Living with the anxiety of having a child with NF
Author: Jessica Jemente
Published On: 01/26/2019
A few hours ago I was fine...Well, okay, not fine but I was suppressing/managing my anxiety and fear to the best of my ability, like I do on a normal basis. BUT last night it all hit me. This is what life is like now. It is fear, sadness, and the feeling of being lost, angry and helpless. This is having a child with an incurable medical condition. Not a medical condition that entails just one type of illness or symptom but a terrifying genetic disorder that causes countless symptoms, illnesses, pain and disabilities and there's no way to know when/if they will show up or how severe.
So, when my beautiful daughter complains on and off over a few weeks time that her "tummy hurts" pointing to her chest or that her legs hurt or I see new bumps or spots on her skin, my heart sinks. I begin to think of worst-case scenarios and my stomach is in knots. I quickly jump to which specialist I need to contact and if this is something that we should see her regular pediatrician for (because she is, after all, a growing toddler) or could it be something more growing inside her, something out of place, a tumor, etc. My husband and I talk it over and over and over. I reach out to my fellow NF parents and search MANY posts related to what I see my daughter experiencing. Then book an appointment and talk to the doctor about everything that's been leading up to this. I rack my brain trying to remember every diagnosis, struggle, pain, treatment, medication and supplement she's taken at EVERY appointment. It's exhausting and I have to re-live the pain this disorder is causing every time but I don't want to miss anything that could be relevant. If I do forget to mention something I am so disappointed in myself for not memorizing every detail of her health by now or not preparing my questions better before hand. We discuss our plan going forward and what we will do now (Xray? MRI? Will she need anesthesia again? EEG? Blood work? See another department? Try a med?) diagnostics today or just monitor this time? We go home and try to resume our normal day to day life. Then it happens again...Something else pops up. Mya seems to be in pain, she's walking a little strange, she rolls her eyes and twitches in a strange way, why is she tripping so much all this sudden? The whole cycle starts again- worry, fear, research, questions, which specialist, doctor's appointment, diagnostics, wait and watch, etc.
All this, not to mention preparing Mya for everything that's going to happen to her. Helping her through doctors appointments, poking, prodding, needles, wires, "pictures of her bones", just checking on her "super hero spots". My little girl is not even 3 years old. Why does she have to endure more than most adults? I feel overwhelmed with sadness but I have to stay strong. And our Daughter...Our beautiful, smart, kind, sassy, WARRIOR of a daughter! She gives me so much strength, courage and determination. She lights up everyone she meets and has so much power in that little body of hers! She is so resilient (as are so many little warriors like her) and she handles things that most adults have a hard time with.
This cycle happens over and over. Sometimes we have weeks even months where little things don't pop up and we don't have to question every movement, pain, groan, strange behavior and tummy ache or eye twitch. In those times, I may go hours, maybe even a day without thinking about my daughter's disorder, worrying or thinking about all of the "what if's" happening that I cannot see inside of her body. I smile, laugh, talk with friends, cry, have bad days and good days, share posts, interact on social media, run my business, we play, our family enjoys time together, we go shopping, cook, clean, do laundry. Everything is NORMAL, as it should be. EXCEPT IT'S NOT.... in between all of those normal moments something hits me. It could be a spot on her skin as we get ready, an appointment on the calendar, seeing her freeze up when another kid runs too close to her, watching her struggle a little on a step at the play ground or even just a post I see from another NF parent. Sometimes it's for no reason at all...
I struggle every day with this anxiety. I am learning to cope with my daughter's diagnosis and making sure she gets the best possible care. It makes me hypersensitive to the struggles and ailments she endures and some days I find myself drowning in a pool of tears because I've lost my way. I dream every day that this picture I have just painted for you is no longer our reality. That when something happens to our little girl we will have answers, treatments that work and most of all A CURE. Federal Funding of NF Research is so important to my baby, our family and so many others we've had the honor to build relationships with (most of them amazing young children like Mya). This funding could bring us closer to healing, real solutions and a world without this awful disorder.
I can't fix everything. I can't know everything. I'm still trying to come to terms with that and one day I know I will feel like handle it all better. One day I will be a little more at peace with the way life happens. Until then I will share, be honest and vulnerable and continue fighting for our daughter, advocating and fundraising for NF research.