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Archive for the ‘Smiles’ Category

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. ~Albert Camus

Sometimes those of us with chronic illness get so caught up in the can’ts. The shouldn’ts. The mustn’ts. I decided to focus this summer on the things I can do. From embracing the lives of loved ones lost to adventures in lands (not-so-)faraway. So we celebrated, joined, conquered, ventured, traveled, laughed, cried, and smiled. And we experienced life. It didn’t matter that I did most of it hooked up to at least 3-4 tubes at a time. It mattered that I did it.

Now that the summer comes to a close (thank you, labor day), I thought I’d go through the tradition of writing the back-to-school essay “What I did this summer.” Then I rethought. And decided I’d show you.

What I did this summer:

{And wished her Happy Birthday}

{At the 2011 UMDF Symposium in Chicago}

{With my Great Aunt Arden at the Sears Willis Tower}

{Lab safety is a must while tutoring}

{Sisters Day Out – Southwick Zoo}

{First time at Niagara Falls – Maid of the Mist}

{Seneca Falls, NY – With two of my most influential people – On the bridge from one of my favorite movies, It’s a Wonderful Life}

{For the first time since my license was revoked for seizure activity}

{TPN bag, enteral tubes, and all!}

{White Mountains in NH with my favorite in-laws}

{Haven’t attempted this since I was a gymnast – take that mito!}

{At the 2011 Mighty Matthew Benefit in Plattsburgh, NY}

{We love you, Princess Eithene!}

{So blessed to live in Boston, the Medical Mecca of the World!}

{With 4 adults, 2 kiddos, 2 dogs, and a partridge in a pear tree}

{Disappointing from the weather standpoint, but fun nonetheless}

{With a grand closing to a grand summer!}

And no one can say I didn’t do. Because I did. I really did.

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One year ago, a very special little girl came into our lives. Eithene (pronounced Eth – eh – nee) Rose was a 4-year-old beautiful ball of spunk who, like me, lived with a combination of Mitochondrial Disease (an neurometabolic disorder) and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (a connective tissue defect). She was also born with numerous birth defects which are together known as VACTERL Association.

Over the last year, Keith and I have visited with Eithene and her family (mom Jessica, dad Sean, brother Gabriel, and Aunt Jill) whenever we were in Boston. We have grown to love them. We couldn’t leave a single store without Keith seeing something that reminded him of Eithene or one of the other mito kids we regularly visit. Eithene’s story, however, is somewhat unique. Over the time that we’ve known the family, Eithene has only left the hospital for about five days last July. Other than that, she’s mostly been in a room on the ICP (Intermediate Care Program, a step-down of the ICU) at Children’s Hospital Boston. We’ve visited through numerous infections and medical crises and seen the strength she exhibits on a daily basis. Her mother’s love and faith have been unwavering and inspiring. Not only that, but mom Jessica has helped me through a large number of my own medical crises.

Saying "hi" to True

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Just about two weeks ago, we got a break from all the crazy weather here in Massachusetts – severe thunderstorms and even tornadoes – when a sunny piece of Texas came to town.

It’s difficult to describe how much I love my dear cousin, but she always manages to bring smiles and sun to wherever she is. She lit up my wedding when she agreed to be one of my two bridesmaids nearly 3 years ago.

She makes family gatherings more than just tolerable (just kidding… I love ALL my family) but incredibly enjoyable:

She also sends me those little reminders to smile.

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Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
-Dr. Seuss

Sometimes it surprises me how happy I am. How comfortable I am in my own skin. A year ago, I’m not sure if I could’ve seen myself this happy despite all that has changed (my zip code, my health, my occupation, my income, my aspirations, etc.). But I’m honestly, truly happy.

Keith and I deal with a ton of stressors with our daily life that shock many people. For instance, every day this week, I’ve had at least one medical appointment, over half of which were in Boston. (This is not out of the ordinary.) In addition, we’re watching my niece and nephew while my sister recovers from surgery. (This is something that Keith likes to call “birth control.”) We also deal with daily medical regiments including IV nutrition, stoma care, catheterizations, sterile procedures, and medical interventions. (This is in addition to Keith’s full-time student status and my work tutoring, researching, and volunteering.)

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Note: I wrote this blog nearly a month ago and am just now getting around to posting it because a good friend has been asking for it for ages and I thought she could use a small pick-me-up. This one’s for you, Liz…

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Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here

This winter has been one full of challenges, stresses, adaptation, loss, learning, sickness, and love. Yes, love. Without it, I’m not sure I would’ve come out as relatively unscathed on this end.

This winter, New England received more snow than it had in years. It was blizzard after blizzard. It was cold and unrelenting. Even worse, my body appeared to be taking lessons.

One thing that I’ve always prided myself on is being able to rise from just about anything and everything stronger and smiling. After December, I was petering on the edge, still smiling, but straining and struggling not to lose myself. But after the second month of medical hell, I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t going to rise.

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I’d like to introduce my good friend Matthew. Matthew is a happy 6-1/2-year-old who loves singing, dancing, and drawing. For my birthday, he drew me a beautiful card:

Matthew's Card

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Ten years ago today, I began dating the boy who would become the man who would become my husband, my hero, my best friend.

Through all the craziness in the past ten years – whether it be medical, family-related, loss, or growing pains – there has been one constant.  Keith.  He has been firmly placed by my side through it all.  I still don’t know what other high school Junior would choose to go bravely, unfaltering, even happily along side all this, but I’m glad I found the one who would.

I had asked him why a few months ago.  Why would a teenager choose this?  He took a while to answer, but his response was the unbearable guilt he would have felt.  My first thought was guilt?!?  He stayed with me because he would have felt guilty if he hadn’t?  No, he explained.  I would have felt guilt for the rest of my life for leaving someone I loved to go through it all alone.

Keith is a child in a grown man’s body.  He likes playing video games, wearing screen tee’s and jeans, and eating Fruity Pebbles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  He can’t balance the books, doesn’t know how to use a calender, and has to play 20 Questions just to send a check off.  And yet, he possesses more maturity than almost any other man I know.  He was unhesitatingly there when I spent months bed-bound and home-schooled as a teenager.  He didn’t have a second thought about taking a girl in a wheelchair to Senior Prom.  He only worried about my experience for nearly 5 years of a long-distance relationship while we were in undergrad.  He calmly and compassionately cared for me when I was having seizures daily, episodes that were messy and scary.  And he confidently held my hand as we listened to the doctor’s tell us that I had a progressive and incurable neuromuscular disease.  He’s always there.

I found out recently that not everyone considers his or her spouse as a “best friend.” This shocked me. It makes me incredibly sad. Sure, there’s still love and loyalty that keep those relationships together (as far as I know), but I can’t imagine not having my best friend there with me through it all. I don’t know whether we could have made it through those difficult times without our friendship. Love and loyalty can only get you so far; being able to enjoy and share our time together has made all the difference. We can play board games one-on-one until the pieces wear out. We can goof and giggle through 10-hour road trips. We can talk until 3 am. Or just sit and be. Silently. It doesn’t matter what we do or where we are as long as we’re together.

Weeks before we married nearly 3 years ago, a friend joked that we had already done the whole “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health” deal. And we had. Well, we had done the “for poorer” and “in sickness” parts, at least. So I wonder, would things even out and be for worse if we had health and riches? Because right now, things are so good and so strong between us that I can’t imagine a “better.” I honestly can’t imagine being happier. I can’t imagine a life without him.

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