Thursday, November 22, 2012

We're Thankful

Ready for a chest X-ray 
We're thankful for the most recent report of Chloe's clear scans we received last week.

We're thankful that you've walked along side us through the challenges and celebrations of the past year and a half. 

This morning Christa and I shared some of that journey with our church family at Third Reformed. The text of what we shared is below.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!


Chloe adds hats knit by my Aunt Gail
to the hat box at the clinic
Good morning. This morning we would like to share a small part of a chapter of our family’s story with you. It’s a chapter we often call our year with childhood cancer. As with most journeys, it was a year of highs and lows, tears and laughter, moments of profound gratitude and times of great anger with God for having been chosen for the journey.

We are grateful that so many of you traveled that journey with us, but for those who are unfamiliar with our story here’s a quick summary. 

In July of 2011 our youngest daughter Chloe went in for her four-year-old well-child check. Chloe’s health was great and she was acting like every other vibrant, joyful, active four-year-old we knew. At that appointment, our pediatrician felt a lump in Chloe’s stomach. Two days later an ultrasound confirmed that there was a mass on Chloe’s left kidney and we received the phone call that no parent wants to hear. The words will forever be with me as our pediatrician calmly told me that we needed to pack our bags and get Chloe to the Helen DeVos Children’s hospital in Grand Rapids within the next hour or two. She had spoken with one of the pediatric oncologists on staff and they would be waiting for us.

A little over 24 hours later Chloe would be in surgery to have her left kidney removed along with a mass the size of an over-stuffed softball. I wrote the following post on our family blog hours after that first surgery to remove Chloe’s kidney.

Dated Friday, July 8, 2011

The title of the post is Grateful

The past thirty-six hours have been full of so much shock, fear, grief, adrenaline, and questions. It's difficult to put into words exactly what I've been thinking and feeling. But tonight, as I sit on the end of a sleeping Chloe's bed, looking out on the lit skyline of Grand Rapids, I feel grateful.

Grateful for Dr. Worpel, who found the mass, questioned it, and followed up on it. We've been told over and over the past two days how amazing it is that this mass was found during a well-child exam.Grateful for The doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other specialists who have taken us in and made us feel that no matter what turns up during the next test or procedure that they have it figured out.Grateful for our families that have been by our sides.Grateful for the mass coming out in one solid piece and the surgery being so successful.Grateful for the fact that my brother was able to get away from work for a few days and flew in this evening.Grateful for our professions as teachers and that we have nothing else to worry about right now other than nursing Chloe back to health and taking care of our family. Grateful for our insurance company who told me this morning that my only concern is Chloe and that they will take care of everything.Grateful for the flood of communication from friends and family letting us know that we are not alone in this.Grateful for trust in a loving, gracious God.
The official diagnosis of a stage III Wilm’s Tumor would follow three days later. Yet, even in the midst of not knowing what the future had in store us (there is a very happy ending, by the way), there was gratitude to God.

Christa:Today I can stand here, reflecting upon the last year and I can see how God’s presence was with us. Even though I felt God’s presence throughout the journey, there were hard times, there were times when I did not feel thankful.

I remember coming to this Thanksgiving service last year. Since Chloe wasn’t feeling well, Kip stayed home with the kids. I sat without my family, but surrounded by my church community. I felt God’s presence as I looked at familiar faces, received hugs and answered questions about our well-being.

Yet I did not feel thankful.

I listened as one by one, people stood and shared the blessings in their lives. I did not begrudge their thankfulness.

Yet, I did not feel thankful.

I felt guilty about my own lack of thankfulness. After all, hadn’t I marveled over the generosity of family and friends over the past 4 months? Hadn’t I felt overwhelmed by the prayers, cards, meals and limitless support bestowed on us, sometimes by people we didn’t even know?

Yet, I did not feel thankful.

I reflected on the wonderful care we received through DeVos Children’s Hospital. Somehow the staff made it fun for Chloe. Their patience seemed unending. Their ability to provide distraction during long appointments was astounding.

Yet, I did not feel thankful.

I also realized that Chloe’s cancer was very treatable. Her oncologist reassured us that we would see her grow up. The doctor shared many stories of adults who had this same cancer as children and were able to live normal lives.

Yet, I did not feel thankful.

As I walked out of the Thanksgiving Day service, I was struggling with my inability to find perspective. I was frustrated with myself for feeling so ungrateful. As I reached for my coat, Pastor Kama stopped me. She asked how we were doing. Many of you know how she has a gift for asking the right questions. She made it very easy for me to be honest with her about my struggles. She affirmed what I was feeling and encouraged me to be honest with myself and with God. Later, she sent me an e-mail. In it was this prayer.

God,I am not thankful.I am not thankful for my human limitations:my inability to maintain internal patience with my children,my moments of leaking my anger and frustration onto the kids or Kip;my exhaustion that leads me to want to scream at a simple request;

I am not thankful.I am not thankful for being at a place in life where we need so much support:I'm tired of receiving, and still not receiving enough to feel true relief;I'm frustrated that nothing can satiate the need we have for rest or respite;I'm sick of being needy, and needing more.

I am not thankful, God.Do you hear me?I am not thankful.
Except for one thing:I am thankful that I can scream at the top of my lungs:I AM NOT THANKFUL!!!!!!!!!!!and you will hear and understand.

As I prayed this prayer, I did feel thankful. I also understood that whether I felt thankful or not, I could pray honestly to God, that God hears and understands.

Today, a year later, I do feel thankful. I not only feel thankful that our family has survived cancer, but I feel thankful for the way in which God’s steadfast love carried us through the ups and downs of the journey.I feel thankful for a church who prayed for us and supported us through all of it, the good and the bad.I feel thankful for so many things.Most of all I am thankful for a God who is forgiving and understanding.

1 comment:

becky said...

thanks for sharing with the world. your honesty is refreshing - and your words bring comfort. in fact, i printed this blog (and bolded the prayer) to give my mom. she is also not feeling very grateful about her own health situation right now. may your prayer be her prayer too. you all are truly blessing people along your journey with your words.

and despite not always feeling it - god is good. all the time.

love you!!!

becky ramgren :)