Tag Archives: tubers

Bailey

Day 13 of Guest Blogging for TSC Awareness

by Becca Patterson  (Greenwood, Mississippi)

My name is Bailey and I am 5 years old. I was diagnosed with TSC when I started having seizures at 5 months. I’ve had almost every type of seizure there is but currently my seizures are under control.

I have tumors & tubers in my brain, small tumors in my kidneys, and every skin abnormality associated with TSC. I am non-verbal, physically and mentally delayed, and autistic.

I am also beautiful, silly, sweet, and a spit-fire. I am TSC.

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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.

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You are not winning, TSC.

Day 2 of Blogging for TSC Awareness Month
by guest blogger Mary Garnett  (Roanoke, Virginia)

10530697_10152504883715700_7231308209995918033_nI was just 24 weeks pregnant when the words “tuberous sclerosis complex” were muttered to my husband and me, and pamphlets about this disorder were thrust into our hands by the doctor. They found cardiac rhabdomyomas on my otherwise healthy baby boy in utero. From that point on, I had biweekly monitoring by multiple doctors, scanning every bit of our child to detect any other marker of TSC and they did not find anything, even after a fetal MRI.

Our little boy, Owen, made his appearance on March 16 at exactly 1619175_435903126574175_3888823022529246311_n40 weeks. Everything about labor and delivery couldn’t have been more perfect and our son scored wonderfully on Apgar and hearing. After four days and some NICU monitoring, we were able to take our little man home to enjoy. We didn’t realize how soon that would change.

Three and a half weeks later, I began noticing a twitching of Owen’s r11046409_447237978774023_1711788437182916419_night arm. I had done my research on TSC and the different types of seizures I should be on the watch for. Intuition was telling me these WERE seizures. My husband was more optimistic, but the twitching was increasing, so off to the pediatrician we went. Following that appointment, we were immediately sent to be admitted at the hospital after our pediatrician got to witness what I had been seeing all along.

Multiple tests including a lumbar puncture and bloodwork came back normal. It was not until a VEEG was done that we got our confirmation that these were indeed seizures. A brain MRI the next day then officially diagnosed our son with TSC after finding multiple tumors in our son’s brain. You know when four doctors, a chaplain and social worker walk into your hospital room at the same time, that the news can’t be good. Owen was started on his first anti-epileptic medication that same day. We were thrilled when it worked from the first dose and were excited to go home, thinking this was the end of seizures for Owen. That medication worked for three days.

Multiple seizure types, six medications, one diet and one brain surgery later…

Owen is now 13 months old and experiencing freedom from seizures for the first time since he was a newborn. How has someone who just celebrated their first birthday been through so much already? How does he continue to smile and play despite seizures wreaking havoc on his development for 11 months? Because this kid has strength and spirit that only God could bestow.

We don’t know what the future holds for Owen, but we don’t care. He has taught us that no matter the battle, the strength to continue on will always be there for him, and for us that is enough. You are not winning, TSC.

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I didn’t hear anything from that moment on even though I saw the doctor’s mouth moving, except “there is no cure.”

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 30

by guest blogger Katie Creamer  (Long Beach, California) 

keenan in carTwo and half years ago one of my biggest dreams had come true; I was so happy and extremely proud when my healthy and beautiful baby boy was born.  My husband and I had been waiting and preparing the best we could for this exact moment for a long time and we were finally ready.  My baby was perfect; beautiful, big, had a full head of hair already, had 10 fingers and toes, and alert from the first moment we met.

This being our first baby it took us a while to understand each other’s needs as I recovered from my Cesarian section and immediately started breast feeding, but within a few weeks we were perfectly in sync and in pure bliss.  Being a mom was amazing and I immediately knew why I was put on this earth; to be Keenan’s mommy.  When I look back at those first few weeks, the only clue we had that our life would soon be shocked to the core was a white spot/ birthmark on his knee that our pediatrician had waved off as no big deal.  We quickly began the newborn pattern of the day filled with eating, sleeping, and pooping; we thought everything was perfectly normal.

Where our story is slightly different then a lot of others lies within the next 18 months.  We lived the next 18 months as a normal, healthy, happy new family.  Keenan hit milestones on time and was a constant thrill to watch him cognitively advance and become a little person.  We were doing perfect and beginning to plan for a sibling for Keenan in the future.  Then at 19 months old Keenan spiked his first high fever which caused a “febrile seizure.”  Witnessing that was what I thought would be the scariest moment of my life. We called 911, had our first ambulance ride, and by the time we got to the hospital everything had settled down.  We were told Keenan had just had a febrile seizure which was explained to us as keenan after surgery 1“no big deal” and “some kids are just susceptible to this, but they eventually grow out of it.”  Next time, “just remain calm, then when it stops bring him in afterward”, “they can last up to 15 minutes, but just try to remain calm.”  We were told this is common (we even saw another baby come in after a febrile seizure while we were there), we were told how to avoid fever spikes and seizures in the future with high doses of Advil and Tylenol, and then sent home.  Proud of how my husband and I handled this emergency and what we thought might be our biggest challenge, we went on with our lives.  I researched what I could and tried not to worry too much, till six weeks later when Keenan had another fever.  With this fever I was ready with alarms for meds throughout the night but didn’t need them because I didn’t sleep at all and just watched him through the night like a hawk.  He had made it through the night without a problem so I went to work in the morning and left Keenan in my husband’s capable hands.

I’ll never forget at 10 am when I was finally able to check my cell phone and saw that I had five missed calls from my husband.  Listening to the voicemails confirmed my worst fears, I could hear my husband saying, “it’s ok Keenan, daddy’s here.”  My heart dropped because I knew Keenan was having a seizure.  I called my husband quickly to find out what hospital to meet him at, and to my surprise he hadn’t called 911 yet, now realizing he was following the ER doctors instructions and he was following perfectly, “waiting it out.”  My mama gut came screaming out and told him to call 911, and he did.  When the paramedics had arrived he had been seizing for over 20 minutes and they had to sedate him to stop the seizure.  Looking back, our first mistake was listening to the ER doctor. My son had experienced a status event.

IMG_5124jpgAfter a few hours of my son lying lifelessly in the ER, he started to struggle to open his eyes and make sense of his situation.  Quickly we noticed that he could not move his entire left side or even move his eyes to the left even when I called him.  We were scared to death and a CAT scan was done on his brain right away.  Within 15 min they told us that he had a brain tumor and multiple “lesions” on his brain, and they told us he had something we had never heard of, Tuberous Sclerosis.  I didn’t hear anything from that moment on even though I saw the doctor’s mouth moving, except then I heard “there is no cure.”

We sat in shock for the next two weeks, researching what we could (but the internet scared us to death) and making many specialist doctor appointments.  We heard many grim possibilities, but the scariest we heard was that “how this disease will affect your son can not be predicted” and it’s all about dealing with one symptom at a time as they pop up for the rest of his life.  Keenan also has been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease, has a “medium burden” of tubers in his brain, one SEGA, and multiple nodules.  We now sit in the unknown trying to cherish every moment because we have no idea what the future will bring.

Coming up on 1 year since Keenan’s diagnosis we have gone through three different anti-seizure meds trying to control his 4-20 seizures a day without any success, we have faced the tremendous life changing decision to make to try brain surgery on our 2 and a half year old son to try to stop the seizures, Keenan has to have MRI’s every 6 months on his brain and abdomen to watch the multiple tumors and cysts on his kidneys, and blood work every 3 months.  Everything and all his tumors have to be monitored to decide when the next major decision has to be made.

Sometimes we feel like we are just waiting for the next bomb to drop, but we have learned so much in this past year.  The major lesson we’ve learned is to prepare for the future but live in the moment: whether it be good or bad it won’t last long.  So cherish the good times and live them to the fullest!

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They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 27

by guest blogger Susan (last name withheld)  (New York, New York) 

I do.100_0031

And with those two words, said seven years ago today, Marc and I were made husband and wife. Richer, poorer, sickness, health. Sure, we agreed to all of these things, but did we really know what we were bargaining for? Were we just looking forward to the cocktail hour? The honeymoon? Some amorphous version of the future that involved 2.1 kids, a white picket fence, and a golden retriever? Suffice to say, the future we envisioned probably didn’t involve our child having a rare genetic disease.

But here we are, seven years later, with an incredible son who happens to have a disease called Tuberous Sclerosis Complex. If you are reading this post, you may already know a little something about Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). I’ll give you a very brief synopsis of our journey with it.

In April of 2012, Elliot was born. He was declared perfectly healthy and we brought him home to begin our life as a family of three. Within the first few weeks of his life we began to notice that he was always looking off to the left side. By the time his three-IMG_0142month checkup had rolled around, the gaze preference was notable and we mentioned same to his pediatrician. He referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist who referred us to a neurologist and ordered an MRI of Elliot’s brain.  Everyone assured us that the MRI was merely a precautionary measure. They were incorrect. The MRI revealed many tumors in Elliot’s brain, consistent with a diagnosis of TSC.

We consulted with several doctors and hooked ourselves in with two TSC clinics. Elliot’s neurologist determined that the gaze preference was likely persistent seizure activity and started Elliot on an anti-seizure medication. Within days he began having infantile spasms and another medication was added. Only several weeks later did that medication seem to control the spasms. His EEG revealed he was having other types of seizures so new medication and dietary therapy were added.  We began to notice the developmental delays. Eventually it became clear that further intervention was needed and Elliot underwent a series of brain surgeries before his first birthday. A few months later, he underwent a second series of surgeries. More medications. Trips to the Emergency Room.  Daily battles for Elliot’s myriad services and therapies. Acronyms I still don’tIMG_4697 understand for tests I still don’t understand. In and out of the hospital for weeks on end.  Bleary-eyed husband and wife. Can we go back to the cocktail hour, please?

Marc and I entered into our marriage young, excited and excitable. We were both starting careers and ambitiously laying the foundation for our future. We were ready to travel, embracing our new sense of “adulthood” and learning how to navigate people and life.

Nothing could have prepared us for Elliot’s diagnosis. The shock of being told that your child is stricken with a life-long, complex medical condition is enough to rattle even the strongest of bonds. The endless uncertainty and the constant anxiety caused by this confounding disease produce stress that others really cannot understand. It is very easy to see where people start to break down and therefore relationships start to falter. We have to make decisions like who will go into the MRI machine with Elliot and which one of us has to hold him down as the nurses try to get an IV for the umpteenth time. We have discussions about what medications to put Elliot on and whether he needs surgery. Again.

Notwithstanding, I am very fortunate to say that I feel much the same about our life and marriage as I did seven years ago today. We share a life in which we get up everyday ready to tackle the world together, where nothing seems beyond our reach, and where we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We know it is important to take care of each other, with the mutual understanding that we must also take care of ourselves. Though I am lucky to say that our marriage does not ever feel like work, life itself, especially this life that we have, requires tremendous effort and motivation. And I couldn’t imagine spending this life with anyone but Marc.

IMG_4475Just because our life is different than the one we envisioned does not imply that it is bad. We have no picket fence, but we have Central Park as our backyard. We have no golden retriever, but we have some amazingly cute stuffed animal puppies for Elliot (waaaaay less mess). I don’t even know what .1 child means, but you catch my drift, right?

It is preachy of me to even suggest that I can understand the complexities of anyone else’s situation but I hope that if you struggle with the stress on your marriage, perhaps you can just take a moment to remember why you chose this person to walk through life together. What hopes and dreams did you share on your wedding day as you gazed into your future? Despite a more complicated life than you envisioned, can they still be your hopes and dreams today?

There is a great scene in the movie “Parenthood,” in which a grandmother gives an analogy to her grown grandson and his wife, as they face the prospect of adding a fourth child to the family. She says “When I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a rollercoaster…Up, down, up, down. Oh what a ride…I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

So today, on our seventh anniversary, I take this opportunity to thank my husband for riding this rollercoaster with me. And I hope everyone can take a moment to appreciate their own version of the same.

I never thought I would be writing this story. I never thought we would be living it.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 25

by guest blogger Becky Ruppe  (Cumming, Georgia)


photoI will start off by saying how hard it is to sum up our journey as it is a never-ending battle and the past seven months seem like years. Our story with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex 2 begins with twins, after many times trying to start a family and after trying everything; as soon as we stopped trying, we were blessed with twins. We were so happy, but we would soon find out; everything was not as it seemed. As time progressed in the pregnancy, his twin sister passed in the womb from another rare disorder, Trisomy 13. Not long after all that, on ultrasound, the doctors found tumors in our son Ben’s heart. We were devastated by this news and still recovering the loss of his sister.  That day was tough and the first time we had ever heard the words Tuberous Sclerosis. I remember thinking there is no way we could have two rare things, but as time progressed more tumors popped up on ultrasound and we were told our son Ben had an 80% chance of having TSC. He had more than seven tumors in his heart and one that should have been blocking his outflow; it kept growing and growing. It was honestly a miracle that he was surviving, as the one blocking his flow was so large. We found every day was a challenge emotionally and we had nothing left to do but to pray for a miracle that we wouldn’t have to do an emergency c-section to try to save his life with open heart surgery to remove it.

We had fetal MRIs to look for tumors in his brain, but nothing showed up. Finally on October 23 we gave birth by c-section to our son James Benjamin Ken Ruppe, he went straight to the Nicu when born, he was not eating and was given a feeding tube and was given medicine to keep his blood flowing through his backup channel in his heart. We stayed hopeful, but by day three they did an MRI and we were walked into this tiny room and given the findings of his MRI. I remember that walk like it was yesterday, I had tears before we even made it to the door. They found multiple tubers and nodules in his brain and was given the actual diagnosis of TSC. It was heart wrenching, the hospital made it seem as though it was a death sentence, we had him baptized that night. We were clueless what was going to happen, would he need heart or brain surgery, would the medicine continue working, would he start having seizures, so many questions not one doctor could answer. Then two days later; our son Ben was able to come home. We followed up with three doctors the week we came home. It was overwhelming, scary and honestly I don’t know how we made it through all that.

Since giving birth, most of his tumors have reduced in size in his heart and he is currently in therapy once a week for muscle loss due to his TSC. He started photo-1having seizures New Year’s Eve and ironically those seizures did not show up on his EEG. He has had several EEGs,  and the seizures have become more frequent. About two months ago we were told his EEG reflected localization epilepsy with focal onset seizures. It has been really horrible to watch him go through all this. Every EEG brings tears for our son.

Thankfully, when we found out about the possible diagnosis of TSC, I reached out to the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and have met a really great support group. We also enrolled our Ben into two studies that we travel to Boston for.

Most recently we noticed Ben started to drop his head and we called his neurologist and went into the hospital for a VEEG.  Within an hour and half of him being hooked up, the doctor came in to tell us he was in fact having infantile spasms. The funny thing was that they give you this button to push every time he has an episode. I pushed the button twice during that hour and half. What I found out later, was that he had multiple spasms and clusters and other seizures that I did not even recognize. I will say it was very frustrating that nobody came in and showed me on the video — this is a spasm, this is a seizure. I was told by the Children’s Hospital in Atlanta that they do not have the medication Sabril, which I understand is the best med of choice to treat Infantile Spasms. This to me was a load of crap. How can you not have this medicine and why did we have to wait to get our son the best treatment when from day one we were told that Infantile Spasms can be deadly?

They said I had to wait and get it from his doctor’s office and they sent me home with Klonopin. He was already taking Keppra for complex partial seizures.  Thankfully, his local neurologist Dr. Flamini got us the meds in two days, but in my mind it was still unacceptable to be sent home without the best meds for his treatment.

Since coming home from the hospital Ben is having probably close to 70 + seizures a day.

We have increased some and lowered others of the meds he is taking. We are currently on day 4 and waiting for a change. His spasms have changed into something completely different, with the occasional head drop.  Now looking back, when Ben was 8 weeks old, he was extremely colicky. We took multiple videos and were always told it was nothing and that he was fine, but I know now, judging from his current colicky status (Infantile Spasms) that he was in fact having IS and or some seizure activity as a baby and because his EEG was not showing it and based on opinions of doctors, we delayed treatment. I also know that his infantile spasms are not the normal spasms you would see. They are not as defined and often rotate from one side to the other.  We also were told recently that he has multiregional epilepsy and that he is not the best candidate for surgery.

If I could go back, I would have started medication sooner, because who can help but wonder what damage has been done.  In five days, my son went from having excellent head control to having very little and he also went from being able to stand and put weight on both his legs to not being able to do that for more than a second.

This past Saturday we called 911, as Ben had a seizure that lasted over 20 minutes. The EMS came and they said his heartbeat was fast, but everything else was good and we just continued to watch him per his local doctor.  I am not sure how everyone else feels about giving your baby medications, but giving my Ben three medications twice a day is a struggle. It is hard… every time I have to mix it, I have to take a deep breath to get through it.

I will never give up on my Ben. My husband and I are in a constant struggle with acceptance, and no matter what people say, it is sad and it is hard. There is nothing that can describe watching your son, your sweet innocent baby boy, have seizure after seizure and all we can do is sit back, love him and watch. TSC is the worst pain in the world to us. We aren’t giving up, but we are giving in to the emotion that we are allowed to feel pure anger and a little helpless at times, as there are limits to what we can do for him — the rest is up to somebody else. I hate every second of every day that I have to watch him suffer.  Many will say that is not a way to live — nope, it is not — but it is our truth. We still check him to make sure he is breathing and we are still living and fighting and find massive amounts of joy in everything else our sweet Ben does — when he smiles and when he loves. Our relationship with TSC is completely unavoidable and that is what makes it suck and it is what it is.

Each day we face TSC, we face many challenges emotionally and financially and many sleepless nights. We want a cure so bad it hurts. You are never prepared for the what ifs. I never thought I would be writing this story. I never thought we would be living it. I never thought I would be giving our son three medications that make him totally not himself. I never thought I would be learning a whole new language. I thought I would be going somewhere completely different. I thought a lot of things. I have wanted to be a nurse my whole life, and I have wanted to be a mother my whole life. I thought so many times I would go to nursing school. I know now that that feeling of wanting all those things is now my reality, I got what I want and wouldn’t trade it for anything,  I am right where I am supposed to be. I thought having a child would be so different and that we would play normal people, but turns out we are, it’s just our normal day to day is just a little different than others.

I love every minute I have with my precious Ben, I love that I have been able to jump right in and take care of him. I love that I can make him smile. I love that my husband is such a great father and husband to me. I know that TSC affects us, but it also affects our friends and family, as they are constantly in this battle with us. We are thankful for all the support we have been given, by the TSC Alliance, the TS Mommy site, Dr. Flamini and all the doctors he sees.

photo-2We don’t know how the next year is going to go, we don’t know if he will stop breathing tomorrow from a seizure or if the next seizure will be the one that slows his development even more. Will he need brain surgery? Will his kidneys be affected? Will he be able to have children? Will he learn to walk and throw the ball? All the simple things in life; we are left wondering and hoping. We don’t know what kind of life he is going to lead yet. Will we as parents be able to afford the best treatment for him? Watching our son have seizures is something you can’t describe, there are no words. I do know that my son saved my life. If it was not for him, I am not sure I could have made it through the loss of his sister. So, now my husband and I are giving our life to him. I know now that his sister is in Heaven watching over Ben and our family and not a day goes by that I don’t think about how our life would be if we still had her with Ben, but I know now that that happened for a reason. Ben needed his extra Angel and she will take care of us and watch over our family.

We find great comfort with every second we have with him and every morning we wake up to his smile. The light at the end of our tunnel is holding onto hope that research in finding a cure for TSC 2 is continued and that one day there will be more options for treatment for our son and maybe soon medical Cannabis Oil will be legal in the state of Georgia, because after giving my son all of these  harsh medications, I have no doubt that I would choose that first before any of this stuff he is on currently.

My family is the best family in the world. We will never give up and we will fight every day.

Our story with TSC 2 will continue  and one day I hope we can look back on all these hard days and say, We showed you TSC… We showed you…

 

Joy Times Four

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 19

by guest blogger Courtney Bailey  

1236820_10202010593452499_960261714_nMay 23, 2013… the day that my got heart broken. Two weeks prior we had found out that we were expecting our fourth boy, yes four boys! The ultrasound went well but he was lying in a position they couldn’t get any good heart pictures. We went back to get some pictures of his heart. I knew something was wrong when she kept measuring and remeasuring and taking picture after picture. My husband, Phil , had to return to work. I sat alone in the waiting room until every last person was gone. When they finally called me back, a complete stranger told me that our son had some spots on his heart. She assured me it would be nothing and I just needed to get another ultrasound to be sure. Nothing to worry about she said. I knew differently.  On June 6, we learned that our precious son likely had Tuberous Sclerosis.  The tiny two white spots on his heart had turned into numerous large tumors, including a very large tumor on the outside of his heart. It was making his heart beat faster than usual and he was developing fluid around his heart. We made weekly trips to Iowa City for appointments, ultrasounds and echocardiograms.  Seventeen straight weeks of going for testing. I look back now and see all the trips as a blessing. I got to spend a lot of one-on-one time with my husband.  We grew closer instead of apart.

I was induced a few days early and my wish that I would get to hold him came true. I held him for just a moment and he was whisked away to the high-level NICU.  When they finally wheeled me to see Lelan, my husband mentioned that they were looking at a weird skin mark on his belly and that moment I knew for sure that he had Tuberous Sclerosis. He went through a multitude of tests. One morning a new doctor we had never seen came in and told us that his MRI showed multiple brain tumors. My heart was literally shattered in my chest; it was the worst moment in my life thus far. We got to take him home that day but I felt like my life was moving in slow motion. We still had three happy rambunctious boys to care for. I felt like I was constantly staring at10155615_10203637356680563_1669194936_n Lelan to see if he was having a seizure. Every twitch, jerk, wiggle — all over analyzed. It was making me insane. I was crying myself to sleep each night. My husband said I would even cry in my sleep. The constant worry, the heartache, the what-ifs were wearing me away.  I decided to change my view; there was nothing that I could do to protect Lelan. I had to just give up and let God protect him. God loves Lelan more than I ever could. We made many more weekly trips, tests, and procedures. The heart tumors they said would shrink weren’t shrinking until one day they had just shrunk drastically. The more I tried to let go and let God handle it, the more I was able to enjoy Lelan and the other boys, ages 7, 3, and 1, and not just worry about what was going to happen to Lelan and  this stupid disease that had stormed into our lives without a warning. I was back to enjoying my kids, my husband and choosing to be joyful and live with purpose.

Our story is better than a lot of other TS kids; being a TS mom can be a VERY lonely place. People don’t understand unless they are in the shoes. Lelan is 8 months now and he crawls and pulls himself up. He babbles Mama and Dada and he feeds himself. We are fully aware that at any moment he could start having seizures and our lives could change drastically.. But for now we are completely living in the moment.  We read that extra bedtime story, we sometimes have ice cream for breakfast, and we see each and every day as such a gift and blessing. I lay my head down every night and thank God that Lelan didn’t have any seizures. We use Frankincense essential oil on Lelan every day in hopes to shrink his tumors. He still has heart tumors and brain tumors, and he also has lost the pigment in spots on his legs and stomach. I have done a lot of research where frankincense can help or prevent seizures. I’m clinging to the hope that it will work for us. You can email me at Baileycp731@live.com if you are interested in more info on essential oils. We are blessed, we are lucky, and we are so very loved. My advice is to keep talking, don’t hold in the worry — it will eat you up. TS is a mean and cruel disease that is different in every single person. The what-ifs will take over your life if you let it. We choose JOY at the Bailey house.

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Our happily ever after felt as if it was being taken away from us.

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 13

by guest blogger Heather Lens   (Stilwell, Oklahoma)

Madilyn Rae Lens, was born on October 19th, 2012. She was born a perfectly healthy little girl. She was a dream come true! We had no reason to believe 1234820_4656475948570_2025514539_nthat she would be anything but healthy as she hit milestones in her first 5 months of life.

All of those thoughts changed when at 5 1/2 months old she started doing a weird twitch with her arms. I was feeding her and she kept throwing her arms in the air. My mommy instincts went off immediately. Deep down inside I knew something was wrong. Nothing she was doing looked like a seizure to me, but for some reason my mind kept going back to wondering if it was a seizure. After a day of seeing light twitches I took her to her pediatricians office. Unfortunately, her pediatrician wasn’t there so we had to see another provider there. He told me he didn’t think it was anything other than motor reflexes but he would refer us to a neurologist to calm my fears. I left his office that day full of mixed emotions. I was happy that the doctor said it was probably nothing but still had a gut feeling that he was missing something. I had been around my siblings when they were infants and I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this. I cried the entire way home at the thought of waiting 2-3 weeks for the referral. How could I wait that long for answers? I called my husband and told him something wasn’t right. He immediately left the fire station and came home. That night I consulted the lovely library of Google. Everything I looked at said the term Infantile Spasms. I was sick after reading information about this catastrophic type of seizures. I knew that this is what she had. I cried and told my husband about it and he agreed we would take her to a children’s hospital first thing in the morning. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. My mind was going in all directions. The  next morning, while I was getting her ready to leave for the hospital, she had one of the most intense episodes. Her eyes started rolling up and she would cry like she was in pain. We loaded up and headed for the hospital which was two hours away. The car was silent the entire way. I was able to catch a few of her twitching episodes on the way to the hospital . We got to the ER and we were immediately admitted after the ER doctor saw a video of the seizure. Still at this point no one was calling it a seizure they were calling them muscle spasms, which gave me a false hope that maybe it was nothing.

558704_10100447182455011_1003519270_nAfter being admitted she was put through a million tests, blood, urine, MRI, EEG, EKG and probably more that I 10307367_10200927489788174_5094866193832748621_ndon’t recall now. After her first EEG it was confirmed that our perfectly healthy little girl was having Infantile Spasms and if we didn’t get them under control immediately it could lead to mental retardation. Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. We were devastated and couldn’t seem to figure out how she could have such an awful type seizure when she had been healthy up until now. After they explained her diagnosis of IS they said they also needed to rule out a rare genetic disorder that can sometimes coexist with IS. They were going to check to see if any of her organs were “marked” with a disease called tuberous sclerosis. I remember being 100% confident that they were wasting their time looking for this rare disease. They already told us she had IS, it couldn’t get worse than that. I recall my mom and husband trying to find information regarding TSC online and I got a little angry at them. I didn’t know why they were wasting their time looking at it because she simply could not have a rare genetic disease along with these seizures. I have no doubt that I was going through denial at that point.

The next day we got the heart wrenching news that she in fact had tumors on her brain and heart. She showed enough signs that she did have TSC. My heart broke into a million pieces that day. At one point I do remember feeling as though life was over. I was terrified of our daughters future. All of the things I had envisioned for my daughter was suddenly ripped out of my hands. We were told that she would be delayed, she may need brain surgery, she may never be able to live an independent life. She may never walk, talk, feed herself. It was all doom and gloom. Our happily ever after felt as if it was being taken away from us.

We left the hospital a few days later and were as well equipped as possible for her new type of care. After two days of taking Sabril her IS disappeared! And 1382781_4821538395028_1044385447_nabout a month of being on Sabril we started to see her personality shine through. Although we still had the fear of this disease. she was showing us signs of hope! We waited and watched her like a hawk, anticipating the next seizure.

Fast forward a year. We haven’t seen a seizure since April 26th 2013. We also have been beyond blessed that all those frightening things we were preparing for have not shown themselves. Madilyn is currently on track with her development and is a month away from starting the weaning process.

The past year has been such a whirlwind. Our emotions have been scattered all over the place. Thankfully we have outstanding family members and community that have helped us move forward with life, and have taken on our cause as well. We have seen an overwhelming amount of support for Madilyn and our family. Without the support and our faith we would be lost. I am so beyond thankful for this past year. She has shown me what it means to have courage and strength. She doesn’t stop fighting for one second, which means I wont stop fighting for her either. She is my little fighter, and my constant reminder of true love.

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Check out Heather’s blog Life with My Princess and her contribution to this blog for 2013’s TSC Awareness Month.

Every Child Gets One Free Seizure in Life

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 8

by guest blogger Jordan Martin  (Brunswick, Georgia)

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Growing up all I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother.  I always wanted to have 4 kids — 2 boys and 2 girls.  I met my husband Thomas (T.C.) when I was 18.  We have been together for 10 years and married for 7 years.  We have 3 amazing boys: Conner 6, Preston 4 and Aiden 18 months.

Conner Thomas Martin was born on what at that time was the luckiest day of the year July 7, 2007. People to this day when they hear his birthday their first reaction is, “Wow, what a lucky boy!”   I always think to myself, “If you only knew what he has been through”.  To this day I still don’t remember what he looked like the first time I saw him.  I was put under for a cesarean.  Never have done drugs in my life or had ever been in the hospital.  So when T.C. showed him to me for the first time all I remember seeing is a head full of black hair and then passing back out.  I know a lot of parents say this but Conner was seriously the best baby. He was never fussy; he loved to sleep.  He did have acid reflux, but other than that he was perfect.  At around a month old I was sitting on our couch burping Conner and my watch pinched him.  He cried but I checked and didn’t see a mark.  A few hours later when T.C. got home he was changing him and noticed a mark on his lower back.  I assumed it was from my watch and told him what happened. “No Big Deal!!!”

A few weeks later Conner had a check-up and the mark was still there but bigger and risen above the skin.  He also had a red mark on his stomach of a different shape but also red and risen above the skin.  The pediatrician assured us they were “hemangioma.”  Nothing to worry about and would shrink as he gets older.  Well he was right about one red mark.

Conner hit all his milestones right on time.  He was the easiest going little boy.  Never sick, never met a stranger he didn’t know, loved to play outside but was also content being by himself in his room playing.  He was just full of life.  In 2009 we had our second son Preston Robert Martin.  He was born exactly 2 years 2 weeks apart from Conner.  He was by far not the best baby.  He was miserable.   Teething but couldn’t cut teeth.  I tell him all the time “I would never re-do you as a baby again.”  Conner loved having a little brother and being able to teach him things.  That is until Preston learned how to crawl and take his toys.  Life was “normal” as could be.  I hate that word “normal”!!!!

Our story begins on September 19, 2010 at 12:15 p.m. Conner was  3 years old.  It was a rainy Sunday afternoon.  The boys woke up at their normal time, considering the night before Conner woke up at 2:45 a.m. throwing up and Preston was up and down cause at this point all his teeth were coming in at the same time.  T.C. was still asleep.   He worked at a mill at the time working 12-14 hour days so on the weekends I let him sleep in.  At 12:00 p.m. I rocked Preston to sleep and asked my mom to watch Conner for me while I did so.

At 12:10 p.m. I laid Preston down and asked my mom where Conner was. She said he was in my room watching Tom and Jerry.  I went into my room and asked Conner to go to the bathroom so we could lie down and take a nap.  I kept calling his name and asking him to get up but he just laid there.  I assumed he was just caught up in the cartoon.  I went and stood in front of the TV and asked him again but NOTHING!!!  I turned around to turn the TV off and when I turned back around his face was turning red and his eyes — it was like there was no life in them.  I said, “Conner what’s wrong with your face!?!”  T.C. immediately jumped up from out of bed and picked him up.  Mind you neither one of us had ever seen a seizure before.  I went into the next room and got my mom.  By time I was back in the room he was foaming at the mouth, had peed himself and was convulsing.  T.C. handed Conner to me and told me to get in the car.  He threw on a shirt pants and didn’t even bother to find his shoes.

We live right down the road from the hospital.  We pulled up so fast they must have seen us coming because they came running out to get him.  They were asking all kinds of questions.  I couldn’t process anything.  Conner couldn’t talk for 4 hours.  He was completely out of it.  Once he was stable and coherent they moved us to a room for overnight observation.  They ran tests and did scans.  The next day the doctor came in and said everything came back “normal.”  It was just a spiked fever that caused the seizure.  I looked at him with my husband, Conner’s grandparents in the room with us and said, “My son doesn’t spike fevers”!  I can count on one hand how many times he has ever been sick.”  I just knew it was something more.  The doctor looked at me and said “Every child gets one free seizure in life.”  I’ve never wanted to punch someone in the face so bad before.

By time we were discharged it was too late to call his pediatrician so the next day I called and scheduled an appointment.  It would be Friday at 3:30 before they would be able to see him.  Tuesday he was fine and back to normal.  Wednesday at 3:00 p.m I was sitting on the couch and Conner called my name.  I said, “yes baby, come here”.  He didn’t answer.  I immediately got this sick feeling in my stomach.  He called me again and when he came over to me he was staring off and his eyes were twitching a little.  It only lasted about a minute.  I thought maybe he was just tired.  I had never heard of staring seizures or any other types besides grand mal.  Oh I learned fast!!!

I told my mom and I think she thought I was being paranoid.  Thursday same exact time, same exact thing.  Friday while I was getting Preston to take Conner to his appointment, he did it again but this time my mom saw it.  His pediatrician informed me they were staring seizures and she was setting us up to see a pediatric neurologist in Savannah and that she was also ordering him to have an EEG done.

Appointments were finally approved through insurance and Conner had his first EEG done in November 2010.  The neurologist appointment was also coming up, but right before Thanksgiving I received a letter stating they had to reschedule it to the end of December.  By this time Conner’s seizures were worse and every day, sometimes resulting in emergency room visits.  We decided after we came back from Thanksgiving in Florida we would go to the hospital in Savannah and pray they would see him or anything.

While in Florida I received a call from the hospital about his EEG results.  Even though Conner was awake it showed abnormal study due to the presence of spike and sharp wave activities in the right hemisphere, which would be consistent with a few focal seizure disorder.  A few days later there we were walking into the emergency room in Savannah.  The lady at the front desk just looked at me like I was crazy when I was explaining what we were doing there. We weren’t leaving any other way.  Conner, being the helpful child he is, decided to speed the process a long faster and started having a seizure.  We noticed that anytime Conner gets nervous, scared, surprised, overly excited or any loud noises tend to make him have seizures.  She immediately called and they came and took us to the back by time we were in a room he had stopped seizing.  We told the on-call doctor what was going on so he said to give him a minute.  An hour later he came back and told us he called the neurologist office and they would see us in 30 minutes.

Dr. Mortez was the neurologist.  She was really nice and we explained everything that had been going on.  She said she was ordering an MRI and requesting all of Conner’s labs, test results and scans done the day he first seized.  Along with those she also wanted the results of his EEG.  She prescribed him Trileptal and would see us back in 2 months.  If only it was that simple.  Conner’s seizure got worse even with the medication and by the time 2 months rolled around we still hadn’t had the MRI.  She increased his medication and said she would call about the MRI.  By now ADHD and aggression had set in and his hostility was always towards his brother and me.  Still is to this day.  T.C. ended up calling our insurance company up and having a few choice words with them because they still hadn’t approved his MRI.  Needless to say a few days I received a call from the doctor’s office with an appointment scheduled.  February 17, 2011 he would have his first MRI done but not his last.

February 18, 2011 T.C. was sick so my parents, Preston, Conner and I all went to Savannah to receive the results from the MRI.  I was honestly expecting for it to be a simple case of epilepsy. BOY WAS I WRONG!!!  My dad stayed in the waiting room with Preston letting him play with the toys.  My mom went in the back with Conner and me.  In walks Dr. Mortez and from then on it was like an out of body experience.  “The MRI didn’t turn out how I was expecting it too.  It’s more serious than what I was hoping for.” She says.  My mom later on told me I turned ghostly white when she said that.  She then explained that Conner had Tuberous Sclerosis.  Something I could barely pronounce, let alone spell.  She explained how his body produces tubers/tumor like growths on his major organs.  Now we were being referred to MCG in Augusta, now Georgia Regents Medical Center, to the epilepsy department.  She assured me it was a good hospital and that they have lots of experience with the disease.  She also explained how the spot on his lower back was a “shagreen patch” not “hemangioma” and how the spot on his face that popped up over the holidays was a “focal angiofibroma” and not a mole like I thought.  My mom took Conner out of the room by then so I could talk more with the doctor.  He would now need to have kidney and heart ultrasounds and have his eyes checked as well.  Soon I was left alone in the room.  Not wanting to cry or get upset; just wanting to reach my husband.  All I could hear were the words tubers/tumor like, more doctors, brain surgery, etc going in circles in my head.  This isn’t going away!!!

When we arrived at home I tried explaining it as best as I could to T.C.  I still hadn’t cried.  I couldn’t let myself.  I honestly don’t remember anything after that besides putting the boys to bed.  When I got in bed I completely feel apart.  T.C. just held me. All I could do was cry.  I didn’t understand how this happened.  How my perfectly healthy child could have been born with this and no one knew it.  How could he just start having seizures out of the blue?  It made no sense.  I was pissed, sad, so many emotions rolled into one.

The next day I just spent lying in bed depressed really.  I couldn’t process all of it.  I needed a day to collect myself.  I was numb to be honest.  So my parents took care of the boys that day and my mom took all the phone calls from family members explaining what was going on.  I definitely went through the seven stages of grief.  I think my husband was stuck in anger and denial for a while.  You mourn the life you had and accept this is your new life.  The next day was filled with phone calls to the cardiologist office, setting up kidney ultrasound and eye appointments.  I had one doctor tell me they had only read a paragraph about it med school.

Dr. Mortez told me that if after two weeks if Conner was still getting worse after the last increase of Trileptal, to call and let her know.  Of course his seizures were still increasing and he ended up in the hospital again.  I called her the next day and left a message.  I was surprised when she called back within a few hours and informed us she called Augusta and they were moving his appointment up and we would be getting a call from them to set up an appointment.  She said since his medication hadn’t been working at all he needs to be monitored soon as possible.  Good news was his eyes didn’t have any tumors.  His heart had two small ones but they weren’t causing any damage so they just need to be monitored.

2014-04-059518.25.55A few weeks later we were in Augusta for Conner’s three-day EEG monitoring.  Dr. Park is head of the epilepsy department in Augusta and Dr. Strickland is the neurologist there.  They are Conner’s doctors still to this day.  Conner was monitored for three days.  His seizures were mild and very little — not what we were expecting, which was unusual for him, until the last morning when he had 10 seizures within a 30 minute time frame.  The doctors came in a little later for rounds and said, “That was good we got everything we needed.”  They were a little too excited about all the seizures at the time I thought.  But I understand now.  They said it’s amazing you are able to press the button right before he starts seizing. I said is that good?  They said, Yes. it means we got everything from the very beginning of his seizures to the ictals.”  They asked how we knew before they started.  I told them how sometimes Conner knows before he is going to have one and he will come find someone, and sometimes he also gets this look on his face right before he starts seizing.  I also explained how I can feel it in my stomach right before as well; it doesn’t matter if Conner is in a different room. I get this sick feeling in my stomach.  It sounds crazy.

They informed us of all the testing coming up to see if he was a candidate for surgery.  They also told us Conner’s was a “spontaneous mutation” in his gene while I was pregnant.  We also found out that the doctor in Brunswick who said all his scans came back “normal” read them wrong.  It clearly states there were “abnormal” findings in his frontal lube.  I thought I was going to lose it.

The next few months we spent traveling back and forth.  By then Conner was on Lamictal as well as Trileptal.  It was hard financially on us but we managed with the help of family and friends.  Conner was being tested to see if he was a good candidate for surgery.  Turns out his seizures came from both right and left frontal lubes more so from the right.  Soon he was on Keppra, Lamictal had been increased and taken off Trileptal.  We also had to add Clonidine because his ADHD was so bad he couldn’t sleep but three hours at a time most nights.  He was also becoming more aggressive and having more meltdowns.  At this point even my parents couldn’t handle him bouncing off the walls and acting violent towards everyone.  I felt trapped in my own home with no help.  T.C. worked full time so I could stay home with the kids.  I literally felt like I was abandoned by everyone.

Conner didn’t understand why all of the sudden he wasn’t allowed to go anywhere.  Places he has been to his whole life; it wasn’t fair.  One day I lost it!  Conner was having a bad day — just one meltdown after the other.  I ended up locking myself and Preston in the bathroom just to get away from him and the constant hitting, kicking, screaming, etc.  I called my mom and my best friend’s mom, who is Conner’s other grandmother and just started yelling about how I felt like everyone abandoned him and me and how this disease was taking over my life it felt like.  I needed them to stop worrying about how they felt or were scared of what might happen and think about what he feels and how confused he is.  He would say, “Mama, I’ll try to be good. Trust me.”   “I won’t hit Preston or scream or anything.”  It broke my heart every time, but after the talk with all the grandparents, they understood and began spending more time with him and Preston and were there for me too.

Summer of 2011 came and Conner turned 4.  He would be starting Pre-K soon which scared me to death because he was still seizing every day.  He was now also having them every night so he started sleeping with me and TC slept on the couch.  A few days after his birthday we had an appointment with the neurosurgeon.   My husband, my Dad, Conner and I  drove up to Augusta the night before since it was an early appointment.   The appointment the next morning consisted of the doctor going over the pros and cons of Conner having brain surgery for his seizures since the medication still wasn’t working.  His opinion was that Conner’s best option was to have the surgery.  So, we decided to go ahead with the surgery.   After that TC broke down, but I stayed calm for him and Conner. I’m the level-headed one when everyone else gets upset.

The surgery was scheduled for October of 2011. Since Conner would have only been in school a short time, the doctor suggested he not start since recovery 2014-04-059518.29.42time could be long.  So we withdrew him from school registration.  He had been so looking forward to going. He saw some of the pictures his friends had posted on Face book of their first day of school.  I hated seeing him upset so I put on his Thomas the Train book bag, stood him in front of the door and took his picture.

September 19, 2011 was exactly one year since Conner’s first seizure.  My parents had the boys for the night.  I was lying in bed, waiting on TC to get home from work and I couldn’t sleep.  I was thinking about the day Conner’s seizures started. Everything just hit me all at once: the past year, all the appointments and medications, seizures and the tests his little body had to endure …and now Brain Surgery!  It just wasn’t FAIR! By the time TC got home I had been crying for an hour.  I had tried to hold all my frustration and feelings in for so long that I felt like a dam had burst inside of me.  It all came pouring out.

The next night Conner had 20 seizures in one hour and I thought this would never stop!!!  The next day Conner didn’t have any seizures or the next day or the next.  Four weeks later…still no seizures.  Everyone was so happy!  Of course I, being prepared for the worst to happen, couldn’t allow myself to be excited.

Conner’s surgery day was fast approaching.   My husband wasn’t feeling comfortable with Conner having the operation since the medication seemed to be working now. We talked it over again and decided to cancel the surgery.  The holidays came and went. Conner was still seizure free although his aggression and his impulse control were still big issues we still had to deal with.     2012 was a good year!  We had an unexpected surprise….we were expecting again.  Conner had, maybe, three seizures that year.  He had no new tumors in his brain, heart, kidneys or eyes.  He got to start Pre-K and loved going to school.  Conner and Preston loved having a new baby brother.  It was just a great year.

March 2013 and it’s time for Conner’s yearly checkups.   Kidneys are first.  By now TC and I know what to look for on an ultrasound. We immediately saw the tumor on his right kidney. It’s not very big, but still, it wasn’t there last year.  So now we go to Augusta to see Dr. Ortiz, Conner’s nephrologist, every three months for blood work and every six months for ultrasounds to monitor any new growth.  At least his heart and eyes are still doing well.              School ended and what we planned to be a fun, enjoyable summer was instead filled with stress and sadness.  My Nana, who was living with us, was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.  Our days were spent with over fifty people (Hospice, relatives and friends) coming and going from our home.  Ten people were actually living 24/7 on air mattresses throughout the house.  Conner’s anxiety and stress level kicked in as did his seizures.  The boys were very close to their Nana.   Summer came and went and Nana passed away.

School started again.  Conner started Kindergarten and Pres started Pre-K.  Two boys in school!  Yes! Even though I had given Conner’s new teachers and school information on his disease, I don’t think they were prepared for the first day. His anxiety was through the roof, he was having a major meltdown, just a really bad day.  But the next day he did really good and had a good day.

Conner is doing really well in school this year (2013-2014 school year).  His anxiety level is up and down. The amount of sleep he gets affects what kind of day he will have.  He still wakes up two to three times a night most nights so the next day is guaranteed meltdowns, staring seizures, and being emotional.                                                                                                                                  Right now Conner is just like any other six year old little boy.  He does get tired a little more easily due to medication.  He is now on Lamictal, Keppra, Topramax for seizures; Clonidine, Melatonin, to help him sleep and Lisinopril for his kidneys.

Conner understands as much as much as a 6-year-old can, that he has a condition called TSC.  We never treat him any different or any more special than his brothers.  As much as this is about Conner and our journey with TSC, it’s about Conner’s brother Preston too.  He is Conner’s rock.  They may fight and argue nonstop and are like night and day but Preston is always there, and always has been to make sure his brother is ok.  Preston understands that Conner has lots of doctors and he has seen everything his big brother has went through. He would sit next to Conner for two hours when Conner fell asleep after a bad seizure. Preston always made sure that when Conner woke up he had his favorite bunny, his Sippy cup and whatever toy he had sitting next to him so they could play together.

It scares me to death to think of Conner as an adult, letting him grow up and be in charge, or have a say in his healthcare.  I know it isn’t anytime soon but I will have to learn to let go and he will be ok.  He is the strongest little boy I know. I am no longer bitter or angry that he has TSC.  I’m trying to embrace Conner for his differences and his sometimes extreme passion and stubbornness.  He gets that honest.  I don’t worry what people think about him or us if he has a “meltdown” in public.   What is deemed “normal” nowadays any way?  People judge what they don’t know or understand. Some days are better than others and sometimes you feel like you have been defeated but at the end of the day it will be over and something better will happen.

This is our TSC story.  It is nowhere near over; it’s really just begun.  Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago when we tell stories about Conner or life before TSC.  It’s like a different family.  If anything, I want to teach my kids that a disease does not define you as a person or give you an excuse to do wrong.  It makes you a stronger person and can bring a family closer together.  It makes you love and appreciate one another more and treasure every moment you have together.

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Unexpected Blessings

Second Annual “Blogging for TSC Awareness Month” Day 7

by guest blogger Jonna Stromberger  (Iliff, Colorado)

eeg1Our story with Tuberous Sclerosis begins on February 27, 2010.  Bailey Rae – the baby girl her Dad, I, and older sisters had been waiting for, had finally arrived!  Three weeks early, and full of surprises yet to come!  The first four months of Bailey’s life were exactly what you would expect from a newborn.  We were adjusting to having a baby in the house for the first time in six years.  For the most part our older daughters, Brooke and Alli, adjusted well.

When Bailey was around three months old, I started noticing some jerking movements that didn’t seem quite right.  I talked to my husband about it, and even pointed out the movements several times to him.  I described it to my Mom that Bailey seemed to have the “startle reflex” a lot more than her sisters ever did.  At her four month check-up I mentioned my concerns to her doctor.  If the movements continued, or seemed more frequent, he said we might consider having an EEG done, just to be safe.  That very afternoon, several hours after her appointment, Bailey started jumping in my arms, just as my husband walked in the house.  We packed our bags, and headed to Children’s Hospital of Denver.

After explaining our concerns to the doctors, Bailey was hooked up for an EEG for the first time.  She was poked from head to toe, had ultrasounds, an MRI, EKG, and an ECG.  I’m sure I’m forgetting some of the tests, but it was all so overwhelming to us. Looking back on it now, some of the details seem a little blurry.

June 29, 2010 Bailey was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis.  The little jerking movements were infantile spasms.  Our world was turned upside down.  Bailey HospitalThe perfect little girl that was loved and adored was now fighting some terrible disease that we had never even heard of.  White spots on her skin were explained.  Her team of doctors wheeled in a monitor with her MRI pictures, and her tubers were pointed out to her Dad and me.  Her neurologist explained that TS is different for every person, therefore they couldn’t really tell us how Bailey would be affected now or in the future.  She may not talk, she may not develop fine motor skills, she may not walk, she may not be able to feed herself; I cried.  That’s the one thing I remember doing.  I cried for my baby and all the things I wanted for her in life that she might not ever have.

Bailey started taking Vigabatrin on July 5, 2010, and she didn’t have another infantile spasm.  It seems like we were making trips to Denver on a constant basis.  Bailey began occupational therapy, and continued to meet all of her age appropriate milestones.  All the things I took for granted with her sisters were celebrated by our entire family – rolling over for the first time, her first steps, and then her first words!

On February 24, 2011 Bailey had a febrile seizure and was flown to Denver.  Her doctors thought it was best for her to stop Vigabatrin and begin taking Keppra.  She is still taking Keppra today.  We tried weaning, but had a break through seizure, once again caused by a fever, and decided to keep her on the Keppra.

Family PictureOur family has been so blessed.  Some people think I’m crazy to say that, after all we have been through with Bailey.  Our friends see her as a bubbly, active, ornery, typical four-year-old.  I truly feel that God sent Bailey to us for a reason. Bailey makes us smile every day.  Next year will be a big change in our lives, as she will begin preschool.  We don’t know what the future will hold for Bailey, but we don’t know what the future will hold for any of us.  A friend of mine gave me a frame that says “Live By Faith One Day At  A Time.”  That is what we do.  We love each other.  We take care of each other.  We appreciate all that life offers us, and we thank God every day that he gives us with Bailey.

“May God give you…For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial.  For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.” –Irish Blessing-

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