Thankful in Difficult Days

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.” 

Psalm 68:19, NIV

As a family, especially in the last three years, we too have experienced how God helps bear our burdens. In February 2019, our son Markus was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma (bone cancer). At the time, he was approaching his 18th birthday.

Until that day, we believed we were grateful for everything, but we also took a lot for granted. On this day, our view on many things changed abruptly. Many things became secondary, as we realized how quickly life can change.

Since this type of cancer is very rare, even the experienced team of doctors in Cologne did not know how to treat it. A professor contacted a clinic in Stuttgart and asked for advice on treatment, as this clinic had already treated some patients with the same diagnosis. However, the doctor in charge was on vacation. Since the tumor was already very large and had pressed on the organs, they had to act quickly, so they independently decided to start a 9-month chemotherapy regimen and after half of the therapy to surgically remove the tumor.

At the time of diagnosis, the tumor was already too large to be removed. With chemotherapy, they hoped to shrink it and then remove it. However, since we had already learned in advance that the tumor would not respond to chemo, we had a hard time deciding to agree to this therapy. In our despair, we brought the situation before God and found comfort in the verse: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:15).

We asked God for wisdom for the doctors’ decision. Markus had already had an IV inserted in a surgical procedure for the upcoming chemotherapy. The doctors had decided to start the chemo on Thursday. On Wednesday evening, we received a call from the clinic. We were told that the doctor from Stuttgart had returned from vacation and urgently advised against chemotherapy, since chemotherapy does not work for this type of tumor.

We could see how God worked and changed the doctors’ decision. Throughout the entire illness, we were able to experience again and again how God stood by us and cared for us. He took decisions away from us and helped us to trust Him in the process.

The doctors decided to remove the tumor in a 10-hour surgery. This was very challenging because the tumor was rock hard and measured 18 x 15 x 8 cm. Then 39 radiation treatments were ordered with the strongest dose. Again, God did great miracles.

After a 1.5-hour explanation of the many risks, the doctor asked us to meet for a discussion. Here, she shared her concerns that Markus would not follow through with the radiation due to lack of motivation. She knew from experience that many young patients who were initially motivated abandoned radiation prematurely because of the pain. However, if radiation is not followed through to the end, there is no chance of success.

We also brought these fears before God and asked Him to stand by Markus and give him strength for the upcoming radiation. It was a hard and painful time, but God stood by him even there so that he was able to persevere until the last radiation treatment. Even when he had open burn wounds and we thought he was going to end treatment prematurely, he persevered. To God be the glory for that! In the final conversation with the doctor, she admitted, visibly astonished, that she had not believed that Markus would make it to the end. At that moment, we could testify that we believe in God, that many people had prayed for Markus, and that we were convinced that this was the source of his strength.

We also thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for carrying us on hands of prayer especially during that time. In the moments when I sat helplessly next to my suffering child and seemed to lack the strength to persevere, I called my cousin Niko. He comforted me with the words, “God has said yes to this path you must walk. He will stand by you; He will not leave you alone.” This sentence has remained with us until today and accompanies us on our way.

Dear brothers and sisters, we are grateful to each one of you for every prayer, every card, every thought, and every phone call. Thank you for thinking of Markus and our family. It is good to know that we do not have to go this way alone. May God reward you! We do not know what road lies ahead of us. Markus has had recurrences (relapses) since 2020. At the moment, he is taking strong medications with many side effects. He continues to need your support in prayer. We hope and trust in that.

Alla Elgert 

Etzbach, Germany

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