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Honoring Rachel

All of us know of a milspouse who is dealing with a critically ill child. It's an incredibly exhausting time. It's made even worse because we are probably new to the area, don't have friends around us that we went to kindergarten with and, the biggest blow of all, we are not in the bosom of our family. It's true that we have our military family, but even this connection seems to be less stable as so many are dealing with their own serious issues.

Those who are dealing with a serious illness of their children are truly amazing, those who are dealing with this well are awe-inspiring. I'd like to highlight some of these moms over the next few months. Perhaps there are those of you out there who could give help, support, comfort or empathy....

Rachel's son, Nathan (5) has been dealing with Stage IV Neuroblastoma for 2 1/2 years now! He's an amazing story of perseverance and faith. His mother is a super hero!

The odds of survival for kids with this disease are abysmal. Rachel and the family (dad and little sister) are inspirational in their strength and courage. The times she comes to me stressed and worried are few, but I know this is really an everyday feeling! She boldly questions the doctors, stretches the TriCare system to do what needs to be done for her son and somehow manages to find some normal times for her entire family (like when they were baking Christmas cookies!).

For years her life has been run by this disease and by watching her son endure one horrendous treatment after another, each worse than the one before it. Nathan is truly a hero and a hell of a great kid! Rachel's been able to raise him through all this to be a fun, intelligent and very normal kindergartener. This is no small feat! She's done this through TDY's and long separations on top of all the usual hardships of military life! She even manages to get emails out of everybody almost daily to let us know what's going on and to share in their story. You can read about Nathan on their Caring Bridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/nathanormsby

She is tenacious when it comes to her son's care. Latest thing she's done is some of the research for the docs. This is apparently not appreciated by the medical community, but they so often don't appreciate our knowing more about the disease and treatment than they do! Problem is, all we need to know is our child's disease, our child's protocol, our child's issues - so our focus is much narrower. The medical teams need to know and keep up with a much broader spectrum of medical issues. This ability to focus our interest, along with the blessing/curse of the internet, enables us to find out a LOT of information. Rachel is the watchdog of Nathan's care - probably why he's still alive despite the odds! - and she's a phenomenal advocate for him. She's dogged with the medical team and really knows TriCare inside out!

But she and her husband are mostly alone in this fight. Being a milspouse means that, no matter how much they want to be there, her family, can't be around for every appointment, every procedure. Friends are taking care of her, but it's not the same as family. She's an example of what I'd like to be for my kids, but know I fall short! We got really lucky with Migs - 12 years later, he's still alive with no evidence of recurrent disease and TriCare has been very good to us. Our families took turns being with us and we were almost always with either my family or Papa Bear's. The military communities in which we've lived were there for us when we needed them and people have always reached out to support us. Not everyone is as fortunate!

So, tell me - do you have milspouse friends whose kids are battling cancer? What have you found the military community doing to support them? What are you doing to support them? How are they finding the TriCare struggle? What are their stories - good and bad - their experiences - good and bad? Would you like to honor a milspouse who's dealing with a child going through cancer?

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