Alone, in a crowded room.
As I look around frantically trying to figure out exactly where, or how I fit, with anyone, my mind wanders. I can’t seem to make conversation, or to pass the time socially as easily as others. I watch. I retreat as soon as I can. I can’t quiet my head. And, knowing the whole line of thinking that occupies my mind some days makes everyone uncomfortable, I step back into myself to cycle through reality.
“Those hormones? Are they causing her headaches? Or is it something more sinister? How would I even know? Do we need to use another MRI? What if it is the hormones? What choice do we have? The doctor said she has to stay on them to stop the development of those “irregular cells” in the uterus they found in December. They’ve already begun to schedule another D & C for July. “You have to make sure…” The uterus is a prime site for malignancy in Cowden’s Syndrome. I got to keep mine until Meghan was 8. Will she get to keep hers? Will she have the chance to make the choice whether she wants to bear her own children? And, even if we save the uterus and she wants to, will it be viable after 15, 18, 20 years of hormone treatment? And at what cost to the rest of her body? What about the breast cancer threat that looms large to a young woman whose Cowden’s Syndrome alone puts her at an 85% lifetime risk. That coupled with a mother and grandmother who have had breast cancer… sigh…why is it even a topic of conversation when she’s 12? It seems so unjust. This issue shouldn’t have to be addressed now, well not ever really, but especially not now. And when she has the headaches I have to give her something. What about the headache medicine? What about that esophagus we are trying to heal?
Is it those medicines that caused the horrendous reflux after Easter, or was it her MINOR indulgence into a few SAFE sweets? Why should a slight indulgence cause such discomfort and vomiting? Why does she have to be so careful all the time about everything? No wonder she is so serious. And what if it is the headache medicine? What am I supposed to do to help her? Tell her she has to deal with it? I can’t imagine “toughing out” a blinding headache.
The knee. Oh the knee. She tries not to complain about it, but I see when she struggles. The AVM is finally stable, but the leg takes a lot of work to develop. She works hard on it too. But, the stamina isn’t there. Hours in a pool yes, on land, no way. Standing too long, walking the mall, or for a short walk, things we take for granted cause such pain. And pain causes fatigue. And on the occasions she relents and allows the wheelchair into use, she struggles. Not for the need to use it temporarily, but for fear of insulting those who have to use it all the time. She is proud. She is frequently humbled. She is conflicted.
And who wouldn’t be? 16 surgeries before the 13th birthday. The need to be tough all the time, while you feel weak. The desire to be stronger. Having to fight, hard, for physical accomplishments. Having to accept the ones that will never be. Never giving up. Pushing to be better. To make the world better.
She’s not perfect. Never has been. And oh, there are DAYS… But she is good, in her heart. She means well. She has no spite or malice, and I can pray it remains that way. I can pray that the children who don’t get it, one day come to understand her, just a little better. That one day they can accept her, for the good in her.
I scheduled 3 doctors appointments for the next three weeks. Dermatology, orthopedics, and endocrinology. The first is a screening. Cowden’s Syndrome, melanoma risks. Her father’s increased risk of melanoma on another unrelated genetic disorder. Her grandmother’s melanoma this summer. Every 6 months they told me. Bring her every six months. The others will work on long-term plans. Spring break. Every holiday, every vacation. Every day off. Doctors. Not the mall, or a friend’s house. Doctors. For what? And I’ve toned down the list quite a bit.
There are two bills of my desk. One for her and one for me. Both a battle. Always a battle. If it’s not the reality, or the appointments, it’s the bills. And we are so fortunate to have insurance. But, the hours. Oh my goodness, the hours…”
I try to shake it off. To stay focused on the good. On the positive. On the blessings, and they do abound. But, so often it’s just me, and my head. Working to get out of my own way.
I miss my Pop. I miss my Grandma even though she’s still here. I miss their goodness. I miss my Dad. I miss his listening ears.
I quiet the voices a little and try to follow the conversation around me. I smile politely and nod. I stay quiet. “It’s good.” “We’re good.” That’s about all they can handle anyway. Even the ones who genuinely do care. Why drag someone to a place where there is absolutely nothing they can do or say?
This is our reality. This is Cowden’s Syndrome. This is every day. As long as we have breath, and strength, and stamina to shake off the pain, place the smile firmly where it goes and press on, we will.
Because the real reality is that every person in the room may have a similar string of thoughts in their head. The reality remains that EVERYONE HAS SOMETHING…
I booked dinners for our Disney trip today. I like to plan ahead. Plus, Disney gives me a little extra strength, so that we can remain always,