Asides

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) 

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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.

Medical maladies and eating strategies for the picky eater that will eat anything — sort of.

I had a physical last week. When I got home, I announced that I only had six months to live. My parents laughed and rolled their eyes, a natural reaction from anyone that has known me for 33 years (they were there to watch Connor since Chris was working upstairs). Chris told me to stop it. He never enjoys my macabre sense of humor. I’m not allowed to play games like “What If?” or “Would You Rather?” He doesn’t like hypotheticals, where as I thrive on knowing things like, If I died, would you keep the cats or give them to my mom?  Or, would you rather be married to a donkey or smell like a port-a-potty no matter how many showers you take.

My doctor confirmed that she thinks the headaches I’ve been having are migraines — mild as far as migraines go — but still migraines.

I also took Connor to a dermatologist for a wart he’s had on his foot for some time now. One $50 co-pay and $4 for parking later, off I go to Walgreens for standard over-the-counter Compound W. Sigh. I did like the dermatologist, though. He was an old guy that put out the vibe of an old-timey pharmacist. AND he was familiar with TSC! Even though we weren’t there for anything TSC related, he saw his history and asked questions about how Connor was affected, and he was familiar with various organ involvement. It sounded like he had even been the one to diagnose people based on facial angiofibromas, who were otherwise unaware of their condition. It’s always nice to come across a medical professional that actually knows what TSC is, and that he knew about the effects beyond the dermatological made me quite happy.

In other medical news, CHOA is once again trying to give me what I now know is a migraine. We finally got the call to schedule Connor’s first visit to the keto clinic so we can consult about the modified Atkins diet for seizure control. Want to guess when the appointment is? March 18. March. 18. Lots of four letter words when I hung up. I’m still not really clear on how this is going to go. She told me the nutritionist would call me. Possibly to start the diet before that? I couldn’t get a real clear answer, though I expressed my dismay at waiting three months. She also couldn’t tell me how soon the nutritionist would call. So I think we start the diet via phone consult, which is better than waiting three months, but I sure would prefer meeting with the expert before making such a drastic change to Connor’s diet. But like I said, I’m not even sure if that’s the plan yet.

I must also accept the blame for making Connor sick this week. Connor came down with his first normal, run-of-of-the-mill illness. We’ve had seizures, brain surgery and weeks in the hospital…but not one bout of ordinary childhood illness. He woke up late Wednesday night coughing and ran a low-grade fever most of Thursday. No fever this morning, but still coughing occasionally. Fantastically, though fevers typically lower the seizure threshold, I saw no seizures during the course of battling his temperature with Tylenol and Motrin. But why my fault he’s sick? I recently blogged about his superior health and just this week, I thought, man, we might just make it to his second birthday with no viruses! My bad, buddy. I know better. I’ve been sleeping on the floor next to his crib the last couple nights because it makes me feel better mentally — my hips hate me though. Chris would have done it, but Connor doesn’t tolerate snoring.

So it has been a lot of lying around and sleeping, along with more PBS than usual. If I see this Mouse King episode of Super Why one more time, I will scream.

Progress in the eating arena:

On the bright side, it appears we are making progress in the eating arena. His speech therapist has been providing tools to work on his sensory issues with his mouth. He does not appear to have any other sensory issues whatsoever, but try getting him to use a sippy cup or eat food with no degree of pureeing has been about as fun as…as…as trying to make an appointment for anything at CHOA. To eat non-pureed food, it had to be cut extraordinarily small and he would eat in very limited quantities. But this week has been far more successful at getting him to drink from this cut-out cup (which allows me to see how much he’s getting, as well as prevent it from hitting his face making him buck away).

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He also ate this whole serving of mac-n-cheese. Just a couple weeks ago, I had to cut the pasta up and mix bites with pureed food so he wouldn’t just store it in his cheeks like a chipmunk. But he demolished the whole thing with no mixing or cutting this week.

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He also did well with this, though he didn’t finish due to stubborness. The bites he did take, he swallowed, while before this one was almost inedible because he just built a fortress of peas and meat in his mouth.

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These are his other fancy tools:

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The blue and orange thingy can hook to his clothes or seat and its purpose is to prevent him from throwing his utensils. Unfortunately, they slide out anyway, so that’s not really helping. The purple and green spoon is bendable to work on getting him to feed himself. Angling it should aid in helping him put the food in his mouth. This is all theoretical as he shows little interest in anything other than being fed or throwing spoons. Or removing food from the spoon with his hand. The purple tool is a textured spoon to desensitize his mouth. He hated it at first, but now it doesn’t phase him. That’s a Nuk brush on the end. He hates that bad boy. It is also to desensitize his mouth. Not just for eating food, but also for rubbing it around in there. The therapist added the rubber grip so he could hold it himself, I suppose not realizing that his complete and utter hatred for it means that if you actually put it in his hand, it will immediately be on the other side of the room.

Now if you’ll excuse me, he just fell asleep and I’m going to check his temperature. He’s made it pretty clear that if I stick that thing in his ear one more time, I get a Nuk brush in my eye, so cross your fingers…

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By the way, my blog is nominated for a couple of awards over at WEGO Health. Thanks to those who have endorsed me already! It’s not too late 🙂 to do it here.

There’s a Storm Coming…

Connor is going to be a nightmare when he gets fully mobile. Don’t get me wrong — I’m counting the days — but as I type he is trying to kick my laptop off my lap. No, wait, now he’s alternating kicking his legs and shaking his head back and forth as hard as he can and smacking into me with his remolding helmet. His left side is covered in fur he tore out of Emma Cat. Did I mention he’s lying in bed with me because he’s totally wired and not even close to sleeping? And he keeps trying to steal blankets and pillows from us.

The other night he was lying on the couch with me and he bit my boob. As in, made me bleed. He never breast fed because he didn’t latch in the NICU, and all I know is that he tries to remove any finger that goes near his mouth. Those extended breast feeders must be out of their minds.

He’s just a big ball of toddler energy trying to bust out of a delayed body…but it’s coming. The reckoning. He will soon destroy this house and everything in it.

I can’t wait.

Huggin' it out.
Huggin’ it out.
Training for WWE Safari edition.
Training for WWE Safari edition. Also, I should put all those toys on eBay since he’s perfectly content to play with a spoon.
Still working on that hide and seek concept.
Still working on that hide and seek concept.