Thursday, April 12, 2018

Always And Forever Keeping the Faith

Perhaps you met the sweet and spunky soul who captivated an entire community with her smile and her bravery in beating cancer not once, but twice.

Faith was only six the first time she was diagnosed with cancer, and the entire community rallied around Faith and her family with "Keeping the Faith" signs and shirts and a wide variety of fundraisers. Only two short years later, her cancer came back, this time in the form of leukemia. That same sweet smile showed bravery and courage most of us can never imagine. And though Faith would beat cancer that second time, she would pass away from complications of the treatment, when she was only nine years old.

Stacy and Grace at the Freezin' For a Reason polar plunge.
Yes, there's no question that Faith was an inspiration to so many, and her memory continues to live on through Faith Sent Us volunteers, who remind all of us to do random acts of kindness in Faith's name.

But while Faith courageously fought her battle in the public eye, there's someone behind the scenes who fought her own battle, and one that inspires me as a mom each and every day.
While Faith was fighting cancer, her mom, Stacy Lamb, was fighting for her daughter with everything she had. It's a battle I'm familiar with, as we struggle every day to make sure all of Grace's needs are met.

But in a lot of ways, I'm lucky. In six and a half years, Grace has only spent one night in the hospital. We were seriously there less than 24 hours, and by the morning, I was counting the minutes until they let us go home. Being with a sick child in a hospital is hard.

I don't know how many days Faith spent with her mom in the hospital, but I'm guessing it was in the hundreds in her two bouts with cancer. If you've never tried to sleep in a chair next to a hospital bed of beeping machines, count your blessings over and over again.

But the hardest part is the worry and helplessness that overtakes your entire being. In a heartbeat, you would take over all your child's woes as your own, just so they didn't have to hurt. And knowing that you can't take away that hurt is just about the hardest thing in the world.

So, let me tell you about my friend, Stacy. She's one of the strongest people I've ever met because she met that battle head on. She spent countless nights in the hospital,worrying and praying that someday Faith would get better. She was (and still is) that mom all of us wish we were.

I got to know Stacy in working on news items for the paper. She made sure Faith got to do some really amazing things in her short life, like throw out the first pitch at a St. Louis Cardinals game and see Justin Bieber in concert. I always enjoyed talking to Stacy about Faith when I was putting things in the paper. She always had a smile or a laugh, and never seemed to be worn down by the challenges she must have faced every day.

And then she had to fight the biggest battle of them all, losing her sweet Faith. With grace and poise, Stacy joined hundreds at a prayer vigil and thanked a community who would always "Keep the Faith."

We waited in line at Faith's visitation and when it came time to give Stacy a hug, she looked down at Grace, and told me if there was ever anything she could do to help us, just to let her know.
And I've come to know that's just the kind of person Stacy is. She reaches out to help those who need it with a smile. Faith Sent Us volunteers are currently organizing a pajama drive for the children's hospital in Springfield, and they continue to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. Most recently, they are rallying around the family of leukemia patient Layton Pezold of Litchfield, reminding him and his family that "no one fights alone."

I'm here to tell you that I know Stacy has hard days. We all do. Those that have sick children face even bigger battles.

There are days that I wish I didn't even have to get out of bed. But all moms have to get out of bed. There are little people that rely on us, no matter if I would rather pull the covers up to my chin and pray for brighter days.

But Stacy sets a great example and an inspiration for us all. She reminds me that not only should we all put our feet on the floor in the morning, but that we should do it with a smile. Life is hard, there's no question about it. Sometimes, we just don't get that miracle that we pray so hard for. But we're lucky to be surrounded by some pretty amazing people.

And we'll always be "Keeping the Faith" on our Grace-Filled Journey.