To Do Lists, Digital Footorints and Random Thoughts

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t believe in waiting for a specific day to make changes.  If they are needed, wanted, or warranted – we make them.  Right then.  Otherwise, I’m all about just being your best you- every day.

Parenting a teenager is tough stuff.  Even when your teen is just a good soul, a hard -worker, a good student, and a compassionate human.

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There are people who would challenge me that we have it easy.  They give me the default model, that raising one child has to be easier than raising 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or more…  And maybe they are right.  I will never know.  But, they won’t either.  That’s the point.

Raising our children, or living our lives is not meant to be a discussion of “harder” or “easier.”  There are challenges present in every single scenario that comes to mind when I think of EVERY family I know.  In this house we  talk a lot.  My girl and I, we talk about those other lives we know, and their battles.  And we send love and prayers and warm wishes, as they do for us.  It’s not a contest,  it’s real life.

2016 saw the results of two uterine biopsies of my then 12 and 13 year old, with results that left us uneasy, and in a perpetual state of “cautious waiting.”  It also saw me back in surgery, replacing less than 5 year old silicone implants because one had “fallen”  And then, it saw my clumsiness as I spent 6 weeks booted with a broken toe.

2016 saw loss in my family, as we mourn Pop, and are readjusting with Grandma in her new living space.

Yet, we made it.  We came out with a few bumps and bruises, but we made it.

2016 ended with 8th graders we know taking High School entrance and Scholarship Exams.  The next weeks will bring jubilation, laughter, and tears.

Yet, we WILL make it- all of us.

The “To Do” list on the yellow pad to my right is busy.  The fundraiser is about a month away and there is lots to be done.

There is also an MRI, a vascular surgeon, an orthopedist, an endocrinologist, and a gastroenterologist for Meghan, as well as Pre-surgical testing, a tentative surgery date, and a breast surgeon follow-up, an oncologist, and an endocrinologist for me.  All before February 22.  That’s IF no one requires additional testing for anything…

We will fit in the “regular” stuff too, like swimming, and meets, and school projects, and drama… well you know what I mean.

We are working hard to fit Cowden’s Syndrome into our lives, and not to let it RUN our lives.  It’s a subtle difference on paper, but a HUGE one in practice.

And when the thought of running a house that contains TWO people with a rare genetic disorder becomes overwhelming – we try to step back and count our blessings.  Because at the end of all days, regardless of our struggles, it is good for us, and those around us, if we can remain positive.  I’m not saying we’re perfect at it – far from it actually, but it is a goal, and an on-going work in progress.

It came up this week when we were preparing for the fundraiser and talking about social media.  Actually, it has come up a bunch of times since the iPhone became attached to her hand almost 3 years ago…

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Digital footprint – how are you presented on the internet?  What if someone “googled’ your name?  Now?  5 years from now?  8 years from now before your job interview?  The whole concept of this blog has been discussed in depth.  Meghan, whether she likes it or not, at the age of 13 has an identity that is connected to her rare disease.  Now, don’t misunderstand me for a minute – a close read would CLEARLY indicate, she is NOT her disease, but she will never have the opportunity to deny the diagnosis.  That’s forever, and its important.

What she does with it, well that’s ongoing.  She’s made some pretty dynamic choices to date.  Sometimes she feels a bit like she has something to prove- so she does.

She’s been asking me for “snapchat” lately, and eventually I’ll give in.  But, I’m one of the mean moms who makes her wait.  Instagram is plenty to manage for now.

This week Meghan was nominated as “Inspirational Staten Islander of 2016.”

It prompted me to “google” my daughter.  So when I type in her name connected to our home town, these are the first links to surface…

How Meghan Ortega saved her Mother’s Life

12 Year Old With Rare Genetic Disorder Chosen as Inspirational Islander

Staten Island 9 Year Old and Her Mom are on a Mission….

12 Surgeries in 11 Years- Living with Cowdens Syndrome

Meghan Ortega- NYS Senate

I’ll take that top five any day.

And just for good measure, I switched to an image search.  These 5 were on the first page…

Meghan in her elementary school with one of her idols- Borough President James Oddo
Meghan in her elementary school with one of her idols- Borough President James Oddo
An old one - when Meghan was named "Hero of the Month" by Child Life after an early surgery
An old one – when Meghan was named “Hero of the Month” by Child Life after an early surgery
SI Children's Museum Achievement Luncheon Award
SI Children’s Museum Achievement Luncheon Award
Rare Disease shirts from the PTEN Foundation
Rare Disease shirts from the PTEN Foundation
One of my most proud - NYS Woman of Distinction, nominated by Senator Lanza in May 2016
One of my most proud – NYS Woman of Distinction, nominated by Senator Lanza in May 2016

And, just to be sure, I even tried Youtube.com, only to find a video made in February 2016

Apparently she has listened, carefully.  I don’t know what the future holds for my bright eyed activist.  I know she’ll continue to take heat from a few along the way.  I also know she’ll find the strength to rise above and press on.  Because, that is what we do.

Would she like it is she were named “Inspirational Staten Islander of 2016”?  Sure.  Will it break her spirit one way or another, absolutely not.  Her focus is, “If I win, we could get publicity to help raise money at the fundraiser…”

2017 Event Flyer
                                                                       2017 Event Flyer

If you’ve read this far I’ll tell you what I know about the poll I’ve linked you to below.  The voting takes place like a reality TV show.  I’m not sure how valid it all is, but there is a week of lots of voting.  It ends January 11th at noon.  Apparently you can vote many times before it stops you.  And then you can vote every hour.  So pretty much, if it crosses your mind, and you find Meghan inspirational, save the link and vote whenever it crosses your mind, until your device tells you to stop.

Regardless of the outcome, life will go on.  And we will continue on the same missions we’re on right now.

#BeatingCowdens together

Inspirational Staten Islander Poll – Vote all the way at the bottom

Our Digital Footprint

Tomorrow Felix and I will be married 13 years.  While in some ways 13 years seems like a long time – in other ways I sparsely remember that there was life before I married my best friend.

And as compatible as we are, anyone who knows us is aware that we are as different as day and night in so many ways.  One of those ways is the internet.

I facebook.  I blog.  I Email.  I communicate with people I know well, and people I have never met.  He doesn’t.  He communicates live and in person (and sometimes on the phone) with the small circle of people he loves.

In the world of digital footprints, I have to imagine that mine and Meghan’s are substantially larger than that of my husband.  And with that knowledge comes the need to sometimes remind myself of what I already know – there is no privacy on the internet.

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We live in a suburb of a big city – unique in the fact that 6 degrees of separation can easily be played – and usually can serve to connect “natives” in far less than 6 tries.

That means, that every post, every writing, every thought, every sentiment that I choose to make public will be read by people who know me, people don’t, people who like me, and people who don’t.

I have begun to “clean up” and clean out my private facebook account.  Life is about balance.  My husband wonders why I want to stay connected to people I don’t see or even know.  Well, many of them hold a special place in my heart – whatever the reason. Many are very dear to me.  But, some I really wouldn’t know if I passed them on the street.  Do they care when my girl is at swim practice? Or that my anniversary is tomorrow? Or that we have a new church?  Or a new school?  The answer truly is – probably not.

So how does all this connect to Beating Cowden’s?

Well, here’s how I see it.  I started this blog to raise awareness of a Rare Disease. – one that has changed my life and that of my daughter, and my whole family.  I wanted to get the word out that this 1 in 200,000 disorder was wreaking havoc on our lives, and we are working to control it.

Then, as I became more educated, I wanted to expose people to the world of Rare Diseases.  The reality that we are among the lucky ones has been a potent lesson.

I want people to know that Rare Diseases are not always visible.  That even though we don’t “look sick,” the suffering is part of daily life.

These realities have made some people uncomfortable, and have brought some others closer to us.  Lessons learned.  Life changes.

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So when I blog, I try to focus on my own experiences, but without fail they are intertwined with Meghan’s.  What can I do to protect her?  Not too much.

She wants this blog to continue.  She is proud to be part of an awareness raising effort.  So, I have given her editing privileges  and the constant reminder that once I hit “publish” I can not take it back.

I think in some ways this level of awareness will help her – when she takes more control of her own digital footprint.

“Beating Cowden’s” is about our daily struggles – sometimes with doctors, our bodies, medical tests, surgeries, and just people in general.

I have thought so much about privacy, and how it is almost a work of fiction these days. I have worried about hurting people’s feelings on my private page – but I am starting to get over it.

If you make a conscious choice to put yourself out there – there has to be a purpose.  And, you have to be willing to stand behind every word you type.

There is no privacy on the internet.

digital footprint

Beating Cowden’s will continue as a means to raise awareness of a virtually unheard of Rare Disease.

My own personal Facebook page will take a bit of an overhaul in the next few weeks.

Don’t take offense.

I am just getting our feet ready for spring!