Saturday, May 25, 2013

Living and the Sunshine (ala Camp)

For the month of May, in honor of brain tumor and NF awareness month (so convenient to have them at the same time!), I am trying to tell our family's story of living through both. I hope that by the end folks have a sense what brain tumors and NF can do to a family, why and how we can work for better treatments (and maybe a cure!), and why we should always, always hope.

May 25

Today my Rosebud is 11.

In the midst of stable, challenges continued. School was a CONSTANT source of stress for G. My son was generally imploding… the sibling wreckage of brain tumor/nf diagnosis is a gift that keeps on giving. And after 4 years you age out of Super Sibs, the awesome sibling support organization for onco sibs. They aren’t made for 6 and 7 and 8 years of battling…. Rosie was mostly fine, but she had some plaguing stomach pain issues (which necessitated a bunch of doc appointments) and her ear bothered her at odd moments and I had to have several annoying conversations with her orthodontist about the realities of orthodontia and brain scans (BT note: MRI picks up metal in mouth as artifact on a scan, it blurs the images, so kids with braces have to generally get them OFF before scans. Took me a few conversations to get the orthodontist to understand that only one of us was the expert on brain tumors in my kid. Not pretty). My workload increased, which was a good thing but also a challenge.

Scans following the Scare of Summer 2010 continued to be complicated but stable. Scan reports used words like “infiltration” and “slowly grown”. We knew the writing was on the wall, but that is so hard to explain. Genna SEEMED so good, you know? A lot of people in our family stopped following the caringbridge page, it just got to be too much, I was told I was too depressing.

Living with the elephant in the living room was becoming untenable.

So finally, after much fear and trembling, I signed our family up for a family brain tumor camp, Camp Sunshine. I was so excited and SO nervous to finally meet some of the families I had known virtually for 6+ years. We needed to find some place where our daily yikes made sense.

And we got accepted! Over President’s Day weekend, we hit Camp Sunshine for the first time…

(I need to) try to express in words what Camp Sunshine was like.

Let’s put it this way:1. Some of my children would rather go back there than go to LAKE GEORGE. Seriously.

2. One of my children said, “I wish people in NJ were like my friends at Camp, they were just so nice”. (not one of my female children--!!!!!!!!!!!!).

3. That same child was seen smiling, laughing, and participating in goofy camp stuff. (!!!!!!)

4. We got to be in a room with 40 families who speak our same terrifying dialect of smote.

5. Better yet, we laughed and laughed with those families.

6. I got to finally meet some people who literally have carried me in some of our darkest times over the last 6.5 years.

7. Genna instantly endeared herself to all of the 2-4 year olds present.

8. Rosie skied down a mountain. Dave & I snowshoed on a lake. Egads! Adventures!

9. I got to prove the existence of Dave to people I only have ever spoken to online.; )


11. We met at least one other child with some of the identical food issues G has. I am not just a food psycho to G. This hypothalamus crap is for real, if you’ll pardon my use of the vernacular.

12. We met tons of amazing new friends.

13. Camp Sunshine felt like Give Kids the World (where we stayed on G’s Make a Wish trip)…sans palm trees and plus lots of snow. The feeling of love was the same.

The whole place was just LOVE.
eyeballs. Note the Yankees Ensembles.ahem.

Major lily pads!!! Camp gave us the oomph we needed for life, for the Coffeehouse that was around the corner, for our next race, for everything. Camp Sunshine IS the Best Medicine For a Family, EVER.

G also had a scan around the corner…and it was stable, with one area a speck SMALLER! We had never seen that word before, even if it was microscopic, there was a portion of tumor that seemed smaller. Woo!

We were living.

Rosie has taken to spelling out neurofibromatosis and plexiform neurofibroma and optic glioma (hers doesn’t involve the chiasm or hypothalamus), she carried the words on little post-its into her 3rd grade class to add to the spelling bee. She owns those words now, without the fear that I have when I hear them. She doesn’t know the fear yet, and NF is all she’s ever known.

By this time a lot of our support system had moved away or was planning to move away. This was so hard for G, and for us, too…you don’t realize how hermit-making perpetual oncology precipice can be. Meh.

In the spring I got the official confirmation, both girls would scan in July, right after G’s 13th birthday. This was in the back of my mind as I trained for the NFE relay down the shore, signed up for Camp Sunshine for the summer (we got in! woo!), tried to get my firstborn out of an academic abyss he had flung himself into, met with teachers at G’s school about ongoing issues…endless…

Our real struggle was with a medication switch for G, she had outgrown her original “peaceful” medicine, and our first attempt at a switch was an unmitigated disaster.

Genna’s medication switch has become more challenging. Without going into tons of details, let me just say I hate brain tumors with every fiber of my depressed being and I hate people who say that serious brain issues can just be fixed with happy thoughts and a turnip. I hate that brain tumors can so deeply mess with who you are. My poor G is so unhappy, just miserably anxious and unhappy. We are continuing to fiddle with the dose, and hopefully as I begin phase 3 of New Med this week we will start to see a happier Genna again.

She used to be so happy. So freaking happy.

Did I mention my thoughts about brain tumors and nf and those things that rob my child of her childhood? I did? Oh, phew.

Anyway, please pray for my Genna. I hate hate hate the way things are here right now for her. I so want her to enjoy life.

I had no idea then how much harder things were about to become.

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