Game Changer

It’s been a crazy to think back over the whole arch as we finish the final time point for this trial. I was taken back to when we were first diagnosed. We were given paperwork for a disabled parking permit and Make A Wish and sent home. All the doctors and specialist that filled the schedule while we searched for the answer were suddenly a thing of the past. Everyone knew that there was nothing that they could do for us.

When we enrolled in the trial part of the appeal was in getting to go back to a place where there were doctors that were trying to help. I’ve been nervous to step back outside of that as we wrap up this process. There is an odd comfort that comes from being involved with medical professionals. It’s a false comfort as they weren’t actually treating Claire, but it felt good.

I wish I could better describe the last 10 days or better yet, what we’ve experienced over the last year and a half. All I can come up with is that I’ve changed. Claire’s changed. Jared and Chloe have to. We got to try to do something to help Claire. Three years ago, that option wasn’t on the table. IMG_5088

Today we are on our long journey home from the hospital. Claire is peaceful and proud of what she’s done. Seven years ago we would have never dreamed that she would be able to do anything for herself, much less be part of changing the course for Rett syndrome. Until we started the trial we only knew a Rett syndrome that took.

Today I see the potential for a life with Rett that can get better. The game is changing. I’m not sure what to do with that, other than to keep dreaming. This has been hard but it’s not time to give up. Not yet.

Boston Doesn’t Suck but Rett Syndrome Does

I really wanted to beat Rett syndrome. I wanted to out plan it. I didn’t realize it at the start but I feel confident saying that as I look back. When we signed up for the trial I was hopeful that this could be an empowering experience, that we would be able to soar to new highs as world changers. I wanted to give Claire back some of what was stolen from her with this mutation.

The thing is, Rett syndrome isn’t something to win against. It’s an ever-present part of our reality that frankly makes it much more complicated. I want to look back on this process and see it as a series of adventures but honestly it feels more like a repetitive ass-kicking. That said, I’d do it again, in a heartbeat.

We didn’t sign up to get treatment for Claire, that’s not what clinical trials are for. We hope that this will be part of a process that will lead to treatment for Claire and all the girls in Rettland. Most importantly, we wanted to enable Claire to be part of her solution. We wanted her to feel like she made a difference… and she has.

The best part of this process has been seeing her transform outside of the effects of the drug. Claire has developed a confidence that transcends words. She has a peace about her that stems from doing what she could. There is a smirk on her face as she rolls through the airport terminal that subtly says “you’re welcome world”. She has loved getting to leave her mark and I am so glad that we’ve done it.IMG_4905

I promise it hasn’t been all hard, there have been many highlights and that will be my next post. Today I’m taking a moment to realize that even awesome things, when tainted with Rett syndrome become incredibly challenging. We love Boston and being able to be here but it wasn’t an escape from Rettland, more a change in location.

What Makes it Bearable

I’ve got so much that I want to say about this trip but I just can’t wrap my brain around the words yet. It has been very emotional and I hope to write about it soon.

The last few days have been an adventure in every sense. We were up late washing loads of vomit laundry just hours before our ride to the airport came at 3:30 am Monday morning. Following that, Claire slept for two days, which was a scary way to start the trip. Wednesday Jared had a lot of work to get done so I planned to take Chloe to learn about research while he got to business. The only problem, I spent most of the night with a migraine and hugging the toilet, so when it came time to go, I was in bed, trying not to move.

It wasn’t how things were supposed to go. Jared (aka Captain Awesome) fed the girls and got them to the appointment by 8am and brought a plate of food up to the room for when I was ready for it. He managed to work while the girls watched High School Musical in one of the autonomic recordings and Chloe was a superstar with all the changes to the plan, she rolled right with it.

By the afternoon I had my feet back on solid ground and we went out to meet another family in the trial for dinner. After that we decided to walk the 2.5 miles back to the hotel and it was nothing short of pure joy. Claire giggled as she rolled over the bumpy sidewalk and her sweet smile finally graced us for a while. I listened to the gentle breeze rustling the leaves on trees. Chloe talked non stop about all the things she observed and Jared grinned. IMG_4636I’m finding that Boston is just life condensed. There are days when it all goes wrong and others when it goes all right. The thing that makes it bearable are the people I’ve got with me on this adventure. I’m thankful that Jared and I can be doing this together. I’m grateful for the bond that Claire and Chloe share and how everyone agrees, the priority right now is doing our part to help Rett syndrome.

More to come on the many other very interesting aspects of this trip. This is my lengthy way of saying, I couldn’t do it without my awesome crew.

The Why

Yesterday we had a fairly routine visit to Katie’s Clinic for Rett Syndrome. We met with multiple specialist who all agreed that we were doing everything correctly that we could control, which was very nice to hear. Claire got special time with Dr. Mary who is like the Lorax of Rett syndrome, she speaks for the girls. It was her guidance when we were first diagnosed that gave us hope that we could learn to live and that Claire could thrive, I love Dr. Mary. As we prepared to leave we got to looking at old photos, because the awesome volunteers there can just pull up cute pictures of Claire over the last 6 years on a moments notice because they are amazing like that. It was a trip to see her when she was so little and vibrant, before Rett had broken her spirit. It took me back to how hard those days were, when I would feel horrible for crying when she was still smiling because she didn’t see the girls behind her twirling in their dresses. We are so much better now. I can look back and see just how far we’ve all come and it’s remarkable. 11248877_10152879358585880_1274897502766773184_n

We gathered ourselves up but before we left, we had the opportunity to meet a family that lived just over an hour from us. I nearly lost my breath at the sheer joy that exploded from this little girl as she and Claire connected through their eyes. I looked to the mom and could see it, the struggle to breath, the overwhelming grief from the recent diagnosis nearly crushing her. We spoke through a translator and she asked a few questions about Claire. As I looked at her precious daughter I saw so much hope my throat nearly closed and I got goosebumps.

The travel to Boston has been wearing on me. We’ve been in the trial so long that I had lost sight of the why and there she was sitting in front of us, tiny and wide eyed. It’s likely that this girl will have the option of IGF-1 (assuming that the data continues to show what it did in phase 1)before she is Claire’s age. That’s why all this crazy makes sense.

It’s a game changer.

With each generation the story is getting better. Before we were diagnosed Katie was and her parents made a clinic so that others didn’t have to go through what they went through. We have the benefit of the clinic so Claire is making her way through the IGF-1 trial. I don’t know what is coming next but I can see the trend and it excites me. Rettland is becoming a better place, still hellish in nature but the reprieve more accessible.

Hope

You know that week when it’s all so much more than you can handle that you just shut down, I’m having that week. Participating in the trial is taking it’s toll on all of us; we’ve been in our new home for a month while construction is almost done; and it’s summer, the absolute hardest time of the year for our family.

With my thoughts in too much of a mess to sort, I have taken to asking Chloe a lot of questions. I worry about her with the high levels of crazy, so asking her questions seems like a good idea. Last weekend we saw the new movie Inside Out, so lately our discussions have been a lot more about emotions.

Twice this week Chloe has sat over her sisters ashen face and sang to her while she waits for her to resume breathing. I waited a little before I asked what emotion she felt driving, would it be fear, anger or sadness? No. It was hope. Chloe went on to tell me how she felt “hopeful that Claire will start breathing again and hopeful that doctors will make a medicine so she can talk”. She was so certain. She knew her sister would return soon and she is certain that treatment is coming. Sidenote: I am dreading the inevitable emotions when that doesn’t happen and trying to relish her innocent conviction.

I hadn’t realized it until she said it, but I had stopped hoping. I was just pushing because that’s all I felt like I had in me, putting one foot in front of the other. Today I am so thankful of the little voice that reminded me to hope. It’s so easy to forget among the medication logs, multiple appointments and constant readiness for seizures.

Today I’m enjoying everyone breathing and remembering that is what gave Chloe hope. I’m aware that my fatigue from travel is giving others hope tonight as they take comfort in knowing trials are happening and progress is being made. I’m hoping with Chloe that the doctors will come up with something because that would be rad. photo

No Safe Adventures

Can’t believe that I am already sitting here, on the plane, on the last leg of our 10 day adventure to Boston. After all, time flies when you are having fun, or trying to just keep your head above water. We knew that it wasn’t going to be a vacation and it wasn’t. It was an adventure on every level. While we were away I saw this quote from Jon Acuff. photoWhen I saw this a giant light bulb went off in my head. This trip is anything but safe and somehow I had been overlooking that. I wanted it to be smooth and easy. It hasn’t been. It has been an adventure, which is what we had signed up for at the start. We enrolled in the trial because I dreamed big enough to believe that with time, there might be a treatment for Rett syndrome one day, not because we wanted to play it safe.

Trials are hard, it sounds obvious but somehow it is glazed over. We signed up for a commitment of over 70 weeks and 7 trips across the country for something that might not help Claire or ever be approved for Rett syndrome. We didn’t sign up for a treatment for her, we signed up for the process of learning and experimenting and we are happy to be doing it. But it isn’t safe and we are at this point very tired.

I wish I had some fabulous update about all of our adventures that went perfectly smooth but that isn’t this story. So here are some of the ups and downs with pictures.

We were so excited to leave on this adventure. We even made it to the airport early enough to take a picture of us all smiling.
We were so excited to leave on this adventure. We even made it to the airport early enough to take a picture of us all smiling.
Our first day of appointments was St. Patrick's Day and Chloe was feeling fairly festive.
Our first day of appointments was St. Patrick’s Day and Chloe was feeling fairly festive.
As much as this trip was all about Claire we tried to make it fun for Chloe. Tea time at the American Girl store was just that. Or as Chloe put it, "Best day ever!"
As much as this trip was all about Claire we tried to make it fun for Chloe. Tea time at the American Girl store was just that. Or as Chloe put it, “Best day ever!”
Chloe was resistant to the new time zone, so we hid in the bathroom until she fell asleep.
Chloe was resistant to the new time zone, so we hid in the bathroom until she fell asleep.

photo 32 photo 29 photo 27 photo 25

While Claire and I had appointments Jared and Chloe kept themselves busy at the science museum, the Boston public library and the museum of fine art.
While Claire and I had appointments Jared and Chloe kept themselves busy at the science museum, the Boston public library and the museum of fine art.
Claire was very happy to be back to work with some of her favorite people.
Claire was very happy to be back to work with some of her favorite people.
Claire also was very fancy using her hands to show off for the testing. I may have been doing backflips as I watched on the screen.
Claire also was very fancy using her hands to show off for the testing. I may have been doing backflips as I watched on the screen.
The amazing chef at breakfast took note when I passed on juice for Claire. She can only drink coconut water. The next morning he had some for her along with special pancakes which she enjoyed tremendously.
The amazing chef at breakfast took note when I passed on juice for Claire. She can only drink coconut water. The next morning he had some for her along with special pancakes which she enjoyed tremendously.
It was my birthday so Jared took the girls to the science museum while I took some time to breath deeply.
It was my birthday so Jared took the girls to the science museum while I took some time to breath deeply.

photo 21

Chloe zipped Claire all over the solar system.
Chloe zipped Claire all over the solar system.
It snowed. Chloe was over the moon excited.
It snowed. Chloe was over the moon excited.
We learned about shoveling and the importance of appropriate footwear when we got to the house we were staying at while we had a few days off.
We learned about shoveling and the importance of appropriate footwear when we got to the house we were staying at while we had a few days off.
Captain Awesome was a great sport about having to wear my shoes for his first time ever shoveling snow. It was memorable, very memorable.
Captain Awesome was a great sport about having to wear my shoes for his first time ever shoveling snow. It was memorable, very memorable.
photo 18
Claire got a horrible cold half of the way into the trip. With two seizure filled days she got a lot of sleep and is still trying to kick the super annoying cold.
Chloe got to make her first snow man. She wasn't phased by a lack of gloves.
Chloe got to make her first snow man. She wasn’t phased by a lack of gloves.
We nearly froze in the process of learning a little history.
We nearly froze in the process of learning a little history.

I won’t go into all the boring details of the many mistakes of Captain Awesome and Miss Amazing. But I did get out at the airport at the completely wrong area with both girls and all the luggage so we took the full “tour” of Logan Int’l. By the time this happened it was pretty much par for the course.

We made the most of it the best we could but it was a hard trip. Seeing Claire sick is really hard. Dealing with that not at home is a whole new level of nuts. But that’s why we are doing this. Because what Claire has is hard and it isn’t going to change itself.

I try to embrace the adventure, I really do. But right now, I’m happy to be heading back to the safety of home. It was good. I am so glad that we can be doing this. But I am very tired.

Numb

photoWe have been away for almost a week. There have been ups and downs. At the start things were fairly smooth. With time, they got rougher. Claire’s eagerness to be doing something gave way to fatigue, a horrible cold and two very trying seizure filled days. We’ve tried to make the most of it. Jared and I have taken turns having fun with Chloe and that helps. Still, it’s hard to feel right now. There is no pleasure in knowing that we are taking one of the first steps of the thousands that will lead to a cure for Rett syndrome. There is no pain as I hold Claire with an ashen face as her body stops convulsing. I have tried to stay connected, to feel it all but I have become naturally numb. Living this vulnerable seems to be more than a fairly stable brain can tolerate.

It’s more than I can process in an unfamiliar environment. I wish I could post about how awesome world-changing is and the hoards of miracles that we are witnessing. Right now we are trying to keep Chloe entertained and get Claire healthy for our appointments Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

It’s definitely an adventure and we are certainly in Rettland. I can’t feel much right now but I know we are doing the right things. I have no doubt. As hard as this is, doing nothing, seeing no change, that would be worse, so today, we just keep swimming.

Lucky

Funniest thing. For the second night in a row, Captain Awesome and I were sitting on the floor splitting an appetizer and a beer from the hotel restaurant for dinner while Chloe valiantly tried to not go to sleep. As we picked at the food Jared says, “I can’t believe we are this lucky.” Side note: this sort of comment is why he is often refered to as Captain Awesome. Lucky. Lucky? Lucky that our daughter won the genetic lottery with a disorder that could take her life any night as she sleeps? I laughed as I thought about his statement.

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But he was right. We are so lucky. Better yet, blessed.

Claire got something that could be diagnosed. There are trials for it because many amazing families have paved the way for us. It is a gift for Claire to get to participate in these trials, to be able to know she is doing something for herself and her peers living with Rett syndrome.

We’ve been able to have great jobs and family that help so that we can travel to this clinical trial. We are able to rent a car and take Chloe on outings and stay at a hotel that has a great restaurant.

As I sit here I struggle to believe that I am really getting to live this great adventure. It’s so much better than I could ever try to explain. While sometimes it is very scary out front, living on the edge I must admit that the view is spectacular and I am so grateful to take a moment and bask in it.

An Irish Prayer
May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life se
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

The English Take Boston 2014

It’s hard to know where to start when it feels so much like the end. Since mid March we have been to Boston 4 times. We’ve spent 21 nights in hotel and given Claire 280 shots. It has been an incredible and empowering experience getting to actively change our world. With each injection, each trip we could sense that bigger things were happening. Now we go into a washout period and with that I’m sad. I will miss the thrill of changing the world. But I won’t miss sleeping in a hotel or sitting on a plane watching for seizures like I have for the last two hours.

This wasn’t an easy trip. We made the most of it. I am incredibly proud of both Chloe and Claire for being stellar travelers and understanding of all of the research protocol. One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Museum of Fine Arts. Claire has always loved looking at things, it plays to her strengths, so this was a natural fit. I was surprised by how much of the art celebrated ordinary, every day life. It was a perfect reminder of the gift that each day is, just as it is, even if you aren’t out there changing the world. Life, as it is is extraordinary. So as we switch from world changer mode to our normal, very rad life, I am seeing beauty all around. At this point my eyes are really too swollen to say much else about the trip. So I will share some pictures from the adventure.

The autonomic recording by far took the most time. The hard work of world changing can be incredibly boring.
The autonomic recording by far took the most time. The hard work of world changing can be incredibly boring.
Despite the boredom Claire was very happy to be in Boston working hard.
Despite the boredom Claire was very happy to be in Boston working hard.
Claire loved the EEG and blazed through it in 41 minutes.
Claire loved the EEG and blazed through it in 41 minutes.
Even coming down with a cold Claire loved being at Fenway for a game.
Even coming down with a cold Claire loved being at Fenway for a game.
photo
Chloe loved the Red Sox game and proclaimed it “the awesomest thing ever!”
We were scheduled 4 hours for the Mullens testing Claire completed it in 25 minutes. Her focus and determination amazed us all!
We were scheduled 4 hours for the Mullens testing Claire completed it in 25 minutes. Her focus and determination amazed us all!
We all loved our day off at the museum. Claire really loved getting to see so many different paintings.
We all loved our day off at the museum. Claire really loved getting to see so many different paintings.

photo 3The next few pictures are from our great Cape Escape.

It was a treat to head out of town and get to meet up with some fantastic moms who have helped paved the road that we walk.
It was a treat to head out of town and get to meet up with some fantastic moms who have helped paved the road that we walk.

IMG_1210IMG_1198IMG_1202IMG_1221IMG_1235IMG_1261It was a wonderful getaway but we had to go back. Monday before Jared and Chloe flew home we checked another thing off Chloe’s list, the Boston Public Garden and the swan boats. IMG_1275IMG_1285photo

Our final appointment. Dr. Kaufman stopped by just before the seizures started, it was a sweet moment just before the storm hit.
Our final appointment. Dr. Kaufman stopped by just before the seizures started, it was a sweet moment just before the storm hit.
Across the country this cutie was "nervouscited" about her first day of kindergarten.
Across the country this cutie was “nervouscited” about her first day of kindergarten.

There was a lot more not pictured. We got the pleasure of meeting up with another family that was in the study. We had a lot of fun meals. On the last day my eyes were puffy from crying and Claire’s were from seizures and congestion. It was an amazing adventure. I am glad that we had the chance and I hope that in I get to see the fruit of it in years to come. For now it’s back to normal life in Rettland. The adventures to Boston will resume March 2015 when we return 3 more times for the rest of the trial.

Help!

Last day of 2nd grade!

It is the last day of school and I am buckling up for what is about to be one hell of a ride. It’s already been a long week. Claire sobbed yesterday morning at the discussion of going to Boston. The initial excitement is gone and now it just feels like she is getting shots and missing out on fun with her friends while she is out-of-town. Add to it, she sobbed. Typically, when she gets this emotional she has a seizure and falls into a deep sleep and I don’t have to address the issue of how hard it all is with her. I can yell at God, cry into my pillow and get over it while she rests. Not this time. She was so present, so regulated and still tormented by her reality. It was one of the hardest things I’ve gotten to deal with yet, my child sad that we have to go back to the hospital. We cried together and eventually the Beatles brought the smiles back, she is a sucker for All You Need is Love and Hello, Goodbye.

With both the girls at school I got about my business and tried to make a rental car reservation for our time in Boston. I was doing well until I discovered that the airport locations were sold out and the sketchy companies that had cars were charging three times over what is normal. That is when I broke. My mind swirled with the million things that need to happen before we leave at noon on Friday. Laundry, cooking, reservations, bills to be paid, work for the foundation, I need to shower, packing for the two trips and the overnight that Chloe will have so that we can leave by 5am on Monday morning and all I want to do is curl up with a basket of onion rings and sob.

I had nobody to cook for me so I pushed on and so glad that I did. Great things are happening with the Rettland Foundation. When I am not overwhelmed and watching the world swirl around me, I am overjoyed at the awesome that is about to come from our little project. I say all this not to complain or brag about what we’ve accomplished. I say this to ask for help.

You see, I know that we are at the end of our rope and we are not even half way through our marathon. We need a little help from our friends, the Beatles can carry us for a bit but we need help. Between now and the end of June our little family of adventurers will be managing more than we normally do and it is hard, really hard. If you have ever wanted to do something to encourage Claire or Chloe now would be a great time. They are both so brave and take on so much. As always your comments are appreciated, reading them in the hard times goes a long way. We are adventuring out to where it can feel very lonely, the reminders that we aren’t alone really mean a lot.

If you love somebody else out there in Rettland, remember that it isn’t just the big trips that are hard. It isn’t just the hospital stays or extra appointments with specialist. It is whenever there is a series of waves closer together. When you have been treading water for this long, just a few extra small waves can be more than you can handle. Be gentle, be supportive. Thank you.