Darst Funeral Home

No Cancer But a Dose of Perspective

By Mike McDonell


We adopted our son, Michael Bennett, from China in February.  The little guy has blessed our life and so many around him.  He came to us with complex medical issues including a solitary kidney that is working at about 30%, malnutrition and a variety of other challenges that make him who he is – very beautiful.

We have adjusted, learning how to perform a myriad of procedures to care for his needs. We have had one surgery and we’re planning upcoming surgeries to improve his health.

This past week he visited our Nephrologist for an ultrasound of his single kidney.  No big deal – so we thought. But in a matter of minutes, our life completely changed perspective as our doctor entered the waiting room and said,  “I don’t know how to tell you this, but your son has a mass on his kidney. It measures 5 by 3 centimeters and Oncology needs to set up more tests.”  My head fell into my hands and my heart hit the floor.  After all our little guy had gone through in the short two years of his life – now a possible tumor on his only, weak kidney.

A CT scan was ordered to determine his prognosis, but the earliest they could get him in would be a wait of almost a week. So as you could imagine, the next six days were stressful. My wife and I kept MB’s new diagnosis to our chest.  We struggled whether to tell our other kids and in the end felt it was best to get the results before we dropped that bomb on the family as a whole. Excruciatingly, we waited…

On the morning of the CT scan, we struggled to keep our cool and support each other.  We played with MB, keeping us all distracted as much as possible. It took them almost 4 hours, but finally they found a vein for his IV, and the images were taken of our boy.

As parents, we do everything we can to keep our kids from harms way.  It is genetic and as powerful as any force in the universe.  When your child is so sick and that sickness falls outside of your powers to protect, it is devastating.

Holding MB in a medical bed and wondering how his little body could take cancer was just about as unbearable as we could take. Our Nephrologist, Dr. Palutla, came in to explain that they would not be able to give us more information until the next day when a team of 25 doctors were meeting on his case.

A few minutes later as we were gathering our last items, Dr. Palutla blew back into the room. “I don’t know how to tell you this, ” he said.  I shrunk down into the bed fearing the news. “The CT scan showed no sign of a mass.  I don’t know how to explain it, but your son has no evidence of any abnormal growth.”  It took maybe 3 or 4 seconds to comprehend what he had just said.  He had consulted with two other radiologists.  They confirmed as well.  No mass on the kidney and MB was free to go home – cancer free.

From the lowest of emotions to elation, we had run the gamut.  The experience caused me to reevaluate my perception of our life.  All the medical challenges and hardships we were going through palled in comparison to the prognosis that could have been.

Life is a relative thing.  No doubt, my son has some hefty challenges ahead for him. But to be thankful for where you are, no matter where you are, is something we can all learn to do better job of.

Today, I pushed MB through the local hardware store in one of those grocery carts shaped like a NASCAR racer.  We zoomed down the aisles and pushed him past the stuff we needed to get for a project at home. He laughed like it was the best thing in the world. And it was. I am so blessed by the kid we brought into our lives.  I am blessed because he didn’t have cancer on his jacked up kidney and I am blessed because I was given a little perspective this week. Be thankful for all you have, do your very best with where you are and help support all those around you.  It’s really all we have.



This month we have paused the Darst family’s series “Behind the Gravestones: Growing up Behind the Scenes of a Cemetery” to mark Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Our guest writer Mike McDonell is the nephew of John Darst of Darst Funeral Home. You can check out his blog at goparentup.com.


Part 1: Earliest Memories
Part 2: Holidays on a cemetery
Part 3: This Little Light of Mine
Part 4: Genealogy 
Part 5: The Man Behind The Magic
Part 6: No Cancer But a Dose of Perpective
Part 7: A Year Full of Yes 
Part 8: Last Moments and First Steps
Part 9: Facing Fathers Day Without Your Father 
Part 10: When Children Grieve 
Part 11: From Velvet to Violets: Shedding New Light on Saying Goodbye 
Part 12: If it Won't Open, It's Not Your Door
art 13: Love, After All 
Part 14: New Beginnings
Part 15: Not Goodbye, Just Goodnight
Part 16: Holding Space for Dying
Part 17: Grieving and Pets: A Family Affair