Tag Archives: Texas

TSC and Me

Day 16 of Blogging for TSC Awareness
by Victoria Newberry  (Texas)
IMG_1290As I prepare myself to write this, I thought about how to represent my son and I realized that I can’t do it. I can’t write for my son because deep down I am still hoping that he will be able to do it on his own one day and I don’t want to take that chance away from him. So this story will be about me, about a first time mother who came face to face with this unknown called TSC.
We waited a few years before deciding to have a child. As the youngest, I’ve never been around pregnancy or babies. Needless to say, I was nervous. I joined a pregnancy website, read anything and every thing, went to pregnancy classes; I even interviewed doctors to be my son’s pediatrician. When he was finally in my arms, it was the happiest and the scariest moment in my life. I was, and still am, responsible for this tiny human being. I was a mother. The pregnancy website continued to be an infant “guide”. When they should be doing this or that, what you should be doing this day or that day, what exercises to do, what to feed, everything was planned. Then, he developed severe eczema at 2.5 months and I felt my world shattered. I did everything right, didn’t I? Did I use the right soap? Detergent? Did I let his skin get too dry? I kept on blaming myself, I got angry a lot, I was frustrated. Looking back, I think this period prepared me to face what was about to happen in a few months. My control-freak self would’ve lost her mind had it not been for this “transition period”.
March 2014, we got our diagnosis, my son has a genetic disorder 20140207_125126called TSC, it’s incurable. I remembered feeling numb, my head started organizing my thoughts. That’s how I cope: I analyze, I make plans, I figure it out. I asked for an explanation on what we would be expecting, how wide is the spectrum, what’s our game plan, what do I need to do in the immediate future. I had to get into action cause I knew if I stopped to think for a second, I would break down. I allowed myself to cry one time when it was just me and my husband, our son asleep in the metallic crib. I started reading about the disorder, gathering all the information I could to prepare me for what was to come. Joined facebook groups, talked with other parents in the same boat, trying to somehow convince myself that it will work out.
One year later, I’m a changed person. We never got seizure control, except for a few weeks earlier this year, after going through 6 medicines in different combinations, and I’m okay. My son is severely delayed and we recently had to put in a feeding tube because it was not safe for him to eat by mouth, and I’m okay. My days are filled with therapies, doctor appointments, keeping a journal (seizures, sleep, feeding, diaper count, body temperature, etc.), and working with my son at home. Guess all the skills I learned being an admin paid off, I have excel sheets full of tables and charts. My smartphone calendar became indispensable. I learned to let go of things I can’t control, and to maximize my efforts on things I can do something about.
I learned to not let fear of the unknown conquer me. Sure I get stressed out every now and then, and I feel like I sometimes I can’t breath, but then I gather myself together and put a smile on my face. They say a smile goes both ways, sometimes it comes from the heart and other times it warms the heart. I smile cause my son needs me, I smile cause my husband deserves support just like the support he’s given me. I refuse to drag them down in my sorrow and frustration, so I learned to let go. I learned to fight the battles that can be fought, and not worry about those that are not here yet. It doesn’t mean I don’t prepare myself for them, for the chance that my son might develop a new type of seizure one day or that he may never be verbal, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. I learned to trust more in my support system, to listen to their counsel, to be open to suggestions, to accept help. I am alone, yet I’m not lonely in this journey.
IMG_0879TSC made me a better stronger person. I just wish that it didn’t have to be at the expense of my son’s health. I am hopeful still that he has a chance at “normalcy,” but I’m prepared to face whatever comes our way. After all, what is “normal?” Merriam-Webster defines it as “usual or ordinary.” Life with my son is our “normal” and I wouldn’t have it any other way (well, that’s a lie, I would want him to not have TSC). You may be in our lives, TSC, but you do not define who we are!
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Unconditional Love

 Day 3 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

by guest blogger Caroline Clyborne Ramirez  (Austin, Texas)

image4-2Since our son, Leif, first learned to talk, we’ve been drilling him on a basic call and response:

“Why do I love you?”

“Because I’m your son.”

We did this because we wanted him to know that he was loved, no matter what. He had our permission to be lost and a knucklehead while figuring himself out. He could worry about other problems, like having to eat vegetables and sharing. He did not need to worry about courting his parents’ love.

Then, my daughter was born. At four months, we learned that Colette had a diagnosis– tuberous sclerosis. She had about 20 benign brain tumors and epilepsy. We didn’t know if she would be smart or independent. Our blank slate of a baby came with no guarantees.

The grief and terror of the first couple of months were intense. I image7wanted to pull away. I wondered if I could ever love this child like I loved my son. What had I told him? “I love you because you’re my son.” I’d promised him. Could I sincerely offer that to my daughter? I felt like a fraud.

Life got busy. I stepped away from my career and into the life of a medical advocate. Colette had weekly PT, OT and eventually speech therapy. She had frequent overnight hospital stays to adjust medication any time we saw seizure activity. There were eye appointments every 3 months because her seizure control medication endangered her vision. We drove to Houston every image6three months to participate in a clinical study. The insurance company required weekly hounding to cover the basics. It was only the beginning, and already, the tasks made me a busy bee. My son loudly demonstrated his frustration with the redirection of my attention. I tried to be enough and constantly fell short. I worried that our sleepy, medicated baby was the most flexible member of the family. Her big blue eyes sparkled, and she never complained.

It’s an odd thing to be given an open-ended diagnosis. There was no adjusting to the news. The hope and despair pulled me up and brought me down like a roller coaster– tea leaf predictions from smiles and gas. I wanted to either grieve or enjoy my child. The image2“what ifs” of the future were easy to Google, from skin lesions on her face to LAM in her lungs. What if she can’t learn and spends the rest of her life in diapers? What if she develops behavioral issues and hits us? My one life experience as a substitute teacher in a Special Education had taught me that was NOT my population. I did not reach out to moms with older kids whose fates scared me. I clung, tooth and nail, to the shallow end of the pool and hoped we would never have to drown.

I was in constant fear that she would take a turn for the worst and we, as a family, would not be okay. Meanwhile, Colette was a bright-eyed and happy baby. She splashed the water in her bath and gnawed on her Sophie giraffe. It was a bizarre juxtaposition. Colette was the poster child of innocence. I was her strung out Mom. In tiny slivers of clarity, I dug my nose into her neck and smelled her yummy baby smell. Regretfully, I often saw TSC more than I saw my daughter.

That was when she had seizure control. When that ended at 10 months old, my nightmares developed a physical form. I took detailed notes of what movements we saw and sent them to the white coats in this army. Please, I said. Please protect Colette. Our precious baby continued to smile, but she almost never babbled.

Even though we were creeping toward the chasm that I’d feared would swallow our family, I felt calm and sad. I acknowledged more publicly what was happening, and wept big tears as I faced how little control we had over a disease that had no cure. Colette had good days and bad days, and so did I. I spent my time taking her to appointments, arguing with insurance, and trying to keep things normal for our family. I felt depleted and I felt despair.

I realized at some point that my nightmares were a very loud image3statement to both my kids. Colette’s imperfection had made Mommy sad. TSC was in her DNA. Colette, by simply being born, had brought TSC and all of its challenges into our home. Her sweet demeanor may have been lovely, but it was a consolation, a kindness that momentarily offset a mountain of pain. She had more to worry about than having to eat vegetables, and even more to worry about than experiencing seizures. She had caused her family to suffer by means of existing. Something was terribly wrong, and that something was within me.

There was a woman on Facebook with a daughter who was cognitively two and physically 25. She kept posting proud mommy posts, and she baffled me with her acceptance of her child. I didn’t understand her, but something in me was shifting. I realized that a 2-year-old is lovable and delightful. My expectations of her child– that her child act 25– imposed onto her child’s existence something presumably painful that might not be real.

As I thought about her child, I was flooded with memories of my beloved Grandpa. Grandpa had Parkinson’s. He was sweet. He threw a purple foam ball back and forth with me. I didn’t “know better” that he’d lost something. I just loved him, and he loved me. Maybe I didn’t need the conditions I had for loving my child. Maybe I could just love my child.

As my eyes opened wider, I became aware also of how my vanity bled into my relationship with my son. He was so smart. He was so handsome. My pride appreciated pieces of him he never chose for himself. It was an easy mistake to make. In a family of nerds, his brains made him feel like our boy. However, he was getting extra credit because of his luck– because I was proud of his gifts.

How unfair of me. My job was to help him develop his character, and my preference for his smarts added conditions to my love and modified my expectations of him. His sister aside, I saw a rot forming in my parenting. Colette’s condition challenged my vanity and made me see both kids more clearly.

Humbly, as a flawed person mid-stream, I am challenging myself to change what I expect of both my kids. I am going to love them both because they’re my kids. I am not going to give Leif extra credit for being smart, and I am not going to turn Colette’s existence into a burden anymore. I’m just going to support her health as she needs and enjoy her in the present, stripped of all the disparaging “shoulds” that diminish her humanity. If I need to, I’ll think of Grandpa and find a way to throw a ball to my daughter. I’ll appreciate the day she can throw it back, but I won’t love her more for it.

I’ll keep love simple. That way, my kids can stop worrying about the quality of my love and start focusing on the road in front of them. When I whisper in my daughter’s ear that I love her, I now really know the answer. I love her because she’s my daughter– no matter what.

Brain surgery is coming this month. Finally, we’re ready.

image1

Focusing on Today

Day 22 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness Month

By guest blogger Cassie McClung  (Houston, Texas)

Avery1My husband and I learned that we were pregnant in the late spring of 2007. Married just two years, we were a bit surprised, but honestly thrilled beyond words. We had a ton of fun preparing for our new addition, even despite the fact that I was so horribly nauseated for the first five months that I lost 12 pounds. Her development, however, was always right on track, and every test and check-up went well. Just a month before her due date, we decided it would be fun to get the new 3-D ultrasound photos that we kept seeing at the doctor’s office. We ended up trying three different times. Every time we went, the baby had her arms up around her face, completely covering every feature. The first time was kind of cute. The second time was a little frustrating. The third time I asked the technician, “Isn’t it a little unusual to have her arms up every time?”

“Yes,” she said, flat out, “I’ve never experienced this before.” I remember my heart went into my throat. Could something be wrong? The doctor dismissed my concern later, telling me not to worry. I tried not to.

The next thing I knew my delivery date was around the corner but the baby was in breach position, so a C-section was scheduled. In late January of 2008, we were blessed with our beautiful daughter Avery. The surgical delivery went well, but within an hour of her birth, I was surrounded by a number of doctors with very serious faces.

They were concerned because it appeared that our precious newborn was having small but frequent seizures while under observation in the nursery. They bombarded me with a million questions at once. “Was she seizing in utero?” is the one that still stands out. WHAT?? What does that feel like? This was my first pregnancy. She kicked a lot, does that count? Were there other signs I should have noticed? I was stunned. Immediately, the doctors sent her away to a bigger hospital with a higher level N.I.C.U. I remember my Avery2delivery doctor turned to me and said, “I’m sorry,” before walking out the door, not to be seen again.

My husband and I were absolutely shocked and terrified.There was no holding, cuddling or bonding.  I tried to recover quickly from surgery, all the while imagining my baby girl across town under the care of who knows who, doing who knows what. Complete and utter torture. This was when I started thinking about the genetic condition that runs in my husband’s family. We were told previously by family members that we should not worry about it…that it was basically no big deal. Then I heard someone at the hospital say it for the first time. TS. Tuberous sclerosis. We hadn’t a clue.

I broke out of the hospital early and rushed to the N.I.C.U. I couldn’t believe how tiny she was, hooked up to so many tubes…all of the nurses knew her name. My Avery. They already knew so much about her. They’d spent so much more time with her than I had. It felt so strange. At first glance, she looked pretty and pink, sleeping peacefully like a typical newborn. And then I saw it. All of a sudden, she puckered her little lips, turned bright red, and her right arm extended straight out. It faded quickly, but there was no mistaking that she was seizing. Nothing could ever have prepared us for what happened next.

We were shown into a large meeting room across the hall. A doctor sat across from me and five or six med students and residents sat next to her. I’ll never understand why they were invited…why they needed to sit and watch this intrinsically personal experience unfold. They never spoke, just watched. The doctor slowly explained to us that Avery had been born with a rare genetic condition called tuberous sclerosis. Benign tumors grew willy nilly in her brain and heart. She had many of these growths in the left side of her brain, which were causing massive abnormalities and resulting in seizures. She also had a few in her heart, but they were not affecting her breathing, and we were told they would eventually disappear. Small victory. The ones in her brain, unfortunately, would not just go away.

Avery3So that’s when Avery’s brain surgeon appeared. Yep, my daughter has a brain surgeon. Surreal. And that’s when we found out that our newborn needed a radical brain surgery that was meant to end her seizures, or she would not survive: a hemispherectomy. The two sides of the brain would be disconnected from each other, and large portions of “bad brain” would be removed from the left side. Before we could even begin to digest this information, the surgeon went on to explain that he had never performed this surgery on a baby less than nine months old, and most of his colleagues had told him he was crazy. But that it was her only chance.

This is the part where I have to pause and breathe. Because more than two years after the fact, I can still feel the residual effects of this man’s words pulsating through my mind and body. I can still close my eyes and remember the breath-stealing sobs I cried as I said goodbye to my week-old daughter and heartbrokenly handed her to the nurse that would take her to the operating room. We waited hours and hours, hardly breathing, wondering if we made the right decision. It was, and Avery did beautifully. Her strength amazed us. It still does! She was in and out of brain surgery three times in her first month of life. She came home after one month and five days in the hospital, eating on her own, cooing and wiggling. The seizures had completely stopped. We had renewed hope, renewed faith. Her future appeared so much brighter.

We were told by the doctors that there was really no way to predict her future as far as cognitive and physical ability; but the upside was that the earlier the surgery, the better– i.e. giving the “normal” side of her brain time to take over tasks that the opposite side can’t handle anymore…and we couldn’t have done it any earlier!

Avery actually needed two more brain surgeries, at three months of age and at five months, before the seizures stopped returning. She continued taking Vigabatrin (Sabril) for the next four years as a back-up, in case they did try to come back. It was the only drug that had ever slowed down her seizures before.

For four years, Avery thoroughly enjoyed a total break from seizures, as did her parents. We were busy attending to her other many needs, like the fact that the surgery had resulted in the left side of her body being extremely weakened (hemiparesis). No one ever mentioned this side effect before surgery. It was then, and is now, our biggest challenge among many. When she was still not sitting up by herself at 18 months and after lots of therapy, we knew we needed a lot more help. We were lucky enough to find an amazing, private special needs preschool that had experience with children just like Avery. They taught her to sit and scoot. They taught her sign language, how to drink with a straw, and how to use a fork and spoon. And they continue to teach her now. I don’t know what we’d do without these amazing teachers that love my daughter for exactly who she is, and not what she lacks.

Sadly, this past year the seizures returned. We were devastated of course, but not surprised. We knew it was a miracle that they stopped for as long as they did. They are under Avery4control again now with new meds: Onfi and Vimpat. She seems a little more tired now, but overall a happier disposition.

Walking is still our biggest goal. The left side of her body just doesn’t want to cooperate! Although still extremely developmentally delayed, her cognitive skills continue improving. No words yet, but lots of sounds. We have three PT’s, two OT’s and two SP sessions every single week, on top of her school “work.” Avery works harder than any kid I know, and she does it with a smile. She has taught us endless lessons about love, grace, and the simple joys in life. Almost two years ago, we were blessed with another sweet girl! A healthy, TS free little sister, who dotes on her older sister.

As many special needs moms have said before me, it’s impossible to focus on the future right now. In order to get there, we have to focus on today. Today she is healthy, happy and working as hard as she possibly can to reach her potential. What that is, no one knows, but we will move heaven and earth to get her there.

Please check out Cassie’s blog at www.abubslifeblog.blogspot.com

Not Alone

Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness Day 9

 By guest blogger Jennifer Simmans  (Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas)

Profile PicOn a lovely day in the spring of 2009, my husband and I walked through the doors of the Tuberous Sclerosis Clinic at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.  I was, on two previous occasions, accompanied by my mom, but this was the first time for my husband to come with me since our wedding in 2008.  After checking in, we went to the waiting area where I saw the usual scene: a handful of patients, mostly children, accompanied by their parents.  Some were in wheelchairs, some were sprawled out on the floor playing with toys, and the moms looked on with such evident love and care.  We found some empty chairs in a corner of the room, and as we were sitting down, I noticed a woman sitting alone.  She wore a red shirt, black shorts, and had the familiar signs of someone with TSC.  I have two noticeable patches of angiofibromas on my face; this woman’s face was covered.  I struggled to peel my eyes away from her, not because of the angiofibromas, but because of the sadness that pierced my heart upon seeing her.  This adult woman was all alone at the clinic.  No loved ones accompanying her, no child in attendance, no spouse there to hold her hand.  Mixed with the sadness was an overwhelming sense of gratitude as the thought struck me – I’m not alone in this. While I so often dwell on the negative aspects of life with tuberous sclerosis, I take heart knowing that with each step, with each turn of the page in this story, I’m not alone.

~~~

My mom describes the spot on my face as a red, vein-like mark when I was born that developed into a strawberry-shaped patch by the time I was in grade school.  The area on my neckline developed over time until I was in junior high, and the shagreen patch on my back started appearing and spreading over the course of those same years.  My childhood involved occasional treks from doctor to doctor trying to get at least some idea of what these things were on my skin.  Anytime we would visit yet another doctor, the response was either a blank stare or the man awkwardly fumbling through his ancient medical tome.  Each visit ended the same, with my mom sighing and us returning to the parking lot with questions still unanswered.

Fast forward a few years to my early twenties.  I graduated from college in 2004, and spent the next year deciding on what the next phase of life would entail.  After weighing different possibilities, I opted to pursue a masters degree in counseling. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I individually decided to apply to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he would receive a Master of Divinity in pastoral studies and I would work towards my Master of Arts in counseling.  Just prior to our move in the summer of 2005, my mom informed me of a new dermatologist she was seeing and suggested that I make one last attempt to see if he might shed some light on my skin abnormalities.  She accompanied me to the doctor’s office, and the difference from previous doctor visits was remarkable.  Within ten minutes of him looking at my skin and fingernails (a couple of my nails have visible tubers underneath), he looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m pretty sure you have tuberous sclerosis, more commonly referred to as TSC or TS.”  He then ordered a biopsy of the shagreen patch on my back.  Just like that, days later, I had an official diagnosis.  The dermatologist didn’t want to overload me with information, but gave me a few pointers and places to begin my personal research.  He also recommended lining up a variety of doctors after moving to Louisville to begin the process of having additional tests run.  A few months after the move, once I was a settled and had medical insurance in place, I researched dermatologists in the area and was able to get an appointment fairly quickly.  The dermatologist I met with confirmed the TSC diagnosis, and ordered scans for my heart and kidneys, as well as an MRI for my brain.  Up until this point, all had assured me that these tests are protocol.  I was given the assurance that medical concerns were pretty minimal as I was in the small percentage of individuals whose manifestations of tuberous sclerosis are limited to the skin abnormalities.  The scans of my kidneys, heart, and lungs came back clear, so the doctor assured me that I could wait several years until being tested again since there weren’t any concerns.

The same dermatologist called me one evening after two weeks of waiting for the results of the MRI.  I was scheduled to be in a night class on campus, but all plans for the evening came to a halt when the phone rang.  I could hear the hesitation in her voice. The radiologist found a tuber on my brain roughly 5mm in size.  While the spot was not of extremely considerable size in and of itself, the location was of concern.  There was also the question of whether or not it would continue to grow since this was my first MRI at 23 years of age.  The dermatologist then strongly advised that I get in touch with a neurologist, and also instructed me to have an MRI performed every six months to a year for the next three years so that we could detect whether or not the tuber would continue to grow.  The weight and uncertainty of such news was paralyzing.  What if something goes undetected?  What if I develop additional tubers elsewhere?  The questions came to mind like rapid fire as I sat in shock on the couch in my living room.  I will never forget the quiet that came over my apartment after hanging up the phone.  It was as if the air in the room had escaped and I couldn’t move.  My boyfriend came over and spent the reminder of the evening at my side.  I don’t recall having ever wept as much as I did that night.  However, once the tears finally ceased, I again recall the stillness.  Only this time the stillness was accompanied with a sense of peace.  Not only did I have the comfort of my boyfriend’s presence there with me, but I knew in that moment that I was in God’s care.  All I had ever known and been taught came into focus as I was reminded that God knew this day before it happened, that I was His child, and that I could rest in His care.  That assurance—as frail as it seemed in the moment—was the only thing that prevented me from falling over the cliff into despair.

Over the course of the next year, I was lined up with a neurologist in Louisville who referred me to Dr. Franz at the Tuberous Sclerosis Clinic.  In 2006 and 2007, my mom and I took the short day trip to Cincinnati and met with the clinic staff.  The more I met with the team of doctors there, the more helpful information and encouragement I received.  While there were still very real concerns with my diagnosis, I had a bit of assurance knowing that my case was so minor.  More and more research showed that many patients have far worse ordeals to face in contrast to my own struggles.  The additional MRIs indicated that the tuber in my brain had not grown, therefore, doctors felt it safe to wait several years until ordering the next scan.

Two short months after marrying my husband in 2008, I had a malignant tumor removed from a salivary gland in my mouth.  While the link to TSC wasn’t certain, the nurse at the Tuberous Sclerosis Clinic said there was still the likelihood that it was related.  My husband and I were deeply relieved when we learned that the tumor was fully encapsulated, and further tests or treatment weren’t necessary.

I made the decision in 2011 to have a CO2 laser procedure performed to try and remove some of the angiofibromas from my face.  After having the procedure once in 2011 and again in 2012, I can’t say that much has changed.  The dermatologist who performed the laser procedure informed of the possibility that there wouldn’t be long-term results, and she was right to warn me in advance.  Skin tends to have a mind of its own, and the tissue is going to respond to a laser as it will.  While I was quite disappointed with the lack of results, I can at least say that I tried.  There is also always the possibility of trying a different doctor or researching whether or not a different procedure would be a possibility.

We moved back to Texas this past January, and with that will likely come finding new doctors and perhaps scheduling the next round of scans in the near future.  I am amazed that over seven years have passed since this journey first began!

~~~

The greatest blessing through this journey has been my husband.  I recall sitting with him shortly after receiving the news of those first MRI results, and him feeling utterly powerless to fix me.  He wanted me whole, free from sickness and complications, and he was powerless to change the situation.  And yet, he stayed.  When I told him soon after that he was free of this burden, under no obligation stay with me long-term, he chose to stay.  We entered into marriage knowing the difficulties we would face.  He chose to marry me knowing that our “normal” would look very different from everyone else we knew.  We had to have conversations early on that many couples we know never have to face.  We aren’t asking the question “Can we have kids?” but instead “Should we have kids?”  My husband is adopted, and the relationship he has with his parents encourages my heart.  They chose to take him in as a newborn orphan, giving him a home and name, which displays so beautifully the love that God bestows on His children.  Even before my diagnosis, we knew adoption would be on the table if we ever got married.  While we long for children, and while I have days when I long for that experience of carrying a child, we know that God has the plans for our family in His hands.  Any child we welcome into our home will be a gift, and at this point in our life together, we do feel compelled to pursue adoption.

God has blessed me in ways that often move me to a humble gratitude.  Nothing I have been given have I deserved.  I am surrounded by family and friends who support and encourage, most of whom respect our decisions pertaining to how we will eventually grow our family.  And I quite honestly don’t deserve my husband.  He loves me despite my imperfections, despite the ongoing, open-ended questions related to TSC.  He knew our family would likely look different than that of others, and he married me in spite of all of that.  My husband is a daily reminder that I am never alone.  I cannot be driven to despair over TSC because of the Hope that supersedes all pain and sickness that come with this life.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. . . .Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~2 Corinthians 4:7-18

For those of you reading this who have the support of loved ones around you—Praise God for that, and praise Him that you have such tangible evidence of His care and comfort.

For those of you who—like the woman in the waiting room at the TS Clinic—are alone in this, I pray for you.  I pray that you will come to know the hope and comfort from the God who will never leave you alone~

We Hit the Jackpot!

Day 7 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness

By guest blogger ZZ Mylar (San Antonio, Texas)

My husband and I always knew we wanted a big family.  After the birth of our first child, we waited just a year before trying again.  And kept trying.  And kept trying.  We were EPM 1heartbroken to find out that we had “secondary infertility” and that it would be difficult for us to get pregnant again.  After three more years of every procedure imaginable trying to conceive and countless prayers, God led us to adoption.  While adoption is a wild ride unto itself, we were blessed to be led to Las Vegas, Nevada for the birth of our second child … Emily “Presley” Mylar . . . what a Vegas win!  Her birth parents had been through some rough times and while they loved her very much, they knew they could not care for her in the same way that we could.  We were overjoyed to bring her back to our home in San Antonio, Texas, and our four-year-old daughter was thrilled to be a big sister.

Presley ruled the roost since day one.  She was vigorous and outgoing even as an infant.  She talked early, crawled early, and walked at 10 months old.  Starting at about 18 months, we thought she had hit the “terrible twos” early.  But she never outgrew them!  Her tantrums started getting worse and worse, and I would get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when she had one, convinced that something was wrong.  I even half jokingly told a friend of mine, “I bet she has a brain tumor!”

At age three and a half, Presley started having absence seizures.  Except we didn’t know what they were.  We thought she was ignoring us on purpose and being passive aggressive for a change.  We even punished her after these episodes.   Finally I called the doctor about what was happening and she had us come right in for a CT scan.  We got the call that night that Presley had TSC.  Of course this started endless research on my part and many doctors appointments to follow.  We saw a geneticist, neurologist, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, dentist, therapist, psychiatrist and a cardiologist.  We began trying seizure meds and finally went to the TSC clinic in Houston where they confirmed what all the other doctors had already told us.  Presley had TSC.

EPM2This diagnosis began to explain her crazy behavior and the white spots on her skin.  We found that she had tubers in her brain and we could expect a yearly brain MRI and renal ultrasound.  We were told that her heart was clear, but we should expect kidney and lung issues and tubers on her face, nails, eyes and teeth.  Her mental development could be stunted.  She may not lead a normal life, only time will tell.  Until then, hang in there, they told us.

Through the next couple of years, we did our best to manage her behavior, though it was very trying for all of us.  Luckily, her seizures stopped after a year (though the doctors assure us that they’ll be back with a vengeance at some time).

At age five, Presley began kindergarten, and we found out that she was very smart but had many social limitations.  This is when we began ADHD meds and her life (and ours) changed.  We began to see the sweet Presley we knew was in there somewhere and she began to make friends again.  Our family continued to grow (we have six kids now – yes, God has a sense of humor!) and the house was actually more peaceful than it had ever been.

Today Presley is an active fourth grader.  She takes quite a cocktail of meds each day to keep the Sweet Presley on the forefront and the Impulsive Presley buried down.  From Zoloft and Intunive, to very high doses of Focalin, we get a lot of looks and raised eyebrows from other doctors, but it is what is working for us.

As with many kids on ADHD meds, school gets the best of Presley.  By the time she gets home, she is tired and cranky and we’re not quite sure what to expect day-to-day, though EPM3this is getting better as she matures.  We found that she really needed an outlet to let off some steam and boy, did she find it!  Her impulsivity and anger are heightened being in tight spaces, but when she hits the soccer field, no one can stop her.  She has moved from YMCA teams to a club team here in San Antonio where she plays at a grade level higher than her own and at the top level of that age group.  She makes all As in school and gets excellent marks in leadership, manners, helpfulness and CONDUCT.  She has become a leader in her religious education classes and is wonderful (most of the time) with our younger children.  We could not be more proud of her.

I have been very hesitant to post on the TSC facebook pages because I realize how blessed we are.  I read about parents watching their kids struggle in school, socially or even to dress themselves.  I see posts about surgeries and hospitalizations and hear of drug therapies we know nothing about.  And I don’t feel worthy of telling our story.  My little girl has a pretty mild case of TSC, but it has hit our family hard.  We are blessed that she is bright, has not had kidney issues to date and has limited growths on her precious face, but her future health is not clear.

Whether we are dealing with mild or severe cases of this disease, we all have one thing in common: We want to kick TSC’s butt!  Our family prays for all of you affected by this disease.  We pray that Presley will continue to excel, to go to college without being tied to drug therapies and social boundaries, and to have a long and happy life.  We love our Presley . . . our big Vegas win, and we will fight for her to win against TSC.  Either way, we have truly hit the jackpot.