Life as I know it three years later 

•September 19, 2015 • 6 Comments

“As long as it’s nothing degenerative everything should be fine” these were words I heard from my dear cousin as I was about to drift off to sleep in eager anticipation of Eli’s MRI the next day. This conversation happened three years ago tonight. 

There are certain things you will never foget in life and the next hours fall into that category.

As I woke on the morning of Sept 20th it was with a start from a dream that I just had. Dreams are nothing new or surprising to me because it has always been my bridge between myself and My God. Now this dream was a bit concerning and somewhere in me I knew it carried a message. The dream was simple and quick yet powerful enough and I had a feeling I was being prepared for something, unfortunately it was something that I could have never imagined.

A cross… Up in the corner of where I was looking… A cross but not your typical cross. It was beautiful and made of light just as I believe many spiritual things are. It was not firm and rigid but soft around the edges. This cross was not made of anything but words. Faith, hope, love, promise, life, believe, God, trust, prayer, the list goes on. This cross had words going up and down and left and right… Made of light and almost alive. As I looked at the cross I could see every word individually and in my dream I knew this meant something. When I awoke I knew it was even bigger than what I thought as I was sleeping. As much as I felt prepared that God was in control I could never be completely ready for what lay ahead the rest of the day. 

Everything was normal as Eli was being put to sleep for his MRI. Off to the waiting room we went but all of a sudden the nurses that had been so friendly slowly stopped making eye contact in the waiting room… After two hours they slowly stopped even looking our way as they passed us. These are things I will never forget. I ran outside knowing something must be wrong calling everyone I could to ask them to pray. I was in the middle of a panic attack… Heart rate probably 200 and feeling I would not make it back to the waiting room. Well I did and Hut was much calmer than I was.  As I went to call the doctors office to say I wanted answers before we left she said that the Doctor would be down to talk in just a few minutes. Holy shit! Omg this is effing horrible!! In a few minutes we went back and Eli was still sleeping but there was the poor doctor. A look of “omg how am I going to tell them what I have to tell them?!” She took us in her room and shut the door…. I thought for sure it was a brain tumor but she shook her head no. Then the last words I spoke to my cousin came rushing back…” As long as it’s nothing degenerative” she could barely get it out but eventually said Metachromatic Leukodystrophy. Wtf is that?!!!! All I heard were three things; terminal, no treatment and genetic! There was nothing else to tell us at this point so we went back to Eli who was smiling by now with another nurse and eager to leave. There were no tears to be shed at this point so it was off to the car to head home.  This was just the beginning.
Lots of work would lead us to where we are today… Lots of work and lots of amazing peoole. 

Obviously a lot has happened over the last three years ….. Another diagnosis….marital problems…lost relationships…. Balancing Eric and Evan along the way…Disease Progression ….appointment after appointment… Leg braces….temper problems….numerous trips to Milan…. What seems like struggle after struggle. YET there have been numerous trips to Milan, new relationships, new friendships, laughter, lessons learned, the gift of the present moment and all of these last things mentioned are really the most important. Yes Milan is mentioned twice because it was a challenge for 9 long months living there but it has been a gift that will hopefully keep on giving….. Giving the gift of life to Eli and Ella. 

The reality of where life has gone the last three years, many don’t want to hear…. It’s not fun. Changes in so many areas of life that were never imagined…. But…. More importantly there is also good and I will end on this note ….

I was looking at pictures this past week on my computer I saw a common theme over the last three years. Smiles…. And lots of them. Even in the midst of chemo, the sickness, the time away from family, the isolation days, the lonely days in a hotel room on a 97 degree day where you couldn’t leave, the struggles with school, disease progression, lots of appointments… The list goes on but one thing I saw throughout was joy! Both Eli and Ella smiled, laughed, loved and were loved… They found happiness or joy in the midst of the unthinkable… They found smiles in the simplest of things. This has been a game changer and a life changer from the beginning.  To follow their lead and to try to understand  what they feel has been challenging to say the least but it has been a gift. 

As I was at Evans open house the other night I ran into the Mullens and Jim happen to have a Warrior shirt on…. I could not be more grateful to those that have not forgotten… To those who continue to realize this is a never ending journey… To those who still put their shirt on and even for a second think of Eli or Ella… I can’t thank you enough. This “fight” or “journey” will never end. Eli’s journey in this life is not easy and that is the hardest thing to accept, but with so many people who love him I know he will continue to smile and laugh no matter what comes his way!   

  Three years later ! 
In two short hours after this pic was taken I would learn what true pain was. The innocence of life was stolen … Yet the smiles remain… And  even though some days are tougher than others Eli continues to show the way! 

Breaking the cycle… The relationship between my mom and I and the acceptance that has finally freed me and allowed me to change things for my own kids. 

•July 21, 2015 • 6 Comments

 They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.  

If that’s the case I am guilty as charged. Guilty of doing the same thing believing the results will… Hmm…let’s see…. Maybe just one time be different. After many many years I have never been correct in my thinking, so I must be insane! After much contemplation I have finally made the decision to break the cycle…. The cycle of insanity! (At lease the part that I can control) 

Mental illness is such a taboo subject yet something that seems to be more and more prevelant every time I turn around. What is mental illness? Is it anxiety? Is it depression? I’m not a doctor so I have no idea but what I do know is it has been a part of my life for what seems like forever! Unfortunately  being who I am I have many times believed that I have been responsible for the issues that I later learned were not really my fault. The pain endured over this has been one of the hardest things in my life to deal with. When someone who is the biggest part of your life growing up says things you tend to believe them… You tend to take it in and start to question what is real and what is not. You beat yourself up thinking you are the worst daughter possible, thinking you have somehow failed, questioning everything you do and wondering if it really IS your fault. It took me a long 42 years …really more likely 20 to finally realize I have to STOP and break the cycle before it repeats itself with my kids…. Which undoubtedly it will.

I have been called everything  you could imagine, I have been told what a horrible person I am and more recently it has continued all the way down to my kids. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter that two of my kids have a terminal illness or that I am barely hanging on by a string in the journey that I am on. None of it matters, nothing changes and no one can change it…. But ME!

If you are  anything like me you might live by guilt… Not wanting to hurt anyone… Making decisions based on what will please others and not you… Let me stop here and say it always catches up to you. 

My decisions seemed to catch up to me after diagnosis…. Ah the wonderful things that can come from the terrible. I became strong(er) I became tough (er) and most importantly I became (am becoming) a woman who can not live a certain way just because of guilt. 

I think because of my relationship with Jesus I have always had this feeling of maybe I don’t forgive enough or maybe I can just keep going and it will get better… How do you quit on family??  

Acceptance does not mean quitting … 

Accepting that it may not all be mental illness…. Maybe it’s just being mean…. Maybe it’s narsacisim at its finest… Who knows. When I see the affects on my kids, I realized that they are not little anymore…. They see it all and they see how I respond. For years I responded the wrong way and I am sure it has done some damage. This solely lies on my shoulders.

I have chosen to finally break the cycle… The cycle of believing things will change and making my kids realize whether there is mental illness or not, there is a line that should not be crossed. They deserve more and so do I. 

“When everything feels like an uphill battle just think of the view from the top”

  

Finding purpose in pain 

•April 7, 2015 • 4 Comments

 

“Mom, I wish I was older than Ethan… Because he says that the older you are the quicker you die and that would mean I can go to heaven” “I want to go to heaven mom to be with Jesus”

The pain of this journey has surpassed anything I could have ever imagined. I have gotten so used to pain and sorrow being a part of my every day that I don’t remember them NOT being there. I know this journey is not about me…I’m just a lucky one who who gets to help help guide them. It’s about these precious kids who deserve life and a life that is lived with joy, happiness and laughter!

How are these things to be maintained when there are so many questions, so much heartache and so many unanswered questions. To hear your child say things such as this is almost unbearable …how it penetrates your soul is unexplainable. Yet when I truly listen, his words can be filled with such depth beauty and wonder.

Since diagnosis I have tried like hell to make the most of the days… Or more importantly the moments in the days… The big and small,  maybe a bit too much. I have become one of those moms you read blogs about and hear yourself say “I will NEVER be like that” “I will not fill their every moment with something to do, and try to make everything special and memorable” the mom that wants to make cookies at every play-date and wants a bucket list for every summer just to “make memories.”

Hearing your son say he wants to die and go to heaven is almost unbearable…so what is there to do but to make life as memorable and enjoyable for him.

Nothing will take the pain away and there will always be questions…. Did the treatment stop the disease? Did it stop and will he be in limbo forever…. Knowing something is wrong, knowing he does not fit in, yet not quite understanding the whys around it. I don’t have these answers and most likely never will… So I will live in limbo with him…. We all will… Praying and hoping there is more understanding as time goes on.

Until then I pray for strength to get through moments like tonight… Strength for clarity and most importantly peace to cover Eli for every question, fear and unknown that he will face throughout his life.

 

I don’t know Eli’s will or what his purpose is… I just know I will feel the pain with him and celebrate the joys. Day by day I am the one who ends up learning from him!

“There is only one thing that is fully our own and that is our will or purpose” -Epictetus 

#100happydays #day1

•February 25, 2015 • 1 Comment

There is a great challenge out there right now to see if we can be happy for 100 days. For me it’s not so much about being happy every day but finding joy and finding moments that give you happiness throughout your day. Sometimes there may be just one but I can guarantee you can find it if you are looking for it!

#day1 is snuggling and falling asleep next to these two

#100happydays 

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Living, learning and loving

•February 22, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Life can and will throw curveballs… It’s a given. Maybe yours will come early, maybe later in life …. Maybe they will be thrown at you as long as you are on this journey called life. Life is never equal or fair and once we realize and accept that we might be able to live the life WE were meant to live.

Ha ha ha … I just re read what I wrote and had to laugh. I may write these words, think them and even believe them but until I can truly accept them as truth it’s just another statement. Maybe someday I will but until then I will continue to press on and learn what I can on this journey, always hoping to improve who I am and how I deal with my own curveballs.

Recently I was in Milan with the kids and Mommom… I had the opportunity to meet so many different families who are struggling with having a child or children with MLD. I didn’t know what to think before meeting everyone… How would I feel? Would it be helpful? would it be sad? It was a lot of everything! It was a gift! MLD is a rare disease … Not cancer and not something you find many other people have. To have met others who are going through the same thing was simply wonderful. Filled with tears and laughter were our moments together.
My heart so heavy for Tyson and Rylee whose hopes were dashed for Gene Therapy and on the flip side feeling so happy to meet the Price Family and see Giovanni four years post transplant (number two in the trial.) We spent hours together …. Dinner, hours on the sofa talking and crying in the hotel and just enjoying being with others who understand. LEARNING …. If you allow yourself, you can learn from everyone that crosses your path. I find myself open to everyone I meet…. Taking it all in … Believing people are put in my life for a reason.

I always believed that people are good! Even the not so good ones are good if they let it come out. I think it helps when you look at the world this way… Believing that if people have the right people around them and can let their guard down the good will shine and the love will be let in. When you believe this, people will show you that you are right. It’s truly what you want to see in the world. People surprise me every day with their kindness. A couple of weeks ago a young boy in Eli’s scouts (Thomas) told his dad he wanted to win a prize for Eli out of the crane game… He did and gave it to him at our Den meeting. It brought tears to my eyes. The school and staff goes above and beyond with their love, care and kindness…the neighbors (Calvarese) who make sure Eli gets across the street when the bus comes if we are not out there, our friends, doctors and nurses in Italy who love the kids and have opened their hearts to all of us. Just one instance today as I took Evan to CHOP after hours for his knee. One or two people there knew Eli and Ella and their story from all the times we have been there and a few didn’t know them yet every single one of them was so kind, caring and compassionate the whole time we were there… Going above and beyond what is expected. They are just another reason why I have so much hope for people. It turns moments into memories when you witness the goodness in people.

I really have to say thank you to those who have allowed me to feel everything I do… To those who know this is a journey and the journey is really just beginning… Eli and Ella are not free of MLD and we don’t know what lies ahead….we do have hope and I do cling to that but I am not naive. I cry, I have sorrow I have fears and I hate how much my life has changed. My faith comes and goes, relationships have been lost and some strengthened. I appreciate those who let me BE and love me anyway. It might only be a few that you realize you can truly be yourself with and I’m learning that’s all I really need!

When tomorrow comes I will try again to live, love and learn…. I will try to focus on what really matters and I will hopefully be a little better at dealing with the curveballs life keeps throwing at me. One thing is true no matter what and that is this…. I will always be grateful for it all… The good, the bad and the ugly …. Because it is here where you learn who you have the capability to become!

“When we long for life without difficulties remember that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure”

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Please

•February 9, 2015 • 3 Comments

As Eric just turned 16 I look back feeling melancholy. Since MLD I don’t look back too much at the life I used to have… It does no good.l… Yet the pain and sorrow is covered by love and kindness by so many. I wish that helped me as much as everyone wants it to.

I find me being so hard on myself and beating myself up every day…. The “shoulds” that are constantly forming in my mind every time I feel sorrow. I should be grateful, I should be happy, my child could be in a wheelchair already so I should be thanking God every day they are not. The list really goes on but it’s pointless to keep going. Here is the thing… I am all those things BUT I am still in pain and I still have sorrow. Acceptance has not come yet and I don’t know why… Yet I do have an inking as I search every single day to find my own personal truth.

When we are little our dreams are all different … My dream and wish was to always “just” be a mom. I wanted to simply love a child (or 4) and show them that my love was unconditional… I knew that they would be my first priority and they would always know they could count on me. I didn’t plan on MLD… I mean who does? That’s a joke… No one plans on cancer, accidents, rare diseases… We think we will have kids and the big problems will be preventing them from drinking as they get older…. Or worrying about them driving. Never did I think of the possibility that two of them might not even make it to that age. How does one even comprehend that?? It’s better off not to try.

I know today the struggles are not what some with this disease are facing but nonetheless they are struggles. Hearing your son say at least five times a week (sometimes five times a day) that he wants to go to heaven to be with God is gut-wrenching! Somedays we talk about it, somedays I know he is just sad and that is why he says it so I comfort him and other days I change the subject. It’s never easy because I don’t know what is going on in his brain… Neither does he. He says it often that his brain is messed up and doesn’t work like it used to. Just sit with that for a minute. Your son knows that something is wrong with his brain but can do NOTHING about it let alone understand it. I can do NOTHING either and it is painful.

Today I ran into someone and she said “so, are the kids all better now?” Now I know she meant well and I don’t expect anyone to understand but boy do I wish it was that simple; cut and dry. I wish they were “fixed” . If only time could be stopped and they could be little forever…

Here is a great song and I love the lyrics by Billy Dean “let them be little”

Let them be little, ’cause they’re only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love everyday
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh, just let them be little

I’ve never felt so much in one little tender touch
I live for those kisses, your prayers and your wishes
Now that you’re teaching me how only a child can see
Tonight while we’re on our knees, all I ask is please”

I love the verses and tonight I will just say that simple prayer…. Please… Hopefully God will know just what I need and answer my prayer.

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A note to me… For you

•November 29, 2014 • 5 Comments

It’s funny when I think back to who I used to be before diagnosis … I used to think I was so different but now it’s hard for me to remember the differences compared to who I am today.

I always thought I was a good person; caring and compassionate. I was not blind to my shortcomings and tried to work on them as often as I could.

There are things I never realized about myself “before” and it’s sad sometimes to think that I never believed in myself like I should have. It’s sad that back then, I needed approval from so many for even the smallest of decisions that I would make… Wondering what so many thought and if I would be hurting feelings along the way. So many things about my life were never really about me but that was my own lesson to learn. You see, I believe we are all here to learn lessons … Some more than others, but if we believe this we can focus on ourselves as individuals.

So before MLD I was insecure, needy of approval, afraid to be assertive and overall just too concerned what everyone thought. I remember an incident during Eli’s MRI that was so poignant to me…When they were taking so long getting back to us and the fear was growing, then eventually they came back and said they needed to do contrast, I knew they found something. I knew I had to call the Dr. Immediately and tell her that we needed to know today what they found and not have to wait. As I was calling her (upstairs in the hospital) I remember thinking that I hope I wasn’t annoying her… That I hoped she understood why I was telling her we needed to know now. I was actually worried about what she thought of me and if she would be upset. Little did I know that she was the one who was waiting to see us as soon as Eli was out.

If I could go back to the young mom (even before Eli was born), the mom who was afraid of anything ever being wrong with one of her kids, the mom who thought she could never handle anything and the mom who thought she would crumble at the slightest inkling of anything seriously being wrong with one of her babies… Actually more importantly if I could get to a mom or dad who thinks these same things today and who doesn’t know it but will face the unimaginable some day, this is what I would tell them:

Don’t believe your negative self talk …you think you know, but rest assured it is true that you are given strength you never knew you had when you need it. No matter how many times you drum up a scary scenario in your mind about your child being sick and no matter how scary that is, you can handle it! It is always worse in your head… Everything is! Don’t worry so much about pleasing people… If you do, you might miss out on something important. (If we listened to some neurologists and were afraid to piss people off Eli would have never gotten that MRI)
Trust your gut… ALWAYS… You can’t get back missed opportunities. Don’t be afraid of life, or death or sickness… It’s ok if something bad happens …good things can and will come of it. Don’t try so hard to hold on to relationships that are not meant to be… Illness or a sick child scares some people and changes some people too. It’s ok because I can tell you that many people who come into your life after a diagnose like this will be some of the best people you could ever imagine meeting. After diagnosis I would tell you to not listen to anyone! Listen to you! Fight the good fight… Just because someone is a doctor does not mean they know what is right for your child! Do your research! Sometimes quality is more important than quantity in terms of time. Accept help…. It’s ok and it does not signal weakness. People will love you harder and longer …. Let them. Don’t be afraid of change… It is inevitable … Friendships will change, you will change, everything will change… It’s ok. Windows will be opened when doors are closed so keep your eyes open and be ready. One of the last and most important things I have learned is don’t compare your child, your disease or the way you are dealing with it to anyone else. There is always going to be someone who is worse off than you or someone who’s situation is not as bad… Don’t compare and don’t feel that you have to be just as happy as them. Be patient with yourself, be patient with others and most importantly LOVE yourself. You will get through anything and everything better once you stop judging yourself and putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. One day at a time and you will be ok.

I am learning to let go of expectations with everything in life and just live… It is truly the only way.

You don’t need a “D” day to realize it’s ok to change and to be who you truly want and need to be. You don’t need something life changing to change your life! Change NOW! Be who you are NOW! Believe in you NOW! Stand up for what you believe in NOW! Life is short so make it count!

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