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Childhood cancer can deeply test faith, courage - Valerie Baldowski

The strength and resiliency of children never fails to amaze me.

One of my son's friends from school -- a classmate the same age as he -- has been diagnosed with cancer. The doctors found a growth in his throat, and possibly more cancerous tissue in his abdomen and kidney.

He is in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, and is currently undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments, which make him sick, and caused his hair to fall out. He is responding well to the treatments, but the prognosis is that he may have to undergo treatments for seven months. Yet, he is a trooper, and is handling the ugly disease one day at a time.

He is sedated at times, to help make him more comfortable, but really, how comfortable can you be with all sorts of medical equipment being stuck into you, tests being done constantly, and treatments being administered with unpleasant results? Cancer is scary enough for adults, but when it hits a 6-year-old child, you know personally, it makes you wonder why it happens.

He is dealing with it quite well, waving at family members who stop by his hospital room, watching cartoons, playing with the stuffed animals family and friends bring, and giving his mom lots of hugs and kisses. His mom has been sleeping in his hospital room. She is a teacher, but will not be able to return to work for the rest of the school year, as she is busy taking care of him.

I'm sure he misses his friends, as he bravely copes with a strange new environment, not knowing what will happen next. I'm told the little guy is a "prayer warrior," and prays for others on a regular basis until he is told God has heard his prayers. Then he prays again, to give thanks his prayers were heard. Well, now it's our turn to pray for him, and that's exactly what all the parents, teachers and other kids are doing.

It brings to mind the scene in the movie, "It's A Wonderful Life," when George Bailey gets in trouble, and needs help. You hear the prayers of the entire town being offered up, wafting their way heavenward. You know God hears them, and responds.

Right now, in this situation, all we have to go on is our faith that this child will be fine. But I have learned that despite his young age, his faith is strong, and he can teach the grown-ups plenty about faith. What I admire in someone this young is their courage, facing this thing straight on and staring it down. He is tackling all the painful side effects, and still moving forward. I know it's hard on his mom and dad, and his sister and older brother. But we all can learn a thing or two from him.

I don't know how well I would handle something like this in my family. I'm sure I would be a basket case. But there is a reason something like this happens. Maybe, it's to test our faith. Maybe, it's to make us stronger emotionally, psychologically and spiritually, as human beings. Or, maybe to remind us that there's a higher power at work, one who knows exactly what's going on and why things happen the way we do.

It's only human for us to wonder why, but I've learned not to try to figure it out and lean on my own understanding. I'll just take this as a lesson that even the little ones can set an example, by showing the faith and courage of a giant.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.