Meghan recently had a drama assignment where she had to write a monologue on non-violence. The teacher appreciated her perspective, and I think it speaks to the long term effects of rare disease, and chronic illness.
I’ve added nothing below…
“A physician’s guiding maximum is non maleficence. Non maleficence means ‘to do no harm.’ And, I guarantee you that screaming at an 8-year-old and burning her neck, all while sticking needles through it, qualifies as the opposite of non maleficence.
Then, I was a scared 8-year-old who just found out she had a rare genetic disorder. Now, I’m a 14-year-old with PTSD and a rare genetic disorder that has caused a lot of hell in my life and is never going away.
As I look back at this biopsy, I realize many things. One, I’m positive this first medical trauma led me to be fearful of all the medical challenges that have befallen me. Also, I realize that my deathly fear of needles and my PTSD originated on this day.
If this doctor had used a non-violent tactic during this procedure, which isn’t pleasant anyway, then maybe my journey would have gone a different route. Maybe I wouldn’t to this day walk into a doctor’s office, see needles, and have my heart jump into my throat.
People don’t realize that actions that may seem small to them can have a big effect on someone’s life. As I think back, I realize that if this one doctor had practiced non-violence, then my preconceived notions of pain and fear every time I walk into an examination room might not exist.”
Before the school year closed my principal told my daughter to do whatever she had the urge to this summer. Knowing she was a good kid, she understood his meaning. He told her to play hard, and not worry about getting hurt, or hurting.
When I shot him a look, he laughed and ignored me. Speaking right to Meghan, (referring to an event at school last June where she climbed a rock wall and ultimately needed hand surgery) he asked her if she would climb the rock wall again. She said, “Definitely!”
He smiled at her, knowing he had left his mark in the just over a year she spent at our school. Her confidence was up, and she knew the satisfaction of completing a task, and sometimes even winning – far outweighed the physical consequences that simply seem an inevitable consequence of being her.
Turns out that very conversation was replaying in her mind as she was first to cross the finish line in the “Fun Run” this morning, held annually in memory of my cousin Meghan, her namesake. The pleasure in her eyes outweighed all other things as she held it together long enough to get in the front door before she asked for ice.
Reminding me today as educators we shape lives in ways deeper than the classroom. I am grateful…
Meghan needed this morning. As a matter of fact we needed it – so badly that I think even the rain knew. And maybe my Dad, my cousin’s “Uncle Tom,” was able to push those clouds out-of-the-way for a while. His angel wings are 7 months strong today. I think we got a special favor.
It’s hard to believe we’ve only been out of school for a week. My head is spinning.
Monday was the rheumatologist, full of confusion, still perplexed by pain without swelling that plagues so much of her body. We spent hours, and arrived home minus a copay and with little to show for the trip.
Tuesday morning as we prepped for the GI, fortunately a local appointment, I got a call from the vet. “I know Allie is scheduled to have her teeth cleaned tomorrow, but we have a cancellation. Can you bring her today?” All about getting things done, I got the dog in the car and dropped her off for a dental cleaning.
Of course, I left in tears because as tough as I want to say I am about the dogs… I am who I am.
So when they called me a bit later to tell me she would need 5 extractions, my heart almost stopped. But, there was little choice so I consented.
We headed to the GI and had a pleasant visit there. It’s always easy when things are going well, and generally the stomach is so much better since that stint in the hospital in May that we are clearly headed in the right direction. We left with an appointment in 6 weeks, and told we could slowly, and carefully start reintroducing some of the foods stripped from her already restricted diet after the diagnosis of severe gastritis.
I picked the dog up a bit later that night. And her pain medication, and her antibiotics, and as I was leaving even full of relief to see her, it was hard to tell what was whimpering louder, Allie, or my Visa.
Wednesday another local visit, this time to the orthodontist. And instead of getting the news that the braces are ready to come off, she left with more rubberbands. The initial projection of having them removed in February seemingly a distant memory, and more conversation about her teeth and how “unpredictable” they are. Why not? So to make sure that they don’t move too far in the wrong direction – we get to go back in 2 weeks, then in 4. We’ve got time I guess.
Thursday, after feeling confident that the dog was on the mend, we left for the endocrinologist in NYC. A somewhat productive conversation at least led to a mutual agreement that the synthetic medicine may not be working for her. Her fatigue, I was told, “may not” be associated with her insanely elevated blood levels. We’ll get the labs on Monday. Two more 6 weeks cycles for the levels to regulate. Then we try something new. 12 weeks is a long time to look at continuing to feel less than your best, but at least we left with a more open-minded doctor than when we started.
“This is getting old.”
I’ve heard that phrase a few times from my normally happy, easy-going kid. At 10 years and 11 months she knows chronic pain, needles, surgery and waiting better than anyone should. When she asks about my childhood, and I tell her that I also went to quite a few doctors, (although not as many as she does,) she tells me I am “lucky I didn’t know I had Cowden’s Syndrome.”
And as I am left to ponder what it must be like knowing more about genetics and your broken PTEN gene than you might ever want to, I think about how hard it must be. The thoughts that go through her head, the level of her vocabulary, her insight. So much to absorb, so much maintenance. She gets that she’s lucky in some ways, but overtaxed in others… it is so easy to forget that she’s not even 11.
That is why mornings like this one have to happen. That is why she has to sometimes taste a little bit of victory, when she feels like the challenges might swallow her up. That’s why she has to run as if she has no pain. That’s when she gets to be a kid.
This was the worst of it – this week, for doctors. This was my worst scheduling job by far. On the 14th she has one and I have one. Then on the 15th I have 4. (Genius!) And after that things lighten up considerably.
This week I settled some paperwork that has been lingering. I fought over medication with the pharmacy. I began the process of organizing a few very chaotic things.
Today we got to see some family. Meghan got to hug three great grandparents, two of which are in their mid 90s! We got to chat and to eat and take a break.
Tonight we will sit with a sweatshirt and watch the sky for fireworks.
Tonight I will thank the angel who moved the clouds away this morning.