Tag Archives: genetic counselor

Diagnosed with TSC at age 18.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 22

by guest blogger Vicky Garrett  

(Ferryhill, County Durham, North East England)

Vicky and her fiance.
Vicky and her fiance Kevin.

So my journey started later in life for me. It all began in 2005; I was 18 years old and I had just given birth to my wonderful son Leo. During my pregnancy I had suffered with a large amount of kidney infections but I was just given antibiotics and told to go home and rest and that kidney infections were common with pregnancy. However, after I gave birth I found I was still getting very bad pains from my kidneys (the left even more) and so I was sent for an ultrasound scan where the sonographer announced she had found loads of unusual lumps on both of my kidneys and that she sent the results to my GP. She told me he’d be in touch.

A few weeks later my GP sent me for a more detailed Cat scan where they injected a dye into my blood system so they could take a closer look at these ‘lumps.’ The results were again sent to my GP.

My GP didn’t have any idea what they were, so he had the idea to send me to a urologist to see if they had any ideas.

The urologist explained I had around 30-40 lesions on both kidneys, one of them being 11cm x 9cm on my left kidney and he told me it would need operating on ASAP. He said, “If you accidentally knock your kidney and the lesion bleeds you’ll have an hour to get to hospital before you die.” Those were his words. I was totally shocked and didn’t know what to do. He offered me an operation called an embolisation in which they cut off the blood supply to the lesion to see if it will die. He said I’d have the op in the next few months, and in the mean time he sent me to a geneticist.

The first appointment with my geneticist will stay in my mind forever. I was still 18 and had a young baby. My fiancé and mother attended the appointment with me for support.

The geneticist was a lovely man named Dr. Brennan from James Cook Hopsital, Middlesbrough, England. He greeted me with a big smile and sat me down.

Vicky's partial nephrectomy scar.
Vicky’s partial nephrectomy scar.

First he went through a list of all my family members to see if there was any possible link which we didn’t find. Then he went on and explained what he thought these ‘lumps’ were. Being 18, most of it went over my head but I took in what I needed to. He explained that these lumps were called angiomyolypomas which is a common find in the genetic mutation Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. He didn’t explain much about TSC and told me the best thing I could do was to research it myself at home as it is a very complex condition.

Dr Brennan then went on to explain the other symptoms of TSC and told me I’d be going for quite a few scans to check all my other major organs; he also checked my skin for the different TSC skin mutations and I had every single one!

Dr Brennan took blood from me and told me he was sending it off for an extensive search of the TSC gene. He advised these results could take up to two years to come back.

Finally, Dr Brennan advised that he would test my son as there is a 50/50 chance that I could pass down the TSC gene and he advised me at 18 years of age to have no more children as the risk was too great.

I left this appointment with a blank mind and an empty heart. Over the next few weeks I didn’t want to face what had been said to me and I tried to ignore it all, focusing on my little boy.

Sadly, due to a mistake from my urologist I didn’t get my embolisation until a year later. Unfortunately a scan later revealed that the embolisation had failed and I was facing a much bigger operation called a partial nephrectomy in which my new urologist took the large AML and half of my left kidney. It took me six months to recover from this op but the pain in my left kidney was no where near as bad as before.

Not long after my operation I received an appointment to see my geneticist…. The blood results were back after 3.5 years and they couldn’t find my mutated TSC gene. Dr. Brennan advised that I still had the diagnosis of Tuberous Sclerosis Complex and that the gene must be hidden where the technology couldn’t reach but hopefully advances in technology in years to come may eventually find the mutation.

Vicky's children.
Vicky’s children.

I have since been approached by Cardiff University in Wales because they do a lot of research for TSC and they have found new technology to search further into the DNA. They are taking a closer look at my blood to try and find the mutation gene. My blood has been with them around a year and I have not had any news yet.

Since then I have had a little girl and both children have been tested. Thankfully they are both clear, but myself and my fiancé have decided to have no more children.

I am also currently awaiting another operation as I have a large AML on my right kidney. My urologist is trying to decide whether to try an embolisation or whether to go straight for another partial nephrectomy.

I have a lot of friends on Facebook who have either their own TSC journey or have children with TSC and they are like a family to me. If I ever need support they are there and they know exactly what I am going through and feeling. I have a wonderful fiancé and two gorgeous children. Sadly a lot of my family do not understand what I am going through and some don’t want to admit that I have a condition which will affect the rest of my life.

It has been a very tough nine years and I am still trying to understand TSC. I think I will always be trying through the rest of my life.

She is not tuberous sclerosis. She is my beautiful daughter Estelle.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 1

by guest blogger Jennifer Carpenter (Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

me and Estelle HalloweenI remember thinking to myself, “What are you talking about?” as I watched the radiologist point to the small white dots on the ultrasound image of my 25-week-old baby. She was saying something about cardiac rhabdo-something and her heart, and I was really just hearing words but not comprehending anything. Then, about 10 minutes later, a woman came in the room and introduced herself as a genetic counselor and handed me an information pamphlet from 1995, (and this was in 2012). I briefly glanced at it and saw the words “mental retardation” and “tumors”. I sat there dumbfounded while she told me that my unborn baby likely had a genetic disease called Tuberous Sclerosis and would have significant disabilities and may not be able to walk or talk. Again, I thought, “what are you talking about? Are you saying my baby will not be normal?”

I got into my car after the appointment and sat there in stunned silence. I picked up the pamphlet and for some reason started reading about the origins of the disease; how it was discovered and what happened to people that had tuberous sclerosis. “Fits” and “convulsions” and “retardation” were the descriptions used early on by doctors to describe these patients. Many of these poor people ended up in mental institutions. I thought, “Will my daughter have to be placed in a mental institution? How will I be able to take care of her? What will happen to her?” Then my cell phone rang. It was the genetics counselor that I had just spoken with. She told me that she was sorry and that while I could not get a late term abortion in California, that Colorado would allow medical terminations up to 27 weeks, if that was something I wanted to consider. Termination? I had been watching my daughter grow in my belly for nearly 7 months, watching her hands and feet take shape, her face and lips develop. How could I end the life of my daughter after all this time spent together? Had others terminated their babies with this diagnosis? Was that the right thing to do, if she was not going to have any quality of life and be completely mentally and physically disabled? Were the doctors certain that she had tuberous sclerosis? All of these questions were swirling around in my head as I drove the 2 hours home that day. Two weeks later, her diagnosis was confirmed through genetic testing. A spontaneous mutation had occurred during her development. This was to be our reality and I had no idea of what that would mean to my life or to hers.

In the end, I knew that I had to continue the journey with my beloved daughter growing inside of me. I became hell bent on understanding the disease and photo-178learning all that I could about what may happen to her. I threw away the 1995 pamphlet and discovered that there’s much more information and treatment options available today than there were in 1995. Our knowledge about the disease has come a long way in 20 years. (And shame on that genetic counselor that gave me such outdated information; they should be the experts on the latest information out there on genetic disorders, even the rare ones).

On the day she was born, I knew that I was going to fight for her. To be her voice and her advocate. I knew that, while I couldn’t change the fact that she has tuberous sclerosis and there is no cure, I could get her the best medical care possible and be aggressive and proactive with her treatments. I got her into a TSC clinic and I immediately enrolled her in research studies to help learn more about the disease and to help find a cure, (and selfishly, to have more doctors track her development and provide early identification of potential issues). It gave me some sense of control over an uncontrollable diagnosis and an unpredictable future. At least I could take comfort in that.

Today, my daughter is a beautiful, smiling 15 month old toddler. She isn’t yet walking or talking, but we are working on it. She may have significant developmental delays and may require special education and assistance, we just don’t know yet. She still has those cardiac rhabdomyomas, but they are not causing any issues and her eyes and kidneys are clear for now. She does have mild epilepsy, which is well controlled with medication. But these days I just try to focus on the person that she is becoming, rather than the diagnosis that she has. She is not tuberous sclerosis. She is my beautiful daughter Estelle, who laughs and hugs and smiles and just got two new teeth.

Estelle 1 year