Are you handicapped? No? THEN MOVE.

handicapped-parking-1478608I got really insanely angry this morning. I attended the sneak peak at my son’s elementary school in Cobb County and was unable to park in any handicap spot. Every single spot was taken. Only one had a legal tag displayed. Every single striped wheelchair loading zone was taken, too. I’ve learned, thanks to a couple Facebook groups, that this is a common problem in many of our Cobb schools and little has been done to address it.

I haven’t had a tag for Connor that long, so while I obviously know this stuff occurs, I was not prepared to see EVERY SINGLE SPOT taken illegally (aside from the one). I complained inside and an announcement was made, but unfortunately the police officer that is there sometimes wasn’t present this morning. Someone who illegally parks in a handicap spot in the first place isn’t going to move because of an announcement, anyway. And when I left, there was a fresh crop of new illegally-parked cars pulling out of those spots as the sneak peak ended.

My son has a handicap placard because his brain has a bunch of benign tumors that have delayed his development, cause seizures, and make him a wobbly walker. And yet, I still only use the spots when I absolutely must. I don’t care that the lot was full this morning and that you didn’t want to park farther away.

I WILL TRADE YOU MY SON’S BRAIN TUMORS AND HIS PARKING SPOT FOR YOUR NORMAL PHYSICAL ABILITIES. 

Feel free to keep your asshole gene though.

Next time I will contact the police myself.

You are the reason my four-year-old son fell four times on the way to the car.

My kid fell because of people like you.

Someone else had to carry a 70-pound child to the other side of the car to get to their wheelchair because of people like you.

Someone’s child almost darted in front of car because they don’t understand danger because of people like you.

So get it together, not just Cobb County, but everyone that thinks this is okay.

 

I disappeared because of weed.

Shameless clickbait title, but it’s technically true.

There are actually two major reasons I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog for the past year. 1. Burnout. I think I just hit a wall talking about TSC and I completely ran out of motivation. 2. Even when I did feel like posting I couldn’t talk about one of the most significant aspects of what was going on with Connor, which was that he was enrolled in an Epidiolex trial. I was not allowed to discuss it online while in the study.

In Venice, FL to visit Grandma Judy and Grandpa John.
In Venice, FL to visit Grandma Judy and Grandpa John.

I’m still dealing with intermittent motivation, but the other issue has been resolved.

Connor was fortunate to be included in an Epidolex trial last year by his neurologist. We were shocked to get in when so many were turned down. Epidiolex is manufactured by GW Pharma by extracting CBD from the cannabis plant. Unsurprisingly, this drug is pretty controversial in the cannabis world. Most people who are using medical marijuana or in the cannabis world are not thrilled with a pharmaceutical company getting involved. I completely understand this, feel similarly and get why this is problematic, nonetheless, obtaining regular cannabis in every state was/is an issue and we were accepted around the time some companies were finally able to use a federal hemp law to start shipping cannabis oil with THC levels under 1 percent. It was still the same stuff that used to be illegal; they were just able to get it reclassified as hemp rather than cannabis because of the low THC levels. Right after we started, Georgia finally passed an immunity law protecting people for having certain types of medical cannabis for certain conditions if your doctor would sign off and you registered for a card from the state.  So the timing was weird. All that time with nothing, and then both options fell into our laps at almost the same time. We decided to try Epidiolex as it would present no legal issues with travel and other logistics (and I know low THC oil under 1 percent is in a grey area and theoretically okay in any state, but for those of us in Nathan Deal country and other states run by people with heads up their asses, nothing is guaranteed. For example, we aren’t allowed to administer the oil in the hospital without the card).

Meeting a manatee at Mote Marine in Sarasota.
Meeting a manatee at Mote Marine in Sarasota.

It was utterly pathetic to learn just how many parents were ready to attack other parents for making the decision to enroll in studies. Parents that seemed to forget that not so long ago, pharmaceuticals were their only option, too. So for those of you that feel the incessant need in the various cannabis “support” groups to do nothing but viciously attack everyone who isn’t using the strain you approve of, you can seriously kiss my ass. There is a huge difference between explaining why you feel one type is preferable and making a parent who is just asking questions in order to learn feel like an idiot because you are on a power trip. At any rate, as you’ve likely guessed, we are no longer in the study.

Captivated by the waves!
Captivated by the waves!

The first five months were fantastic. We went from 2-3 seizures a day to up to 12 days seizure-free at a time. His cognitive skills improved, as did his physical skills. He learned how to use picture cards around the house to tell us what he wanted in a day. Unfortunately, we had to take most of them down after a few weeks when he began to take pleasure in making us jump just because he could. He went from using them effectively to thinking it was funny just to make us do stuff. He also started tackling hills on our walks like it was nobody’s business. Unfortunately, in mid-July, things went to hell. He was worse than he’d ever been and it wasn’t even that his typical seizures returned, so much as he seemed to be having a lot of subclinical activity and was a blob on the couch. He’d fall all the time and could barely walk. It was a nightmare 2.5 months. This contributed to my lack of motivation on this blog and I also fell off my other project, which I plan to get back to soon. Since I was still following many cannabis groups to see how people were using whole plant oils made in legal states, I came to the conclusion that his CBD dose was too high, and as soon as we lowered it, he began to improve. Things went okay for a couple more months, but when we lost control again, we decided to leave the trial and start Haleigh’s Hope, which we order from Colorado. It’s made by Jason Cranford of the Flowering Hope Foundation. We chose it because we know several people in Georgia having success with it, including Haleigh Cox for whom it is named.

At Touch-A-Truck in Kennesaw.
At Touch-A-Truck in Kennesaw.

Right off the bat with the switch, whatever subclinical activity might have been going on started getting better. He was walking again within a week. The situation was much improved from months of being so floppy he couldn’t function and going to school many days in his chair. Seizures in general have still been a bit of a roller coaster, though not to the degree that he’s unfunctional, but the issue we are having appears to be that since he just started school, he’s catching every germ that comes his way. The slightest sniffly nose means lots of seizures, usually starting days before symptoms even show up. It has been very frustrating. However, when we are able to keep him healthy for a couple weeks at a time, he does very well. Now that we are sliding into spring, I’m hoping things will even out and we will see sustained seizure reduction.

But can I just tell you about his eye contact? That has become phenomenal since starting HH. Sometimes I feel like he’s practically challenging me to a staring contest. After a couple months, it started to dawn on me that his stimming had decreased as well.

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I have high hopes for the incoming warm weather.

I mentioned in my last post that just before I headed off to a blogging conference, Connor and Chris were getting sick. I returned home to Connor still exhibiting cold symptoms, and Chris the same. Though when Chris started having hot and cold flashes, I became suspicious that something else was at play. Connor slowly seemed to get worse and we celebrated his fourth birthday by having to give him two Diastat doses in one day, 12 hours apart for the first time ever. The next day he spiked a fever and had quit eating and drinking so we went to the ER where he was diagnosed with the flu. An IV perked him up to his old self so we went home, but he reverted the next day and we were admitted from Wednesday-Sunday. He developed pneumonia on top of the flu and almost ended up in ICU on Friday when he couldn’t keep his oxygen levels up. Thankfully, the next day he began to recover.

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Feeling better finally!
Feeling better finally!

So here’s to hoping we can make it to and through summer vacation without any further drama!

Traveling to the Novartis Blogging Conference for TSC

I haven’t blogged much over the last year, except to rage over my pet political issue, so imagine my surprise when I was invited to the Novartis Blogging Summit for TSC.

*Insert legal disclaimer here–While I was not paid for my time at the summit, my travel, hotel and food expenses were paid by Novartis.* They also gave me a box of kittens. No. I’m kidding. Only one lousy kitten.

Four other moms to kids with TSC were also there.

Tina of Captain Jacktastic, who I initially met around the time I started this blog through WordPress and later Facebook.

Heather who has written several pieces for Huffington Post, and I met for the first time last year in DC during the TS Alliance’s March on the Hill to continue funding for the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex Research Project.

Laurisa of Land of La, who was one of my early stalking victims when I was finally able to do TSC research for more than two minutes at a time without “breathing” into a paper bag.
IMG_8972 And Stephanie of Lanier Landing, who was the only one I had really never had any social media contact with, but I had stumbled across her blog when seeking other TSC kids in Epidiolex trials. At the time, her son was the only one I knew of.

The day I left, Connor seemed to have a bit of cold and Chris thought he was coming down with it as well. This is called foreshadowing — but I’ll get into that later.

I was picked up at the Newark airport by a man holding a sign with my name. I am accustomed to such a lifestyle as I force my husband to stand in the driveway most days and greet me in this manner when I come home. It turned out Laurisa had shared my turbulent flight that wasn’t quite in a “luggage bins popping open” category, but definitely required gripping of the arm rests and the parents in front of me to intervene with their 10-year-old who was launching a panic. The driver whisked us to the Short Hills, New Jersey Hilton where I luxuriated briefly in the softest king bed ever then headed down to the hotel bar to meet the other ladies.

We had dinner with several Novartis employees and shared our stories so they could have insight on what it’s like to live day-to-day with TSC. For those that don’t know, Novartis produces Afinitor, a medication that can shrink certain types of tumors that occur in TSC. Connor, fortunately, does not have a need for this medication at this time, but it would be a likely course of treatment should he ever develop a SEGA in the brain or large AMLs in the kidneys.

It’s weird to sit and talk about your kid and TSC without having to give a bunch of background information, explaining what certain acronyms mean or why a particular medication might be preferable to another. They already know and they’ve already been there.

When dinner wrapped up at 8, we caught the train into NYC to meet another TSC mom who lives in the city.

Correction, four of us went. Tina’s no fool. She wasn’t about to let a king bed, personal hotel room and a long, luxurious shower without the door cracked listening for shenanigans pass her by.

We met fellow TSC mommy Naomi at Haymaker Bar, a few blocks from Grand Central Terminal, ordered drinks and appetizers and talked about some more acronyms that needed no defining.

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Heather revealed that Times Square was on her bucket list and since I was pretty much intent on spending every minute I could squeeze out of this 24-hour trip in NYC, I was fully supportive of her checking that item off. We trekked through the tourist mecca, which was hopping on this Friday night. As we passed by the Disney store, we were drawn inside by the sheer number of people inside at midnight. Apparently a large number of tourists venture all the way to New York and decide, as one day rolls into the next, that they simply MUST HAVE AN ELSA DOLL RIGHT NOW. It was amazing. And a little sad. But mostly amazing.

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We caught the train back to Short Hills where we bonded further as we almost spent the night in the station. The hotel didn’t offer much hope of a taxi and their shuttle service had stopped. Our first Uber driver was too stupid to find the train station. No we are not shopping at Trader Joe’s at 2 am. The second one found us, but appeared to have only been a licensed driver for a day or two. At any rate, we made it back to the hotel where it took me another hour to fall asleep, still high off neon and LED lighting (did you know that the Times Square district is the only district with a requirement for businesses to have illuminated signs and that there is a minimum, rather than maximum, lighting requirement)?

The next day was filled with discussions of TSC, diagnoses and, most importantly, what kind of resources would we have liked to have had when we received the diagnosis. We spoke of the fear of what was out there on the Internet and at least one person had been told to stick to TSAlliance.org and not to Google. Period. Novartis unveiled some new informational pamphlets for our feedback and said they are revamping their informational site.

There were some other resources they want to be sure the TSC community is aware of.

  1. The Afinitor $25 co-pay card. This only works with commercial insurance (not Medicaid). If your co-pay is more than $25, print this out and take it to the pharmacy.
  2. Afinitrac. This support program offers financial and educational support, deals with your insurance and provides other resources. Please note they are only allowed to offer it to patients who are using Afinitor on-label. If you are using it off-label (meaning for something it has not been officially FDA-approved for yet, like seizures or cognition) they are prohibited from providing this support.
  3.  Turbo & Scott. Previously the story book about a kid named Scott who has TSC was only available online, but it is now in print. It goes into a lot of detail about TSC in more kid-friendly terms. It’s a bit complex for younger kids or kids who are cognitively affected, but for older kids, siblings, or friends, it can be a great resource. There is also a comic book about a teenage Scott on a quest to meet others with TSC.

I was not required to share these resources or blog about the summit in order to attend, but I wanted to make sure people know about these resources as for many of us, the use of Afinitor (Everolimus) could very well be on the table one day, if it isn’t already.

I’m sad to say that I had to leave just before we wrapped up to catch my flight so I didn’t get to spend more time with my mommies, but perhaps my suggestion, as I exited, to do this again in Vegas will be heeded by Novartis😉

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And so I headed home where I would soon learn that the cold was not a cold…but more about that in my next post. A full update on Connor to come and the reasons why I’ve dropped off the mommy blogging planet.

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission Votes Against Recommending In-State Cultivation

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet. For some background you can read this if you need it. Today the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission met to decide on the final recommendations for the state and the medical cannabis program. The vote was 11-5 against recommending in-state cultivation, which would keep medicine more affordable for patients and not force them to break federal law obtaining meds.

A recent poll found that 84 percent of Georgians support expansion of the law and in-state grow.12309486_10153181418405496_6836359295388926619_o

This is the breakdown of the vote. Please note which side most of the doctors are on versus lackeys for Governor Deal, who plans to block expansion.

Yes: 
Rep. Allen Peake
Dr. Mandy Reece (pharmacist)
Dr. Cynthia Wetmore (oncologist and head of research for Emory and Children’s Healthcare)
Dr. Yong Park (pediatric neurologist)
Dr. Mark Murphy (gastroenterologist)
No: 
Dr. Alice House (head of state medical board)
Brian Rickman (district attorney who was recent appointed judge by Gov Deal)
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald (commissioner of dept of public health)
Senator Butch Miller (floor leader for Gov Deal)
Rep. Katie Dempsey (Rome)
Ryan Teague (exec counsel to Gov Deal)
Chief Stacey Cotton (police)
Sheriff Gary Gulledge
Rick Allen (Director of GA Drugs and Narcotics)
Vernon Keenan (head of GBI)
Gary Black via proxy vote (commissioner of agriculture).

I’d also like to thank Pastor Mike Griffin, head of the Georgia Baptist Convention who spoke at the hearing and said that although he has prayed with families who need this healing, it should not be passed. Basically his fear of recreational use (which is not on the table) is more important than the welfare of sick people. He can be reached at mgriffin@gabaptist.org.

Yep. Legislators and law enforcement are apparently more suited to making medical decisions than doctors and patients.  Read it and weep, Georgia. No seriously, you should weep. This state has serious issues.

They used the federal government as an excuse. Georgia. Does Georgia have a track record of bowing to the federal government? Apparently, only when it suits them.

There will still be legislation introduced to try and expand the program to include more conditions and cultivation, but overcoming dirty Georgia politics to make it happen is not going to be easy.

Governor Nathan Deal
Phone: 404-656-1776
Email: georgia.governor@gov.state.ga.us

Find your state representatives here:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

Governor Deal plans to block medical cannabis expansion.

I’m experiencing a serious feeling of deja vu. Except last year Governor Nathan Deal waited until after Christmas to drop the bomb on the sick and suffering of Georgia, along with their families. Happy holidays, citizens. You don’t matter.

Let’s do a brief recap. In early 2014, a parent lobby rose up, with the help of Rep. Allen Peake of Macon, to try and pass HB 885/Haleigh’s Hope Act to help people with epilepsy access cannabis oil. It was a very limited law, but by the time it hit the floor on the final day of session, it had been whittled down to nothing but immunity for possession of the oil. Political games were played, namely by Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (who has his sights set on the Governor’s seat), and the bill died, much to the devastation of the families. As the clock ticked toward midnight, several families ran to Deal’s office to beg him to intervene, to demand that the bill get a vote. He wouldn’t come out of his office. More families moved to Colorado in desperation. And three children I knew through this effort would pass away as the fight continued.

Over the course of the year, Peake led a commission to explore the idea further and how to make it work in Georgia. They concluded in December of 2014. Everyone was excited at the prospect of a bill that would include more conditions and allow a higher ratio of THC to CBD  (necessary for many people for whom CBD alone doesn’t cut it). It was also supposed to allow cultivation and growth in the state of Georgia as bringing it over state lines is federally illegal. Before the session even started, Deal made it clear growing was off the table. It was another devastating blow, however, HB 1 did pass with several eligible conditions. Residents could apply for a card that allowed them to possess cannabis oil with up to 5 percent THC.

Let me quickly say, I am for full medical marijuana. Legislators should not be able to dictate what conditions or stages of disease are eligible. They are NOT doctors, except in rare instances. But this is the sad hand we are dealt in Georgia. Too many elected officials that think it is their job to parent rather than represent the will of the people, who are largely in favor of medical cannabis. The goal for 2016 was to hopefully expand conditions and allow growing so that federal law doesn’t have to be broken to obtain it.

The signing of HB1 in 2015 was quite the production with the Governor’s office. He even shed (crocodile) tears as he signed the bill to help the families his staff strategically placed around him for the camera op. It was a performance worthy of an Academy Award.

Over the course of the past year, taxpayers have sponsored another committee to explore options for growing in Georgia. They have not completed their work or presented the final findings to Deal, however, yesterday he came out and said he will not support growing in 2016 either, even though the whole point of the committee he appointed was to make that happen.

He says law enforcement doesn’t want it. Well, last time I checked, that isn’t the branch of government that writes the laws.

He also says that the 300 people who have registered aren’t enough to be worth the cost of the program. Hear that, fellow card holders? Our loved ones aren’t worth it. He fails to recognize that many people can’t register because the restricted legislation doesn’t include their conditions, or if it does, they have to be end stage (yeah, you aren’t dying enough yet), and many need more THC than is allowed by the current law. Several patients are also encountering the issue of their doctor refusing to sign off simply because they oppose the idea or lack education about how it can benefit various conditions.

I find it funny that he considers the cost/benefit ratio not good enough to have in-state grow, but he supported pharmaceutical trials that cost the state an extraordinary amount of money, and have taken forever to benefit anyone at all.

He never intended to listen to either committee. But he was happy to waste your tax money putting on a show of fake compassion.

There are two things I really hate about epilepsy. The first is obviously what it has done and continues to do to my child, even though he has shown extraordinary improvement on CBD oil.

The second is how it has left me feeling about my state and my country. Getting involved in corrupt politics has been so incredibly disheartening. I was happier in the dark, but there is no going back. I just hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a majority that can override Deal’s veto. But that road looks a lot like a Georgia road in an episode of The Walking Dead. We need everyone to speak up. Please call and email your state senators, representatives and, of course, the governor. Let him know you are tired of him ignoring the will of the people.

This site will help you find out who your state officials are:

http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/

Governor Deal, this is just one the many faces you are hurting. Look at him. He is a person. He is a Georgia resident. He is loved. Now do your job.

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For more on what happened last year, read this.

 

 

 

This is Epilepsy

From a fellow TSC mom.

Dac's Mommy

Today we were having a good day. Dac was busy playing

with her toys, she had a snack and was her usual smiley self.

Then this happened.

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you see Dac has Epilepsy but it is more than a word. This is my child this disease is affecting and many more children and adults. If you are hesitant to donate for research, advocate for treatments, support ,educate or to even pass a law

look into her eyes and explain why.

See the blood trickling from her mouth? She bit her tongue. Not a pretty sight

you want to see. Imagine if this was your child.

This is not the picture of my daughter i really want to share. I prefer this one

deborah

With Epilepsy you do not get to choose.

You have to watch your child in helpless fashion endure it and

to pray they come through it.

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For all we have lost, there are great treasures that remain.

Day 29 of Blogging For TSC Awareness

by guest blogger Rebecca Thereault

For all we have lost, there are great treasures that remain.

image-12Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC) hijacked our daughter’s genome. Like the lowliest of thieves, it stole from an innocent baby.  It’s haul?  A base pair on her TSC2 gene on her 16th chromosome, to be exact. Two tiny amino acids that shifted her genetic code and forever hindered her ability to suppress tumor growth in her body.  Funny thief–one that gives more than it takes.  What TSC took has caused tumors to grow in her heart, brain, skin, and kidneys; it has caused epilepsy, heart failure, autism, developmental delay, and more.  It’d be easy to hate such a thief and sometimes I do give in to the loathing. What I have learned, what Kaleigh has taught me in her 5 and a half years, is that for all we have lost, for all that TSC has taken, for every hurdle, for every burden, we have also gained.

Before I go any farther, I need to pause here and clarify my image-14dangerously close to sounding Pollyanna statement that I have gained things from TSC. TSC is a devastating, incurable (currently) disease.  I am not thankful for what it has done to our daughter. It has nearly taken her life on more than one occasion. AND, I have gained things as an individual, we have gained things as a family, that I and we would not have otherwise.  I could write about the seizures, the MRIs, the hospital stays, the therapies, the behaviors, the terror of it all, the need for more research, the scientific advances, or why this disease should matter to you. In some ways those issues are easier to articulate–there is a concreteness. But, when I think of what the presence of TSC in our lives has really meant and truly taught me, I think about the “and” of life. It is the idea that there is no darkness without light, no joy without pain, there are and must be both. Kaleigh and TSC are inexplicably entwined–it is literally weaved through the double helix of her DNA.  AND, she is not TSC.

image-13 I was 29 weeks pregnant when the ultrasound technician said she needed to call down a specialist because there was something wrong with our baby’s heart.  It was the first time we were introduced to TSC.  It was as though a vortex opened and sucked away all our hopes and dreams and left us empty and terrified.  Perspective, and time, have changed these memories for me. I see now the seedlings of “and.”  We were devastated and hopeful.  Terrified and determined.

At the time, it felt like a lie to even smile. I was stymied by the image-15darkness, the anger, the overwhelming devastation.  I told no one at my baby shower, only immediate family knew.  I spent the day opening presents for a child I was told may not survive.  I smiled for the camera as I checked my watch because I had to run back to the hospital to receive the second of two shots intended to develop her lungs and give her more of a fighting chance.  All I was able to focus on was the insincerity of my joy. Now I see this was my first introduction to the “and” of TSC. Both were true.  I was terrified and excited.  I was alone and simultaneously surrounded by love.  This would be our life with Kaleigh and TSC–the presence of two seemingly opposite experiences coexisting.

image-16Kaleigh was born pink and screaming, and it has been one wild ride since.  The overwhelming joy of taking her home matched with the horror of a PICU stay for heart failure.  Over the past five years, we’ve experienced innumerable times when we were faced with two seemingly opposite and incompatible experiences vying for our attention.  It was a struggle for me to find the joy amid so much pain.  What I found is that life is in the balance. It is in the “and.”  If I let my anger at TSC overcome me, then I am blinded to the appreciation, pride, and joy of seeing Kaleigh achieve and progress.  If I succumb to the stress and fall apart after she seizes for two hours straight, I miss her tiny waking first word of “uh-oh.”  If we accept that there is no cure, then we lose hope and the drive to keep raising funds and lobbying for research.

With TSC we have lost much of the simplicity of life, yet have gained a rich complexity.  We have gained the camaraderie of others who walk this journey with us.  My view of life has widened.  When I look at others, I think of the “and.”  I wonder what is behind the anger of that not-so-nice lady in the checkout at the grocery store and I try (some days are easier than others) to offer grace.  The “and” has reverberated through our family. Our son is quick to help other children and befriend those who are often excluded.  At the same time, he has spent many a night crying after nightmares of his sister seizing. My husband and I have worked to raise awareness and fundraise for TSC research.  And we have worried and lamented over the never-ending medical bills.  No where is the “and” more apparent than in Kaleigh.  Her love for life is as palpable as the heartbreaking panic she experiences at the mention of the word doctor.  She is loss and hope personified.

Joy and pain.  Love and hate. Jubilation and sadness.  Dependence and freedom. Trust and betrayal. Jealousy and contentment. Life and death. Fight and acquiescence. These are the lesson I have been gifted. Our life with TSC is heartbreaking and beautiful. Most of all it is a balance–what we have lost AND what we have gained.

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Living in Atlanta, loving travel and watching my son kick tuberous sclerosis complex's butt.