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This year we celebrate 40 years of TS Alliance’s existence.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 32

by guest blogger Susan McBrine  (Oregon)

photo 1Tuberous Sclerosis.
Words a parent never wants to hear… Or expects to hear. Yet every day, all over the world, parents are still getting this diagnosis for their child, who may be experiencing seizures, developmental delay, autism, kidney and brain tumors and more .

I got this diagnosis  for my daughter over 40 years ago and I must say it changed my life forever. I  became an informed, determined, assertive researcher, educator and advocate for making sure that I knew and found all there was  to know and do to help her achieve  her potential. In the process I helped found Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and tried to help many other famiilies find hope for better treatments and a better life for their children with this disease .

This year we celebrate 40 years of TS Alliance’s existence. The organization has acomplished so much by advocating for and funding research, supporting families and much more. We celebrate, but I am  also saddened that many other young moms are also still going through what I did to get treatment and diagnosis. I am saddened that tuberous sclerosis exists. Yet, as a mom who has raised a child to adulthood and lost her  child to this disease, I am grateful for what tuberous sclerosis taught me about life, love and even her death.

Being a parent of a special needs child is life changing in so many ways, but in my case it changed my career and my perspective on life in general. It made me appreciate little things and focus on what is really important in life.

It also taught me valuable lessons on letting go of a child as she grew.  I learned to finally let go and let my disabled daughter have more of life of her own, despite her disabilities. It is very hard, when you miss those developmental milestones that non disabled kids have — when your child  goes to kindergarten,  off to college, work, marriage — to know when and how much to let go and encourage independence in a child who is basically totally or semi- dependent on you. The need to protect our vulnerable child is great and the tendency to overprotect always exists.

It was hard to step back and stop doing for her and let her do for herself. Dressing herself, going on the bus alone, spending the night away from me at a camp, having a boyfriend, and finally living in a group home with friends. All things other kids may do as they grow up, but for moms like us, whose child needs supervison and support in so many ways, it is  hard to let go even a little.

Letting go and teaching independence is important so that we don’t actually encourage dependence without realizing it.

Teaching age appropriate behavior to a 20-year old who would just as soon wear Mickey Mouse t-shirts and play with toys, that she is a young adult and must dress and be treated as a young adult is hard. I learned how, with help from many in her life, and from her.

I also was pleasantly surprised by how well she adapted to life in a group home at age 27. I thought she’d miss me so much I’d have to bring her home in a week. Nope! She flourished with her newfound independence and social life with her housemates — something I couldn’t give her at home with just the two of us. I also couldn’t continue to give her 24-hour care while I had to work and sleep. She got fresh caretakers every eight hours who weren’t tired, cranky or had other things to do.

What is hard for parents to admit as we get older (and we will) — the 24-hour care taking can be too hard without help. And the time will come when we can’t do it any more  due to our age or illness.

We have to really be realistic about helping our child find a place in the world as an adult without us while we are still around to help them transition. It’s harder if we die and they experience the grief of missing us and have to transition to a new home. That is the letting go and the transition we all worry about the most. We worry no one else will care for her or him as we do.

As a special education teacher of young adults 16 -22, I often heard parents say, “She can’t or won’t do that at home. How did you get her to do that?”  Some photo 2of my students had very low ability, but were able to work with some support and could learn to do things like cook, load dishwashers and do laundry for themselves. Things their parents didn’t let them do because they thought they couldn’t. It’s always amazing what they can do when we let go. I learned that my very  delayed and disabled daughter could do so much more than I ever thought or would have allowed her to do until I learned to let go some!

Every child is different and every state and family has different resources available, but it is something to think about for every parent.

Teaching independence and letting go is something to do gradually. After all, we all want all of our children to be happy, have a social life of some kind, to experience love and friendship, and to be able to support themselves in some way. They can’t do that if we dont teach independence  and responsibility to all our children.

Stacia taught me much in life. Tolerance, patience, unconditional love, selflessness and how to see the world through her eyes. Her life was a gift to me in so many ways, although battling her disease was also hell in so many ways.

I am grateful for the support the TS Alliance gives parents today, and for the hope that all our children with disabilities will have better lives to live and increased opportunities to do so in today’s world. We can all help them by increasing awareness of  not only TSC, but of all those with disabilities and their need for acceptance, employment, education and a place in society.

Please see Susan’s contribution from last year’s blogging event about the founding of the TS Alliance.

From Becky (Mixed Up Mommy): Thank you so much to everyone who contributed this year! It has been a pleasure to share your stories and read your personal or your child’s triumphs. I leave you with some artistic contributions from TSC warriors.

Chloe, age 5, Georgia
Chloe, age 5.
Bladen, 7.
Bladen, age 7.
Bladen, 7.
Bladen, 7.
Zander, age 7.
Zander, age 7.
Erica, age 19.
Erica, age 19.
Erica, age 19.
Erica, age 19.
Fiona, age 6.
Fiona, age 6.
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Tornados, bubbles, and wine. Oh my!

Ten days. Itstanding has been ten days since we last recorded one of Connor’s eye rolling seizures with our SeizureTracker app. Yes, there’s an app for that. Just like that, after five months of this weird seizure activity and a 3-day in-patient EEG–nothing. It is awesome, and we just try to enjoy it without projecting ahead because there are no promises in TSC land. He’s so much more alert and engaged in the meantime. Even more giggly, more aware of his surroundings, and increasingly open to people he doesn’t know as well. He had his best swim class ever last week. I’ve been swearing to his instructor that my kid really does smile–I have pictures to prove it. But week after week, though he didn’t fuss or cry, he openly regarded us as dumbasses for requiring him to take an extended bath in an oversized tub to off key singing. But finally, he not just cracked a smile, but laughed and did all his own kicking without me prompting him to move his legs.

The class he has been enjoying immensely is music. He is very interested in the other babies, which is great because I want him to be inspired to crawl and move like them. First he seemed to have a man crush on Ben, but this morning a new love crawled into his life and knocked his socks off. Well, actually she crawled over and just yanked one of them off, but he was so instantly smitten by Priyanka’s bold gesture, that he grabbed both her shoulders and went in for the forehead kiss…or lick. He has made a wise choice. Mom is an ER doc. I feel good about having a doctor in the family. And if Priyanka ever seems distracted by any of the other boys, I’ve observed that I can win her back for him with my car keys.

Connor can now stand when bracing himself against the couch, which is nice. He is also firmly into the “it’s fun to throw everything on the floor” phase, which is less nice. He started speech therapy last week, and I sense some of his grumbling will eventually form into four-letter words. His speech therapist brought him some awesome bubbles that are unlike your standard Target bubbles. These don’t pop as easily, allowing him to catch them, stack them, and for me to scrape them off furniture for days afterward. But look how much fun he’s having.

Bubbles 1Bubbles 2

Meanwhile, in adult world, I’ve been trying to motivate myself to go out more. It’s so easy to be lazy and do nothing when it’s cold AND you have a kid. I actually had two social engagements in one weekend. I felt like I was 27 again! Chris and I attended a paint and wine tasting function at a  local gallery with our friends Giovana and Damien, taught by our friend Yuri Strom (insert reference to Yuri so that when she’s famous I can prove I know her). I love the way each of our paintings shows our personality. My “I need to please by doing it right, but I’m trying to emulate a carefree lifestyle” painting, Chris’s “OCD everything must be symmetrical” painting, Damien’s “I’m just here for the wine, so my sun’s gonna set in the east if I feel like it” painting, and Gio’s “I’ll show you, happy Tuscan countryside, exactly what pain is” painting.

art gio painting

art chris and damien 2

 art gio art me

art group

Barcelona barThe next “morning” I went to Barcelona Wine Bar for brunch…at noon. We live in the Bible-thumping state of Georgia, and only just got Sunday alcohol sales. Of course the government still feels the need to regulate the hours that is permissible, so they can’t serve until 12:30, thereby destroying the essence (mimosas) of the brunch. So, I guess it was really breakfast for lunch. Oh well. I showed the gov’ment by ordering an entire bottle of wine.

Oh, good. Everyone got the boot memo.

Oh, good. Everyone got the brunch boot memo.