Day 5 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month
by guest blogger Amy Dublinske (Kansas City, Missouri)
“If you spend too much time waiting for the storm, you’ll miss the sunshine.” A wise quote to live by, though easier said than done when battling a chronic illness. Realistically, with the tribulations of tuberous sclerosis complex it does feel like you are always waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the train that’s about to hit you or walking through a land mine. Our journey with TSC officially began one decade ago today, 05/05/05.
Cinco De Mayo is the ultimate celebration in the United States and Mexico. A day observed to commemorate Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces. For the past decade Cinco De Mayo has carried a new meaning for me and my family. On May 5th, 2005, our precious daughter Kierstin Gabriella was born….with tuberous sclerosis complex. May 5th now marks the day we officially entered “The TSC Club.” The dreaded diagnosis that we truly feared that may just become our reality. Cinco De Mayo has truly been a bitter-sweet day for the past ten years.
While pregnant, doctors told us that there was a 50/50 chance that our baby girl had TSC due to numerous cardiac rhabdomyoma tumors. We researched TSC. We talked to several TS families but were plotting out how we would tell them the day that they determined that our baby “really didn’t” have this awful disorder after all. Denial is a happy place, Right?! Unfortunately that day never came and we were officially inducted into “The Club.”
I can clearly recall the cardiologist trying to gently explain Tuberous Sclerosis to this very pregnant mom-to-be for the first time ever hearing those words uttered. Though his English was broken, the one thing that was abundantly clear in any language were his words “we hope it is not Tuberous Sclerosis. This is a very grim diagnosis.” The words “brain tumors, heart tumors, kidney tumors, mental retardation and there is no cure” were also communicated rather clearly.
When leaving the hospital, while nearing the elevator I witnessed a mom pushing her infant daughter in a stroller. She began lifting her in the air and playing peek-a-boo with her to the point of the baby belly laughing. I suddenly became weak in my knees and collapsed right there on the floor at over eight months pregnant. It suddenly struck me that we may never have this with our baby girl or may never experience the privilege of hearing those belly laughs. How could this possibly be happening to us and to our precious daughter that we longed for years to have? We had so many hopes and dreams for this little one and all those dreams seemed to be suddenly shattering with just one sonogram. I think at that very moment I knew in my head that she had TSC, yet my heart wasn’t willing to accept it. The next month is a complete blur as we prepare for the unimaginable while still holding onto a small shred of hope that they might be wrong.
Essentially, May 5th doctors confirmed what we dreaded and the medical journey which was filled with much uncertainty began. She was induced with the anticipation of open heart surgery given large rhabdomyoma tumor growth. Though her heart was more stable than initially expected, we quickly received the dreaded diagnosis of TUBEROUS SCLEROSIS. All of her organs were affected with tumors at birth. We were devastated beyond words! A short glimpse of the journey begins with evaluating every organ by a new “ologist.” Countless appointments, numerous medications, relentless seizures, years of therapies, multiple hospitalizations, brain surgeries and weeks and weeks and weeks advocating and educating about this diagnosis that I have quickly become an expert on is what our “new normal” consisted of. No one imagines their baby struggling to reach the most basic of milestones like rolling over or sitting up. Who plans their family vacation destination in conjunction with medical appointments with specialists from across the country? Every parent of a child with special needs grieves their child’s diagnosis at one point in time. I remember silently crying in the shower in the mornings, so that no one would hear me. I am ashamed to admit that I have never completed Kierstin’s baby book. Every time I would try it would be a reminder to me that she had not met any of her first year milestones, or if she did, briefly she would lose the milestone with the next seizure.
If I knew then what I know now, I would definitely have spent more time in the sunshine and less time waiting for the storm. “The storm,” which was more equivalent to a never-ending roller coaster ride with some of the most gut-wrenching twists and turns you can imagine, has taught us how to live in constant chaos and crisis so to speak. This journey and particularly Kierstin has taught me more about life than anything else I have ever experienced. Throughout the years I have had dozens of people say “You are such a strong person, this must be why you were chosen to be Kierstin’s mom.” Being strong is the ONLY option. We refuse to allow TSC to define our daughter, but more importantly SHE refuses to let TSC define her!!
Kierstin has taught me unconditional love to a higher degree than I ever thought possible. Though my dreams of having my first born daughter are much different than today’s reality, I have so much to be thankful for. This journey with TSC is not quite the journey of my dreams; though Kierstin is the daughter I have always dreamed of!! This year we celebrate Cinco De Mayo thankful for God choosing us and mostly trusting us to be her parents. We are eternally blessed and thankful for this privilege of meeting our hero on May 5th of 2005. Many people dream of someday meeting their hero, but fortunately I gave birth to mine!! So after a decade battling TSC, Cinco De Mayo is now my day of celebrating my HERO!! Enjoy the sunshine, forget about the storm. And Always Remember: We Will Give Everything! But Up!!