of her emotion, whether it be grief or affection. I have found I had to be comfortable with the change that took place in her. My mother has been wounded terribly in the journey, but she is not destroyed. God has shown me that just because I am not always comfortable with the change, does not mean it was wrong of her. I will admit...I was most often the one in the wrong. I have found the more grace I give her, the more her grief eases.

My family has changed. I have had a hard time swallowing that, because I loved and cherished every bit of my family and our time together. The Sullivans knew how to have a good time! Pastor Roger Thomas said at Chad's funeral the we were a family that seemed not only to love each other, but to like each other as well. It was a perfect description of a blessed family. I have to tell you...I miss them. Just recently, after having a minor meltdown about the changes that have come upon us and the new dynamics of our family without Chad, my mother said to me, "Baby girl, you can't make us what we were. No matter how hard you try, we're not the same. You have to let us be what we are now."

She's a good mama.

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." -2 Cor. 4:7-9


  1. This made me cry. I don't know what to say. I am just crying. I feel like I know all your family through this.
    Please never stop writing. I think you are now several chapters into your first published book.

  2. Oh Marti. Your writing is amazing. The tears are flowing but strangely I feel peace.