Milestones

When I started this blog just about two and a half years ago, it was to serve as therapy for me.  It took a while before I even started linking my posts to facebook.  I didn’t pay much attention to the stats of the blog, except to occasionally marvel at the random countries my blog was being read.

This week while searching the year that was, I happened to notice that this little blog has cleared over 100,000 views!

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Stunned.  Amazed.  Humbled.  Grateful.

I think of the people who have reached out to me through this blog.  People looking for an ear, or a point in the right direction.  I think about the newly diagnosed who have come my way a few times, and have been relieved to learn everything can be ok with Cowden’s Syndrome.

I think of the blogs I follow, of people with and without Cowden’s, and all I have learned.  Most especially that WE are not alone.

I think that spirit of companionship, whether it comes from a country across the world, or a city nearby is a factor in what motivates me to keep writing.

But, mostly blogging is my therapy.  My free therapist.  The computer is my listener.  Where I can air my thoughts and ideas, and worries and hopes and dreams.  And then I can edit myself into the positive mindset necessary to press on.  This blog keeps me away from the negativity and the despair that can sometimes accompany this life.

smile-its-free-therapy

And yesterday as I recapped “The year that everything broke…”  I was reminded of all the blessings that came our way in 2014.  And despite the lows, there always seemed to be someone, somewhere, with some random act of kindness, who was able to help us turn things around.  For all of these people – and they know who they are – accept my gratitude, OUR gratitude.  For really this is our story.

Although I am not much a fan of “New Year’s Resolutions,” or proclaiming that things will be drastically different in the minute it takes to pass from 11:59 PM on December 31st to January 1 at 12:00 AM…  I wanted to highlight some of the positive things that have gone on for us in 2014.

We began last year, much as we will begin this year, preparing for Rare Disease Day.  In February there was an assembly at my school.  We gave out ribbons to all the students.  Meghan and another family, two dear boys who had been affected by a different rare disease spoke.  They opened some eyes that day.

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And in the midst of that assembly Meghan met Borough President Oddo.  The two struck up conversation like old friends.  Meghan immediately respected and admired him, and he has become a mentor of sorts.  They are in Email contact, she has been to Borough Hall to visit a few times.  He was really the impetus behind Meghan believing there is no limit to the difference she can make in the world.  He continues to encourage her as she plans Beating Cowden’s First “Jeans for Rare Genes” fundraiser on February 15, 2015.  I feel so fortunate for her to see such a positive role model who changes the lives of so many just by being himself.

Meghan chatting with Borough President Oddo!
Meghan chatting with Borough President Oddo!
Meghan's friend has been a great support in so many ways.
Meghan’s friend has been a great support in so many ways.

We had a fundraiser last year as well, and raised several thousand dollars which was donated to The Global Genes Project.  Satisfaction.  “For the babies who really need it, Mom.”

In February also in the midst of what was almost a train wreck around a bad snowstorm and a carefully orchestrated thyroidectomy, I frantically called in desperation to get us into NYC the night before the surgery.  Ultimately we ended up with the greatest gift, as we were privileged to spend a few hours at Ronald McDonald House in NYC.   The facility, the employees, the organization – all phenomenal.  Our Guardian Angels were active that day!

Ronald McDonald House

Our Room
Our Room

Meghan received some awards this year that made us very proud.  In the Spring she was selected as “Staten Islander of the Week.”  At graduation, she received the “Portrait of Courage” award.  In the summer she received a nomination from the Global Genes Project for their “Teen Advocacy Award.” On my birthday she received a “Kid of Achievement” award from the Staten Island Children’s Museum.   She was starting to get the idea that SHE can make a difference.

Meghan 2014 Nominee for Global Genes Project Teen Advocacy Award
Meghan 2014 Nominee for Global Genes Project Teen Advocacy Award
2014 Kid of Achievement - Staten Island Children's Museum
2014 Kid of Achievement – Staten Island Children’s Museum

In July the Borough President’s office arranged for Meghan to throw out the first pitch at a Staten Island Yankee game.  And this girl who had never thrown a ball before received a crash course from some great friends.  Not only was the pitch a success, but the number of friends and relatives who joined us at the game, wearing “I love someone with Cowden’s Syndrome” T-shirts, was beyond touching.  We are loved.

SI Yankee 2014 B1

August saw the overcoming of a lifelong fear of roller coasters, for both of us.

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And in the fall we saw the first glimmer of hope that Meghan’s dream for a denim ribbon necklace was steps from being realized.  Exciting times all around.

It looks like it will happen- SOON!
It looks like it will happen- SOON!

We capped the year off at the Stone House at Clove Lakes, with another family with a different rare disease, lighting their Christmas Tree to help raise awareness of rare and genetic diseases.  Meghan’s intermediate school chorus came out on that chilly night to support the cause.

Meghan and Uncle Chris at The Stone House
Meghan and Uncle Chris at The Stone House

So Cowden’s Syndrome, while it creates more than it’s fair share of heartache and obstacles, also creates opportunity when we look for it.

Just like we notch off and remember each surgery, and the milestone of overcoming the recovery, we also acknowledge, enjoy, and savor the positive milestones.

We remember that “everyone has something.”  We are grateful for the blessings in our lives.  No one’s life is perfect, and far too often we all suffer from the belief that someone else’s “grass is greener.”

May each day hold for you enough positives to counteract the negatives, and the ability to look for the good in all situations, people and places.

That is my wish for my family and friends near and far, not just for the new year – but for every day of your lives.

Visiting Daddy at work on the New Year's Eve Ball
Visiting Daddy at work on the New Year’s Eve Ball

 

These three remain….

these three remain

She walked away today.  She broke the rules.  She updated the plan.  On surgery number 11 she hugged us goodbye, and dry eyed walked through the secure area with two young nurses.  The doors barely closed before I dissolved, an exhausted puddle, into my husband’s arms.

That didn’t last long… You only get a moment or two to pull it together.  Then there was some really rotten cafeteria food, and WAITING.

They took her in at 3.  Three and a half hours after she was scheduled.  She was tired, and hungry.  And more grown up than I am at 3 PM when I haven’t eaten.

What a whirlwind!  Last Wednesday when we met the surgeon I was stunned by how quickly he wanted the entire thyroid removed.  Stupid Cowden’s Syndrome.  Makes people quick to pull out whatever seems to be misbehaving.  And (SIGH) they are usually right.

So as the week built, and the media started predicting the newest storm coming…. I brushed it away for a while.  I thought there was no way it could stand in the way.  The surgery was scheduled.  She was ready.  The throat clearing has reached epic levels.

Faith.

faith

Faith that it was going to be fine.  Initially faith that the storm would pass.  Faith that we would arrive on time to an early surgery Thursday morning.

Then, as happens so often I was reminded that FAITH, is not about me.  It’s not about my terms, or my time, or my way.  FAITH is knowing, trusting, believing. that God will provide what we need.  Whether it fits my plan or not.

So, as it became evident that there would be no safe way to travel Thursday morning, the phone calls began.

HOPE

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So much talk about HOPE this month.  Rare Disease Day, and “HOPE – It’s in our genes.”  Hope became necessary.  The faith and hope working hand in hand, with a few mini meltdowns of worry mixed in.  (HEY, I never claimed to be perfect!)

Back and forth to the surgical team, to the social worker, the secretaries.  Pleading.  Help us.  Hotel rooms that were available running several hundred dollars.  Offers from loving people to pay the bill.  But in the end money wouldn’t have stopped us.  We would have paid whatever we needed.  Because we had to be here.  Right here.  Right now.

So finally around 2 O’Clock on Weds. the call came.  “We can put you up at the Ronald McDonald House for the night.”  The fee – incredibly reasonable.  The location- perfect.  The reality – it was time to pack us up and be out of the house by 8.

Packing to take Meghan away is an adventure.  It’s not the electronics, or the “stuff” but rather the food.  Not even a major hospital can safely prepare Gluten, Dairy, Soy free food.  So there has to be a cooler.  Dad made fried chicken and plantains.  I picked up a pound of a Boar’s Head staple.  Cookies, granola, ginger ale, and other necessities.  Showers for all.  And Grandpa picked us up at 8.

We brought our own sheets – because you need to wash theirs before you go, and I doubted we’d have time.  I have to admit I was worried.  Really worried about what I would find through the doors.  But what I found was… love.

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I had heard of “The Ronald McDonald House- The house that love built.”  But I never gave it any thought.

Ronald McDonald House

I have a new charity on my favorite list.

We were welcomed – almost embraced by love and kindness.  There was a nonjudgmental compassion the radiated out of every staff member.  We were given keys to our rooms, and a tour with the rules of the “house.”  We were shown to our room only after Meghan was allowed to choose a few games to play – and keep – from their back room.  And, after she was given a backpack – with a special monkey, and a monkey blanket.

And on the return trip after the tour, before we saw our room – she was handed a warm, beautiful, blue and green blanket.  Her grateful smile. My heart – full of love in this house.

Our room was on the 11th floor.  Immediately I was at ease with the wood floors, foam mattresses, and EVERYTHING wrapped in plastic.  And there was the most beautiful view.

Lobby
Lobby
Lobby
Lobby
Our Room
Our Room
View out the window
View out the window

And as we each found our way last night into our own level of sleep, there was LOVE.  Everywhere in the room.

We checked out gratefully this morning, due to arrive at the hospital for an 11:30 surgery.

View out the window on this "Beautiful Day"
View out the window on this “Beautiful Day”
Waiting for surgery with the new monkey from the bag last night!
Waiting for surgery with the new monkey from the bag last night!

By 3:00 when she finally walked through the doors we had had to spend some time reminding ourselves that we were blessed.

A beautiful chaplain met us this morning, and clearly spoke Meghan’s language.  She compared God to a loyal dog… always there – forever understanding of our needs.

The doctors took extra time with someone else’s baby this morning.  I am glad they have that level of compassion.  I am glad they take their time.

Now they need to take their time with mine.

The last status update came 15 minutes ago.  They only began around 3:40.  Prep took a while.  She is stable, but its slow going.  What to expect from a Cowden’s Syndrome thyroid filled with 16 or more nodules?  Why make it easy.

Thankfully – she has some very special guardian angels on the case today.  And the prayers of countless others.

In our family of three its appropriate to remember “These three remain; faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is LOVE!”

More to follow as soon as I can…