It’s been over a year now since I’ve been diagnosed with ALS. Has my life changed? Absolutely! And a huge chunk of it has changed for the better! But it isn’t only about me; it’s all about family and friends—and it turns out there are lots of them!! Here are some of the wonderful life-changing things that have happened since my diagnosis, and some of them likely wouldn’t have occurred:
This is a Facebook group with over 350 members! People came from all over to join the group and contribute to the emotional support for us. But it isn’t just a FB group. It’s our ALS group, our support group, the theme of everything were living for: Hope – Courage – Strength! The concept was designed by my wife, daughters, and son.
Last April, the St. Louis ALS Association told us about this Walk thing, and how we should reach out to people we know to encourage their support. Well, we did that and were pleasantly surprised! We had over 100 people join us for the walk last year, and their contributions were pretty amazing! But all along, and in the months since, the STL-ALSA has continued to impress us with their support and encouragement. Pretty impressive for a nationally-based support organization.
Family, Friends and Neighbors
People have been coming out of the woodwork to show their love and support, and to offer their prayers! It has been pretty amazing to see all these folks coming together. And my siblings, none of which live in St. Louis, have increased their frequency of visits as well as their compassion each time we see them.
Wife and Caregiver
I cannot say enough about how special my wife is. Simply put, she is wonderful! She is an advocate, a caregiver, my best friend, and she is the model of #KramerStrong! Her positive actions and outlook are an inspiration! I absolutely love her to the moon and back!!
Children and Grandkids
It has been wonderful to see our kids and grandkids as much as we do, even though they don’t live in St. Louis. Our 11 year old granddaughter organized a bake sale for the STL ALS last year and again this year, even though she lives in Chicago. Her 6 year old brother has a blast trying out all my medical support equipment—speech generator, cane, rollator, wheelchair, and probably anything else that we’ll get. I’m sure he’ll love the electric wheelchair when we get it!
Retirement and Travel
I had to end my career because of ALS. The good thing about this is that we were free to travel; and we did! We visited many of the places we had on our bucket list: Vermont in October (to redo our honeymoon, 36 years ago), Glacier National Park, Banff, Jasper, Savannah, Charleston, Seattle, San Francisco, Napa, Florida, Nashville, Asheville, and family visits. We’re winding down now, but those trips sure were fun!
I grew up in Cincinnati and moved away from there after college. Whenever I returned, it was to visit family. I hadn’t seen Cincinnati-based friends for over 40 years. Now, whenever we visit, we reach out and get together with childhood, grade school, high school, and college friends. What a blessing that has been! Reliving old memories and creating new ones! It’s so fun just to sit and talk with each and every one of them!
This is the one that brings it all together. My prayer life has grown exponentially and I set aside time each morning to talk with God. I attend a Men’s Prayer Group at Ascension each week, and those guys are pretty darn special in their support! Additionally, I am prayed for each week at all the Masses at Ascension. That is extremely humbling. And it is the glue for this entire challenge we are involved with!
Craig Kramer was diagnosed with ALS in February 2018 when he was 61 years old. His wife Julie, two daughters, Hannah and Chelsea, and son Mitchell help support Craig in all the ways they can, including joining him at the St. Louis Walk to Defeat ALS®. This year at the Walk, Craig will be one of the ribbon cutters. To register and learn more, visit www.WalkToDefeatALS.org.