Then, in July of 2007, the news came. That Laiken's cancer not only could return, but it would.
Over the next several months there were many appointments and preparations made for Laiken to receive a bone marrow transplant. It should have been easy to find a donor, but it wasn't. In January of 2008, Laiken was admitted to Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. Since they still couldn't find a bone marrow donor, they tried this experimental procedure using cord blood that didn't work.
Then, there was a donor match.
Once they got the donor marrow, they did the procedure and there was another "wait and see" time.
While everyone waited and hoped that Laiken's bone marrow would take up residence and free her of cancer, she ran into trouble breathing.
I had not gone out to pray for Laiken or to see her this time around. It seemed that the restrictions at CHLA were more stringent, and I didn't want to intrude or overstep my boundaries. It grieved me to learn that things were not looking good, that she could seem so healthy and still have so many "small" hurdles to get over.
Then she was moved to the ICU.
Then she was put on the ventilator.
Then it started to go downhill, fast.
On Saturday morning, while I was still feeling really sick from my bout on Friday, Stacey posted on Laiken's Caring Bridge site that if anyone wanted to see her, they should do so within the next few hours. I felt, at that point, that it was going to be over very soon.
But on Sunday, it wasn't over. And the doctors were all surprised that she was still hanging on. I stepped it up a notch with praying for Laiken in service at Flipside on Sunday night, and felt the gentle nudge that maybe I should go and try to pray for her again. I really wasn't sure if I should, but when I was doing my rounds on the internet on Monday morning, I saw that Stacey had posted an entry on Laiken's site expressing that she was looking for me. Taking that as my confirmation, and my inspiration to get to LA as quickly as possible, I went about my day. I knew I needed to get my work done at Scheu Plumbing quickly, so I did.
I was pretty much in conversation with God about Laiken through much of the day, and when I got home from work, I sat with my Bible and let Him lead me to a few key passages to read over her and pray about. One that really stood out to me was this:
1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
Once I felt as equipped as I knew I could be, I contacted Stacey's friend, Donna. She sounded so relieved that I was calling. Apparently, they had been googling me all day, trying to find some way to reach me. And when I arrived at the hospital, I was greeted very warmly. I was a little bit worried, because I knew that this was not "my call". If I had it my way, Laiken would have never been back in the hospital to begin with. I wasn't as confident that the answer was going to be what we wanted this time, but I hoped it would be.
It became clear to me while I was at CHLA that night, that the reason I was there was for Stacey to be encouraged, and to have a little bit of hope to get her through the night. For her and Jim to know that God was very much in control and powerful in this situation.
Stacey led me to Laiken's room in the ICU, and I was again confronted with the sadness of seeing such a beautiful and innocent young woman with the life draining out of her. I spoke with Stacey about what the issues were, and I was left to be alone with Laiken. I spoke to her, I prayed over her, I read scripture over her, and just did everything I knew how to do in that scenario, which isn't much. I decided that my measurable was her oxygen level. I wanted to see it go back up into the 80s, which I knew was possible because I saw it at one point in the room. But it hovered around 68, and occasionally went back up to the low 70s. I'm not exactly sure how long I was in there, at least an hour, maybe two.
And I never saw that 80 again. Finally, I felt that it was time to go find Stacey and pray for her. But she came into the ICU right then, so we stood there and talked and I was still hopeful that this was just God working slowly by our standards. I didn't get to pray for Stacey like I would have liked, but I did encourage her and just basically did the best I could.
Then I went home.
I ate, told Aaron about how everything went, and we went to bed.
At 3:30am, I woke up. As in wide awake, not able to go back to sleep. I prayed hard, and in that hour, when I felt afraid that she might die at that hour, the sinking feeling that Laiken wouldn't make it anchored it's way into my heart.
I still hoped for the best, texted Donna, refreshed the site in between tasks, hoping for an update with marvelous news. When I came back from lunch, there was bad news. Her oxygen levels were dropping quickly.
Around 2:30, the update that Jim and Stacey had decided that the best thing to do was to slow down the meds and let her go.
And at 4:36, she went.
It might sound funny to someone who doesn't believe to say "she went home to be with the Lord," but truly, to the believer, this earth is not "home." It's like the saying "home is where the heart is," and our hearts are in Heaven, with God. Waiting to be free from smog and injustice and famine and war. Free from cancer and sorrow and poverty and hate. And that's exactly where Laiken is tonight. As I sit here feeling sorry for myself for maybe not praying hard enough or having enough faith or whatever it is my mind is still wrestling with on this, she sits at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps singing him a song, maybe showing him a cheer routine, or maybe he's still guiding her on golden streets, giving her the tour. Showing her the home where someday her Mama and Dad will live with her. Whatever she is doing on that glorious other side, it's not crying. It's not struggling for every breath. It's not having tubes and monitors and sores. She is complete and healed, whole and restored. No more sorrow, no more pain, no more cancer.
To Stacey and Jim, thank you for loving Laiken so beautifully, so fully. Thank you for allowing so many others to be a part of Laiken's journey. She truly is a special person, and I am absolutely nothing short of blessed by how God used her to teach me how to listen and obey. Thank you, thank you, thank you.