Ever wonder?

Ever wonder what life would look like if the worst thing hadn’t happened?

Ever close your eyes and try to picture yourself going through the motions of life as it was supposed to be?

When Jack first got sick, I would wake up each morning forgetting our new reality briefly. Then it would sink in.

That first year, I could easily picture what life would have looked like had Jack not been diagnosed with a disease that within months had left him both medically fragile and fully dependent. Jack would have finished second grade over at the Marshall School. He would have continued playing little league for another year or so (but was probably getting close to breaking the news to Dan that it wasn’t really his sport). Anna would have had hair down to her waist instead of missing that 10 inches that she’d donated to Locks of Love. I would have been dreading those crazy weekends before the holidays when everyone in town NEEDED their family portraits done. And Dan’s job would have been flourishing, knowing all his ducks were in a row at home. 

We also would have taken that trip to Puerto Rico that we had to replace with an extended stay in the hospital.

A couple of years into our new life, I needed to concentrate a little more to get the visual of what life would have looked like if the worst thing hadn’t happened. Even before his disease made a mess in Jack’s brain, he was never into organized sports — certainly not the way kids play sports these days. By middle school, I pictured him being one of those kids with a skateboard in hand and holes in his jeans that were earned, not purchased. His beautiful smile making even the cranky neighbors forgive him for cutting through their lawn and paying music too loud with his buddies. Without being exposed so early to the power of science, Anna may have chosen to focus on her other love — art. She might have had parents who paid a little more attention to her – to her schedule, her needs. I might have given up family portraits to go back to teaching art full time. As a family we might have even gone abroad for a few years taking advantage of a job opportunity for Dan.

Now this fictional story of how life was supposed to be is impossible to imagine. As much as I tried not to let it happen, Jack’s disease has been the center of our lives for 16 years. It has defined our family. Jack didn’t finish his time at the Marshal School, he never returned to little league or rode a skateboard. He didn’t go to college or trade school. Instead, he went to special schools for the multiply disabled, has become accustomed to needing help with everything from eating to toileting, and had to learn how to make that magical smile of his be his only source of communication. 

But things aren’t so bad.

Jack’s in an adult program now where a typical day involves pushing his friend’s wheelchairs, doing simple arts and crafts, being fed by an aide, and laughing. Anna is on her way to medical school in a few short months (her likely focus is reproductive endocrinology – a specialty we’d never known existed before this new life). Dan has enjoyed a wonderful career in finance, but his priorities include having the flexibility to be able to get Jack up in the morning – hearing them in the bathroom listening to 70s on 7 as Dan bathes his only son is how I wake up each morning. And my life is completely a result of the worst thing that ever-happened to us. I’m a writer, an advocate, a therapist – all things that would have been — not just unlikely, but impossible 16 years ago. Impossible without living through the worst thing in our lives.

If I could — I would change our journey. I would trade all this for what life had promised us before the worst thing happened. There is a reason I still call it the worst thing that ever happened. BUT it did happen and it left, not just scars, but the knowledge that we can heal. That we can survive and even thrive. 

So I try to look at our family now without thinking too much about the before and after the worst thing. I try to focus on who we are and what we are doing now. Maybe this is life as it is supposed to be.

Last month our family finally took that trip to Puerto Rico. It may not have been the trip it would have been without the worst thing, but it was beautiful. 

Love, Jess

It’s not easy bein’ BLUE

It’s not that easy bein’ green
Having to spend each day
The color of the leaves

When I think it could be nicer
Bein’ red or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

Kermit the Frog

It’s not easy being BLUE either.

ALD makes a lot of people in our community blue. It’s a disease that effects 1/17,000 people worldwide and causes symptoms including adrenal insufficiency, loss of vision and hearing, learning disabilities, seizures, loss of speech, fatigue, bladder and bowel issues, loss of mobility, and if not treated early (** and without a certain amount of luck) can lead to death.

While there’s so much to make us all blue, there is reason for our community to celebrate.  ALD is a disease that has made some HUGE strides in the last few decades – improved treatments, new treatments, and newborn screening. The momentum is has started and we can’t let it slow down.

A year ago, my friend – and ALD warrior, Janis Sherwood, – had a magical idea. We always discuss possible ways of how the ALD community can better spread the word about our disease. Blue being the color connected to leukodystrophy awareness, Janis’s plan was — ALD Makes Me Blue. She wanted to turn our ALD blues into ALD BLUE — Dye our hair BLUE, paint our nails BLUE, wear BLUE, paint our whole darn bodies BLUE. She wanted our community to turn BLUE and then pass it on, like a dare. 

Janis didn’t stop there with her plan. She wanted to have a way for the public to learn more about ALD and even make a small (or HUGE) donation to one of the many ALD organizations.

ALD organizations connected. A website was created. ALDMMB got itself onto social media. Some sore of fancy filter was put on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ar/538958721328767/

Today is the day!!!

February is Rare Disease Month and it’s time to turn the world BLUE!! Our family is going to start our month of BLUE and we want you – our duct tape – to do the same. Make yourself BLUE and don’t forget to take a photo and post it on Facebook and/or Instagram and TAG friends!!! 

Please take a peek at the site, learn more about ALD, be BLUE, and make a donation.



Love, Jess