Reminders of Krabbe and Choosing to Be Joyful

There will always be reminders of Krabbe and its effects on Tori in the least expected places.

The other night, for instance, on The Good Doctor, they had a patient who was unable to smile because her cranial nerves were not working properly.

Just like Krabbe.

This is just one example, of course. These situations always catch us by surprise, and it’s hard to believe that even just four years ago something like this wouldn’t have phased us. We would have enjoyed the episode of the show but it wouldn’t have made us think about anything else.

When times like this happen, we have a choice: focus on what Krabbe stole from her – and us – with sadness, or focus on all that Heaven restored to her with joy.

And, as always, we choose joy.

Her smile was amazing, even though we only saw it for five months. I think we will appreciate her brothers’ smiles far more because of this. Each smile, each expression…such joy.

We remember her smile with such love and eagerly await seeing it again soon – but not yet ❤️

“She was abnormal from birth, you just didn’t know it.”

These words have stuck in my mind since meeting yesterday with the neurologist who diagnosed Tori.

The sentence was spoken with the same gentleness she used on diagnosis day, and it came after we discussed the impending arrival of the twins.

I remarked that I couldn’t wait to see them achieve milestones that Tori never did, though those moments might be emotional because she never did.

And that’s when she gently said those words: “She was abnormal from birth, you just didn’t know it.”

I told Brennan that evening what she had said we pondered her words. We were new parents, and there are ranges for each milestone, so we weren’t worried until Krabbe had set in and something was clearly wrong.

But, in hindsight, the neurologist is correct.

Tori never had great head control. She never truly laughed a rich, full belly laugh. Tori never slept well. She hated tummy time. She never ate enough (and threw up much of what she did) and was tiny. Tori only rolled over one time at five months old, right before Krabbe overtook her brain.

It makes us wonder what else was abnormal.

As the boys grow, learn, and develop, I know our joy will be even greater as we watch in wonder at their accomplishments and milestones. We will watch in awe as they learn and develop. It will not make us feel sad for Tori, but rather overjoyed for them because they are HEALTHY. They are Krabbe-free. And they are going to LIVE and grow.

And we can’t wait. ❤️

Completely Different

I haven’t changed my phone wallpaper in almost two years.

My dad captured this moment only a couple of days before Tori went to Heaven and it’s the last non-selfie photo I have of me and her together. I have had no desire to change it because it’s comforting to me. I like that it’s always there, easy to find, and that it represents the deep trust she had in me.

I like that it’s the same photo day after day.

This pregnancy has been both similar and different to my pregnancy with Tori. In many ways, though it was still relatively easy, hers was more complicated.

Both pregnancies were/are easy in regards to no morning sickness, little discomfort, no swelling, etc. I do not take it for granted that my body seems to like pregnancy!

But there are some major differences:

  • I had gestational diabetes.
  • I had excess amniotic fluid (because of the GD).
  • I gained over 30 pounds.
  • My hips caused me pain constantly.
  • She would sleep through non-stress tests, triggering multiple ultrasounds each week.
  • I tried to deliver her naturally and ended up having an unplanned c-section.

When we found out that we were having identical twins (mono/di), we immediately assumed that we were in for a rough ride.

And, thus far, we’ve been completely wrong.

  • I passed my glucose test!
  • My fluid levels are normal.
  • I have only gained 20 pounds.
  • My hips only hurt while trying to sleep.
  • We will see about the non-stress tests, which start at 32 weeks 😉
  • Even though I have ultrasounds every other week, everything is going as smoothly as possible! No complications; good, steady growth; very active; healthy boys.
  • This c-section is scheduled, and I am happy about it this time!

I had prayed that God would let us have the easy road this time, and while we’re not in the clear until they are born, so far He has blessed us with a normal pregnancy, and we are beyond grateful. I needed this.

(25 weeks and 29 weeks)

We’ve begun to realize that everything about what’s going to happen in April is completely different than with Tori.

  • Boys, not a girl
  • Two, not one
  • No Krabbe, no genetic issues

And we need these differences, too.

Because it will be completely different, there will be less temptation to compare them to Tori. She has her place in our hearts and they will have theirs. ❤️

We have no reason to fear the future with the twins and yet we are going to be waiting…for the NBS results, for the 5/6 month mark (when Tori’s symptoms surfaced), for them to surpass her life of 19 months and 27 days. I think until we hit that mark we will wonder if the genetic testing was wrong, if the Newborn Screening was wrong, if things are going to be the same as they were with Tori.

The boys are going to learn to crawl, talk, walk, run, play…things we can’t even imagine because Tori was robbed of those opportunities. I can’t wait (and yet I can) until they are mobile and able to get away from us – something Tori never could.

Usually the status quo brings comfort; in this case, the differences are refreshing. And we need them.

I wonder what I will do and how I will feel when the boys are here in regards to my phone wallpaper. I imagine that will be an emotional moment, even if the new photo incorporates Tori in some way, because it will be a reminder that she is in Heaven and not here with her brothers.

But, as we move forward in our new adventure, we know that things are going to change, that change isn’t bad; that things are going to be new and wonderful, even if bittersweet, and we will learn to embrace the change and the joy that these precious boys will bring to our lives.

And we can’t wait. ❤️

So, We Missed a Wedding Today

We left our friends' house in the Lynchburg, VA area for Raleigh around 10:30am today to attend our friend Breanna's wedding. We allowed for plenty of time to get there and were enjoying the beautiful day.

We stopped along the way at a CVS to get a few things; I came out of the store, put the key in the ignition and I couldn't even turn the key. It was bizarre.

Brennan tried, I tried, and finally, after replacing the battery in the key fob, we called AAA. By this time it was noon, and the wedding was just two hours away (and so were we). They said it would take ninety minutes or so for a tow truck to get to us.

We were going to miss the wedding.

After a few minutes of being grumpy and frustrated, we decided to make the most of our day. It was a great temperature, not a cloud in the sky, and we happened to have camping chairs in the van!

We got some strange looks from people, understandably, but whatever. 😄 We were comfortable and having fun.

A kind woman with four children (including a four week old baby) asked if we needed any help and offered her jumper cables – too bad our battery was SO dead that it didn't work. Still, her kindness was so appreciated! She was the only person to offer assistance.

When the tow truck arrived (just as the last of our shade was disappearing) we realized that there weren't any open repair shops around! Thankfully we found one and they were able to fit us in.

The van was done by 4pm, so we missed the wedding entirely. While we aren't happy about this, today was another reminder that we have a choice to make every situation joyful or miserable.

We had a good day despite the disappointing outcome of missing the wedding. We chose to look for the positive and found a lot of things for which we could be grateful! ❤️

  1. It was breezy and nice.
  2. We had chairs in which to sit.
  3. We had access to a restroom!
  4. We had a AAA membership.
  5. We had water and food.
  6. We had an opportunity for quality time.
  7. We made memories together.
  8. The repair was not expensive!

Remember in moments like this that it's going to be okay, that someday you will look back and laugh, and that there's always something for which you can be grateful. ❤️

Hunter’s Hope Symposium 2017 – Day Two

Today we heard updates from several hospitals that are working toward becoming Leukodystrophy Centers of Excellence in order to better care for these children and their complex needs, and we also heard research updates.

I'm going to jump right to the research updates because this was incredibly exciting.

First, we were told that Dr. Escolar has a paper that will be published the first week of September (a week AFTER the next NBS Advisory Panel meeting in PA) and this paper could very well get Krabbe onto the federal RUSP because it answers questions that previously weren't as clear. Why does the RUSP matter? Many states will only screen for diseases that are added to the Federal RUSP; once Krabbe is added, many states will automatically test for it!

As you probably remember, one of the things we (and many other families) have been told as we advocate is that they need published data. We've all been waiting and waiting for something to be published to help our case for adding Krabbe and this will apparently be it!

Second, and THE most exciting part: they are so close to a cure for Krabbe. The doctors didn't say it like that but it was apparent that is what they meant. Dr. Escolar and others have been treating twitcher mice with Krabbe successfully using the bone marrow transplant AND gene therapy together and the outcomes have been unbelievable!

This chart shows the life span of mice who were untreated, treated with bone marrow transplant only, and a combination of the two. The combination therapy is the top blue line. The mice who had the combination therapy in 2015 are STILL LIVING and show no signs of the disease!

The FDA has approved the idea but it won't go to clinical trial for 3-5 years unfortunately. In the meantime, our hearts are so hopeful because this is incredible news.

Thirdly, they discussed the improvement in the NBS test itself and the near-elimination of false positives using two factors and not just one (low GAL-C activity and high psychosine levels) and by using a computer algorithm to sort the data that has proven to accurately predict the form of the disease (early or late onset).

I tried to simplify all of this the best I could. To sum it up, research has made leaps and bounds in just the last two years and they are closer to a cure than ever before!

Dr. Kurtzberg from Duke also reported on the success they are seeing in stem-cell treatments of Cerebral Palsy and Autism. Stem cells from cord blood are incredible tools and doctors are doing amazing things with them.

Hunter's Hope does such an amazing job of not only funding research but also coordinating the dialogue and cooperation between scientists who are all working toward the same end. If you would like to support them, you can click here! Our goal is to raise $3,000 for them before Friday's walk!

Hunter’s Hope Symposium 2017 – Day One

Symposium time is here!

It's the one time each year we are surrounded by people from all over the world who understand exactly what we have been through. It's the week where we can let our guard down and enjoy these precious moments with our Leukodystrophy family knowing that we fit in here, that we are "normal" here.

None of us would have chosen to be in this position, to be in this "family" of such suffering and grief, but we cherish the relationships and the joy that have come out of everything we have endured.

If grief and pain were measurable, the weight of it just from these precious families here would be astronomical in size; every family here has lost – or will lose – a beloved child (or two), something which has been called the most painful thing a human can endure; and yet, all we see are smiles, joy, friendships, authenticity, and an appreciation for each and every moment. We see hope. And it's amazing.

This is our third year at the Symposium and it's the first one I have been slightly hesitant to attend, for reasons I am still deciphering.

Perhaps it's this: Tori was with us for the first one and she was cherished by all; last year she had gone to Heaven a mere four months earlier and everyone remembered her; will she be remembered this year?

Perhaps this: we now seem to fall into the category of parents who lost their children "a while ago" and it's strange. It's a different feeling being here now, a year after she went to Heaven…not a bad feeling, of course, just different.

I watch the parents with their living children and am amazed at how distant that feels. The suction machines, the feeding pumps – sounds so familiar and yet such a distant memory because I haven't heard them or thought about them in a year. Something that was once part of my daily life now feels like a lifetime away.

I'm not caring for Tori constantly now, and I'm not necessarily grieving anymore (though it will never fully be over), so it's a strange place to be. It's just Brennan and me now.

Perhaps it's strange to be here because it's a time when we're forced to remember that this was our life for fourteen months, and that we did lose our precious daughter. In daily life it's easier to move on because of distractions and tasks. Even though we talk about Tori daily and think of her all the time, it's different somehow to be here surrounded by other families going through the same thing we did.

Despite my emotions through which I am sorting (thanks for letting me process above), I am so happy that we are able to be here again. We're praying that next year we will have a new baby with us ❤️

As always, I will blog about the new research findings and everything else we learn throughout the week. So thankful for Hunter's Hope and all that they do to support Leukodystrophy families.

It's going to be a great week!

Our IVF/Adoption Journey

As you may have gathered, Brennan and I would like to expand our family and have more children. Our hearts long for this, and we’ve been working hard to make this happen. Unfortunately for us (and others with genetic mutations like ours), it’s not simple.

After much prayer and wisdom-seeking from others over the past two years, we have decided that it is unwise to do this “naturally” and are instead looking to use IVF and/or adoption as a means by which we can grow our family. We started the IVF process last summer but were halted in August because of a lack of funds. We’d love to do both IVF and adoption this year, but that would mean coming up with about $50,000 or more (adoption ranges from $25,000-40,000 or more!). Even with our frugal lifestyle, that’s simply impossible. 

This is why I went back to work in August. This is why we sold our house, paid off Brennan’s student loan, etc. – by doing so, we freed up a great deal of monthly expenses that we can now put toward this endeavor. We are trying to save as much money as possible to go toward IVF/adoption, but even with all of our efforts we will still humbly admit that we need help to raise the funds necessary.

You all have been SO generous to us over the past two years so we didn’t want to just do a fundraiser to ask for money. We wanted to offer YOU a gift, something in return…and we have the perfect thing.

As you may remember, I wrote a song this summer about how I felt after Tori was diagnosed. Thanks to our amazing friend, John Amodea, the song has been recorded and is available to download!

Here’s what we’re hoping will happen: enough people will buy the song (via the “Tip” button on the NoiseTrade page) that we can have/adopt a child in 2017!

If you cannot afford to buy the song, please download it as our gift to you, and perhaps share the page on your own page.

If you would like to buy the song, go to this link:

We’re doing this as a “pay what you feel” download…and whatever you can give is so greatly appreciated. So feel free to change the “tip” amount to whatever you would like to give.

Please share our story and the song with others, too, if you are willing.

We hope you enjoy the song and that the Lord uses it to encourage you.

In addition, Brennan and I will be hosting an online auction to help cover the cost of IVF/adoption as we seek to expand our family! The auction will be held on Facebook (January 20-25, 2017) and we are in need of donors!

Here’s the link to the Google Form we created for item donations; if you are a consultant for a company, an artist, seamstress, craftsman, musician, etc. and have something you would be willing to donate to our auction, please fill it out so that we can start to build our inventory! Or, if you have a service you can provide (massage therapy, hair cuts, photography, etc.), that would be great as well!

We’d love to have at least 100 items in our inventory!

You can access the auction here.

We will gladly credit you/your business for your donation and offer a link to your website/Facebook page as well in hopes that you will be blessed by this auction as well.

We want to be parents again more than anything. With your help, we can do this!

Thank you in advance for your support!