Thursday, February 4, 2016

Small, focused moments

When my boys were just toddlers, I began keeping a journal, each day listing out the blessings and small bits of beauty that I encountered.  It was a way to carve out moments of reflection at a point when I thought that my life was busy. Having three children under the age of five sounds like a restful vacation from my current perspective.  But for years,  I would conscientiously jot down the moments that spoke to me, the bits of joy found in my full, but simple days.

Keeping a gratitude journal was a habit that has fortunately become internalized for me, because I haven't written in one for years now.  My days have become fuller with more children, busier with cancer and more complicated by LFS.  But these coping mechanisms and strategies that I practiced so long ago are fully engrafted.  As I walk though this life, I generally focus on what we are given and seek out the good.

Unfortunately, cancer has made an unwelcome reappearance for the Ramers, with AML returning a few weeks ago to my son Brent's lymph nodes. We learned just yesterday that Lauren's brain tumor might be back.  Neither of these things are easy, nor good.

But I remain aware of the kindness that surrounds us every day: the smiles of strangers in the hospital, the comfort found when we are home together, the encouraging words and support of friends.  I am keenly aware of each these things in the moment that they happen, and I recount them during the times that I struggle.

I focus on the things in our immediate situation that are encouraging.  While still very tired, Brent is feeling better than he has in a long time, free of pain, not requiring transfusions and safer from infection. Lauren has no troubling symptoms and can go to school.  We are all at home, which was not the case for over 200 days spent in the hospital last year.  Being home is nothing that we ever take for granted.

I find strength in hope.  The efforts of scientists and researchers have brought new therapies to cancer at an unprecedented rate.  I read press releases from many institutions each day, knowing that these advances might be directly relevant to our children.  I read about the Cancer Moon Shot, heartened and hopeful about this commitment, even while we learned that Brent had relapsed.

I pray.  For strength, for wisdom, for breadcrumbs of guidance, for health.  I have often been told that God does not give you more than you can handle.  God and I have talked extensively about His rather overblown opinion of us in this regard. There is no sacrilege found here.  I firmly believe that God would not have given me snark, if I wasn't supposed to use it as a coping mechanism.

And while God may have given us a bit more than we can handle on our own, He does send help to us. There are countless individuals and organizations that support families like ours who face such challenges.  We have compassionate physicians and nurses, who I know with absolute certainty, carry our troubles home with them. I recognize that there are more people praying for our family than I could ever imagine. We are not alone.

We each do the best that we can with the tools that we are given.  I try to focus on the blessings we are afforded. In all honesty, I do not always succeed.  However, this would be my best answer to the frequent look of mixed horror and bewilderment that we get from people as they say, "I simply don't know how you do it."

We do it one moment and one choice at a time, just like everyone else. I am determined to live in a spirit of gratitude and love.

This morning, I braided my nearly-eight-year-old daughter's hair and walked her to the bus stop. I listened to her chatter and the sounds of the birds.  I think they were singing spring songs, despite the chill.  It was truly beautiful.  It was enough, in that moment.

We are so very grateful for your prayers.

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