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An Unexpected Detour

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Has your life ever taken an unexpected DETOUR? Well, mine most certainly did last week. Most weeks we have plans for our time, our work, with our family and friends, and with the exception of a bump in the road here and there, life seems to progress as expected. With one phone call I was abruptly taken into a completely unexpected direction. My niece called from Alaska.

“Aunt Rhonda, Connor (2 years old) is sick, very sick. They’re not sure yet what’s wrong… tears…”

With my fingertips on the keyboard of my computer thinking I was going to write my newsletter, the journey began with an email calling for the focused love of those in my immediate circle of family and friends… ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Special Ones in my life…

Please pass the word to keep my grandnephew, Connor, in your heart. He is in the hospital in Anchorage with a serious staph infection that they are yet uncertain what it masks. Mom and dad are scared and tired, so please shower Connor, barely 2, his mom and dad, and 4 1/2 month old baby brother Carson at home, with your warm, healing, and tender thoughts. They need to lean on your courage today, holding the highest and best.

Blessings and gratitude, Rhonda ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Another call. “Aunt Rhonda, they have run all sorts of tests. Connor is a pin cushion. They have done a spinal to rule out meningitis. His white blood cell count is so high… they determined that it’s… leukemia. They have Connor and Steve (his dad) ready to air-flight to Children’s Hospital in Seattle. Carson (age 5 months) and I will follow on a red-eye flight. What do I take? What should I do? My baby has cancer! (tears) I hate to be a bother. They have a shuttle… (more and more tears)”

I replied, “No, Sweetie, I’ll be there to pick you up…” My heart ached too. Would I know what to do or say to comfort and how to help? I knew the greatest peace and clarity would come if I were to surrender to the experience. Angels would appear, and somehow we would manage the unknown. Before heading to Seattle I called for the focused healing energy and support from my loved ones to cushion and hold us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dear Ones,

I just heard from my niece. They are life-flighting my grandnephew to Seattle accompanied by his daddy. My niece is taking a commercial flight at midnight and I’ll pick her and baby Carson up at 5:15am. They have determined that Connor has leukemia, and so the journey of miracles begins here, one moment at a time for at least the next 6 weeks of treatment.

Please continue to hold their dear little family in your heart. I will go to offer my support until we know more, and I will let you all know as things evolve as I have the opportunity. I will go without my computer because my hands will be full caring for whoever needs to be held. Life is so sturdy and so fragile, so gentle and so harsh, so tender and so full of unknown gifts in odd disguises. This is the only moment we have. So please live fully today in complete support of Connor.

I remain grateful for your consistent prayers.

Love, Rhonda ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Having been a labor coach and childbirth educator for many years past, whenever I take a pre-dawn drive it makes me think of the times I greeted the morning driving home from a birth. This time thoughts of the opposite possibility crept into my peripheral vision. Fear would tug at me to drift there and I would choose over and over again, moment by moment, to re-focus on the present moment seeing Connor and his family arriving safely, being cared for by compassionate people, and having a positive outcome. I even refined my prayer, asking for the courage to handle whatever was in the highest and best with courage and grace.

Alicia and Carson arrived totally exhausted from fighting strollers, suitcases, and the routines of the airport. We piled into my car and the 20 minute drive to the hospital seemed like an eternity. My car became the vessel where fears were dumped and longing for hope was declared.

The next few days became a blur, a bizarre and surreal avalanche of bad news/good news. He has leukemia/It’s the easier kind to cure. He’ll loose his hair/He’ll look like his baby brother again. It has a high success rate/You can stay at the Ronald McDonald House/The room is not very big. You will be here at least 7 months/He doesn’t need to be in the hospital the entire time. The follow-up treatment will take about three years/At least he will be done before he starts school.

The stages of grief whirled in the air. “Auth Rhonda, I am just in shock. This is story you hear about someone else’s child, not mine! We had plans. What about work? How will we pay for all of this? What did I do wrong? Am I being punished? Will he…?”

Such a huge wave of information and emotion mixed with little or no sleep rattled this entire family. And, believe it or not, they are one of the luckier ones. Many little ones are far more ill with horrible things, and some stand little chance of ever going back home. One day your life is normal, and the next all your plans are shoved off the screen and replaced by a very different reality. Breathe… Breathe… Real strength is called for to choose to adjust your attitude when you cannot adjust the circumstances.

I stayed a few days until they got settled, as settled as you can get when your life takes a complete detour and you move your ‘home’ from one location to another in less than two hours and your son has cancer. I held a baby and provided a listening ear as they danced between shock, anger, despair, confusion, and until I knew a Grandma from Alaska was on her way to provide the next needed pair of extra hands. Who knows how it will all unfold. I did what I could to get them started on this new path full of ‘unknowns’ and ‘un-imaginable’ challenges.

The world of ‘children with cancer’ is an amazing one. With few exceptions it is full of compassionate angel caregivers, strong parents, and amazing resources… and sometimes not. I witnessed patients and their families chose between courage and bitterness, more often choosing to open to the blessings to be found in even this horrific experience.

I am sure I will have many more reflections as I integrate this detour into the land of unexpected illness, but for now this is what I know. Children are resilient. The present moment is all that we really have. We choose moment by moment. Angels are everywhere. Parents will do anything for their children. Life is stubborn. Friends are dear. Prayer and focused thoughts are powerful. Control is an illusion. Surrender offers relief. Detours provide new perspective, and love is the healing ingredient to any unlikely circumstance.

Savor each moment, Rhonda

“If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.”

— Lance Armstrong

“We are continually faced with great opportunities which are brilliantly disguised as unsolvable problems.”

— Margaret Mead

Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.

— The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

— Buddha – Philosopher

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