Cory had about six tumors in his lungs and some in his liver. At twenty-one months old the primary site for the tumors was the tip of his tail bone. It was the size of a Nerf football, if you can believe that. In the whole five years of his life he had five chemo therapy protocols and fifteen surgeries. Children that undergo chemo therapy treatment get sick and throw up so much that they become small and frail and thin.
It’s so stressful to have a child you can’t feed because they are scheduled for surgery, and to never know if the surgery is going to help or damage something else in their body. The release papers a parent must sign is with the belief that the procedure will help the child, only to discover that after the surgery your child can no longer control his bowels.
He wanted desperately to return to school but was embarrassed because of his loss of bowel control. I let him see the literature explaining what a colostomy looked like. I told him this would solve the problem. Understanding that he would have to wear a bag he agreed to do it. He loved being at school. It meant being around other normal kids, making friends, doing things other kids get to do rather than being in the hospital. He loved it so much he would beg me to go to school. If you asked any of the other kids they would say he was always cheery and happy. Even near the end, when you could really see that he was getting very ill, he would always come out smiling. He needed to gain some weight so they Mayfield Dairy man who delivered milk to the school ordered him whole milk, breaking school rules. He ordered and paid for it himself.
He came home from school one day and said, “Mom, I don’t want to ever grow up and go to another school because everybody at my school thinks I’m the “specialist.” That was his word for it. I told the school faculty what he said about being the “specialist” so they put banners up at the school that read, “CORY CASH IS OUR SPECIALIST.” They never seemed to notice he was sick. They just loved him, and he loved them. He had a best friend that he was really close to. The kids never made fun of him because he wore a colostomy. They would have fun with it. They can sometimes make noises that are funny to kids.
I consistently heard how well he was handling it. If you had met him you would have seen the sweet personality, almost like he had a piece of God in him already. I think that is true of every child, but it was like he had greater understanding. He was wise beyond his years.
We went back for another check up. They found another tumor behind his bladder. They wanted to take his bladder out and do some experimental chemo therapy, but they had no plan to cure him anymore. While on the plane I looked at him and said, “When we went back to St. Jude Hospital they found another tumor.” He instantly started bawling. He was sobbing uncontrollably. He looked at me and said, “You said it was gone. But you said it was gone.” I said, “It was, but it has come back again.” This is the fifth time it had returned. He knew what that meant. Having all the chemo therapy and surgeries and radiation had made him “long in the tooth.” He then looked at me and said, “I DO NOT want to have anymore chemo therapy. I DO NOT want to have radiation. And... I DO NOT want to have surgery.” I said, Well, fine. You don’t have to.” He quickly drew his breath and said, “Really? I don’t have to?” I said,”No, you don’t have to.” He then said, “But am I going to die?” I said, “Well, you know we’ve had a lot of friends over the years at St. Jude that have died. If you have cancer you have a choice. We can either do chemo therapy or we can pray and ask God to heal you. He said, “Well, I’m going to pray and ask God to heal me.” I said, That’s fine That’s what we’re going to do.” That night before we went to bed we said our prayers, as always. He said, We’re going to pray that God heals me.” I said, “Okay. Let’s pray about it.” The next night I said, Let’s pray about it.” He said, “No, we don’t have to. We already prayed.” He had a lot of faith.
I remember praying and asking God, “Why would this happen to such an innocent child, and what good is it?” I was a bit angry. “What good is it to pray a hedge of protection over your child it that is not what you’re going to do? If you won’t honor that what good is it? I clearly heard God say, “Why do continue to pray to me as if heaven is a curse when I intended it to be your reward?”
What God gave that night is that this life is like a half inch mark on a fifty foot ruler. It’s nothing. If your given a purpose, a job to do, which Cory was, and he affected so many people in his five years, it’s sort term. And if a thousand days on earth is like on day in heaven, he’ll get there and just turn around and see me there also.
When his legs began to hurt he didn’t want to have another CAT scan. I told him we had to find out why his legs were hurting. He said, “MOM, you know it’s the cancer causing my legs to hurt.” I said, “Well, maybe it is, but we’ve got to find out for sure.” He still didn’t want to have the CAT Scan. He then said, “Momma, I don’t think I’m going to live very long.” I said, “Yes, you’re going to live a long life. Look in the mirror and blink your eyes. He did. Then I told him, “You’ll be in heaven that fast.” He replied,”But I don’t want to go without you and dad and Cody [Cory’s brother].” I said, “But you get to be our leader. You get to go first.” Cory thought going to heaven was going to be like going to Disney World, but he didn’t want to go without me.
We used to sing a Kirk Franklin song called “Lovely Day.” The song is about being down and not feeling good, but there is a new day, lovely day, because we’re going to be with God. We sing that song, sometimes at our church, and if I concentrate just a little I can still hear him singing that song.
Because of the conversation I had with God in that hospital room the last three years were not nearly as hard on me as one may think. I had God, and because of that conversation I knew He had a plan. I almost felt honored that Cory had a big purpose. I don’t want to say that I’m glad he suffered, but I know God doesn’t see things the way I see them. I know God sees the whole picture and the suffering was just a small amount of time. This understanding put me and Cory in a place to be able to witness to others. Parents of children at St. Jude tend to congregate. It’s like a fellowship. Meeting parents who were not Christians gave us opportunity to pray for them and their child’s needs. We would tell them, “Hey. We can pray and see if God will fix this today, and give you some peace.” When you have God you can have this, but when people don’t have God I don’t know how they get through it. I don’t know how they endured it because there was no hope for them. If their child died it was the end. They would never see them again. For me, if my child died I knew he was going to a care giver, he was going to be healthy and whole. The next time I saw him I would see him in a way I had never really seen him.