Remaining steady in your faith is an uphill battle when you’re 23 years old – even more so when you’ve been struggling with a rare disease for a year and a half.
You don’t look the same, and you can’t act the same. In Manny’s case, even more important than how he looks and feels, is that his breath-hold underwater is less than half of what it was just a year ago. That was enough to frustrate him for most of our trip to the beautiful Great Harbor Cay.
It’s hard to balance having enough hope and not having so much that you’re disappointed every time something doesn’t go your way; and believe it or not, in the “cancer world” it’s very few and far between that things go your way. Doctor’s appointments aren’t available for weeks, and when you finally come in, you’re waiting for four hours. They tell you you’ll start treatment tomorrow, then it’s next week, and the week after that.
And this is only the beginning.
Partial femur replacements are nothing to mess with. Manny can tell you. But instead of whimpering every time he’s been under a knife since then, he’ll tell you, “Bring it,” ’cause there’s nothing worse than what he went through last May.
I’ve never met another 23-year-old boy with faith the size of his. And that’s not to say that it doesn’t waver at times.
In those times of doubt, it’s evident that God has a mission and a plan for Manny greater than any of us could fathom; and if you don’t believe me, keep reading.
For you to understand the magnitude of the circumstances I’m talking about, I have to communicate to you that Manny is having a rough, for a lack of a better word, time in Houston. He’s been having a rough time lately, in general. His lungs are not his friends right now, and it’s been hard for him to breath steadily without having a cough attack that lasts 10 minutes and leaves him exhausted and purple in the face.
And although he remains, in my eyes, the big, strong man that I met almost three years ago, it’s not a secret that he’s underweight.
Then, since that isn’t enough, the hospitals are always a whole other headache. Luckily for Manny, his parents handle most of it, but Manny becomes frustrated with more scans, new doctors, and ultimately more reasons to think about the disease he’s been struck with, like he doesn’t have the lumps on his limbs to remind him enough.
He had been complaining a lot. I can’t even discourage him from it, because God knows I wouldn’t stop complaining if I were in his shoes; but there’s a reason I’m not.
Manny and his parents were killing some time at the mall this weekend when something strange happened. The man who was sizing Manny for some shoes asked him what brought them to Houston.
They answered, “Medical reasons.”
The man stopped what he was doing and asked them to tell him what was going on, if they didn’t mind. He told them he’s a pastor, and that he would like to pray for them.
Once they explained Manny’s situation willingly, the man asked if they would mind saying a prayer with him. Manny never turns down the opportunity for a prayer.
And so they stood, in deep prayer, with a complete stranger in the middle of Nordstrom.
“This wasn’t a coincidence,” the man said before they parted ways.
Manny called me right after to tell me.
“How cool is that?” he said.
It was pretty cool. Soon after, we started talking about something else, and they went home. It was just something “cool” that happened.
The next day was going pretty routinely. Manny calls me in between cough attacks and texts me when it’s important and he can’t call. I was working on homework when I got a pretty lengthy text from him.
Manny and his mom were catching an Uber to the movie theater in town. For some reason, the first Uber they called cancelled on them. So they called another, and the 5-series BMW showed up promptly. Manny was pretty excited about it – “Rolling in style.”
They’re talking to the Uber driver, who’s also from Miami (cue the BMW), and mid-conversation he abruptly asks why they’re in Houston. Already familiar with the question, Manny explained his situation. It gets weird again.
The Uber driver says he’s a pastor. He says he will be praying for him, and that if Manny truly believes and has faith in the Lord, then he will be cured. He also told Manny that he should know that he will be cured, and to thank God in advance for his works.
“This wasn’t a coincidence,” the man said before they exited the Uber.
And so I challenge all of you to spread your faith a little wider, hold your hope a little stronger, and trust in the Lord and His plan.