Jan's Corner 2011

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Contents

December

Count Your Blessings

1 December 2011

About two weeks before Thanksgiving, our family decided to do individual gratitude journals. Each of us had a paper with a list of the dates for the next two weeks. Then each day we were to write something we were thankful for that day. On Thanksgiving Day, after all the relatives had gone and it was just our own little family again, we shared are journals with one another. That was a special time for me, especially to hear what my kids and my husband were thankful for.

What I found really neat about doing the journal was instead of taking just one day only to count our blessings, by taking 14 days, our entries were full of things we were thankful for, particularly based on what happened on each individual day of those two weeks. For example, during that time, our heater broke on a particular snowy, cold day. We all were really thankful for a repairman with knowledge, for heat, and for money to pay the bill. Dave and I had a special date during that time. We both ended up with similar journal entries commenting about how thankful we were for each other, our marriage and our friendship.

The experience made us realize how much we have to be grateful for, even the little things, in any given day. I found that writing what I was grateful each day was empowering. In fact, it was so empowering I plan to do it regularly. It’s the holiday season now and a time when I often reflect on family and people and things that are most important to me in my life. But doing a gratitude journal has made me realize that each and every day is a blessing and it’s the little things that make life grand.

So what does this have to do with my life with PC? Well, everything! My life is so much more than my PC. Sure, PC makes me who I am in so many ways. And I have an incredible life with PC, because of PC and yes, in spite of PC. Sometimes it takes just looking at the blessings of each day to see that.

I also think about the progress of PC Project. There may not be a cure right now. But if I take a look and count the blessings along the way, I can see so much progress, even little – and big – miracles along the way. Not a week goes by without something wonderful happening at PC Project – an important contact is made, a new research discovery is found, a patient’s life is changed. It all amounts to looking at the individual pieces that make up the whole picture. There is much to be thankful for in the daily things that occur in the PC world. I have much to be thankful for in my life. Life is beautiful. It’s not always easy. But it’s certainly extraordinary when I take the time to count my blessings each day.

November

It Could Be Worse

11 November 2011

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to a treatment or cure to be found for PC. I’ve especially wanted that for my children – and all the children out there - to be helped, even more so than for me. I still do. However, lately things have happened that have made me realize there are worse things in life than having PC. Everything is relative I suppose, even in the PC family. People who only have PC nails think nails are the worst thing. For those with painful calluses and who struggle with walking, that may be the worst thing and the nails don’t seem so bad. For those with debilitating cysts, or even cysts on their face, that may be the worst thing. And sometimes other things occur in life and all of a sudden maybe those nails aren’t so bad, or maybe those feet or cysts aren’t the worst things a person could be dealing with.

Sometimes hard things happen and I think I’d just like my life to go back to dealing with my PC and no other problems. And always, always, there’s someone who has a problem, whether it be physical, emotional, financial, whatever, that is worse than PC. Of course, that’s also relative too! I love to read. I like to read the words even more than hearing them on a CD. I’ve thought what a gift it is to be able to see. But then maybe a blind person would rather have sore feet. I don’t know. I guess the most important thing is to be thankful for what I have when I have it. It doesn’t mean I don’t be content to NOT try to find a cure or a treatment. That’s not it at all. It just means it’s important to enjoy the now and what I do have because it could be worse. And for sure, someone will always have a problem worse than I do.

September

Back to School

14 September 2011

School started a few weeks ago for my kids. Each day I watch as Sam and Nate leave the house walking with their “PC shuffle”. They don’t complain but I know they’re hurting. By the end of the day, when they come home, I see them hurting even more after walking to different classes, work and other activities. Sometimes I see Nate drag himself across the hardwood floor. He doesn’t crawl quite like I do at home. That’s good. I’m only in my 40’s and my knees are a mess. We have office chairs in our kitchen and it’s a veritable race track – or traffic jam - when we’re all home. My heart aches at times for my boys with PC who are getting older and who are now busier with more and more activities that involve walking – which translates into more pain.

My third son, Spencer, who does not have PC, just started his first year in junior high, thus his first year of walking to 7 different classes each school day. At first I had a hard time transitioning my mothering thoughts to having a child who walks pain-free. First, I caught myself worrying whether or not the carpool Spencer is in was dropping him at the door closest to his first class. Then, I caught myself worrying about how much he was going to have to walk to get to the car after school. Each time I had to stop and remember, “Oh, it doesn’t matter – he doesn’t have sore feet.” In fact, once I caught myself, I thought, “Great - walking a bit more will be good exercise.”

I found myself doing that several times the first week of school for a whole number of activities Spencer is involved in. Both Spencer and Nate are involved in band. Because of that, band kids get their lockers at the far end of the school. It’s really inconvenient and adds a lot of walking. When that happened to Nate a few years ago, we petitioned to get his locker changed. When that happened to Spencer, I had to remember that it is ok.

It’s kind of interesting having a child who doesn’t hurt when he walks. I have to step back and realize that it’s really no big deal for him if he has to walk the length of the school several times over. And if I’m honest, it’s actually a relief. It’s one less thing I worry about for Spencer. As he follows in the footsteps of his older brothers, I realize Spencer is going to make those steps pain-free.

Then I have Rebecca who has boundless energy. She, too, is like Spencer and doesn’t have PC. She runs freely across fields and courts and plays happily and pain-free. It is fun to watch and my heart is happy to see my children who can, run and play till they are completely exhausted and then be able to sleep at night because their feet aren’t keeping them awake.

That said, I don’t want to diminish in any way the great strides Sam and Nate are taking. I don’t ever want to paint a picture of my “poor, hurting children with PC.” To portray them in any way as miserable would be a great disservice to their characters. They hurt, no doubt about it. But Sam and Nate both are highly successful in school and in their activities. If you ask them if they are happy, they will tell you yes. There is too much laughter in their lives for anyone to think otherwise. I am told on a weekly basis from people from all walks of life what outstanding boys Sam and Nate are. I take no credit. I truly believe their PC has made a huge difference in shaping their characters. I believe other people with PC would say the same thing about themselves. It’s important to me to write this because I don’t want anyone with young children with PC to ever think that just because life is painful, it’s not happy.

It’s mostly been a week or two of observation, as a mom, the differences in what I worry about between my kids with PC and my kids without PC. Bottom line, I worry about all four of them for different reasons – because unfortunately I’m a worrier by nature - and I also rejoice in all four of them as well.

August

Raising Funds for PC: Golf Tournament 2011

24 August 2011

Last week, PC Project held the first ever PC Golf fundraising Tournament. I don’t know anything at all about golf. I wasn’t part of the planning, preparation or hard work that Mary, Holly and other volunteers put in to make that day a success. But I did come on the day the tournament took place and met many of the golfers – or at the very least was able to thank them for participating.

What impressed me the most is how popular golfing is, how generous people are and that people who love to golf like golfing for a good cause. The entire event was a huge success. Besides the funds that were raised, people – golfers – from our community who had no idea about pachyonychia now know about it.

I left that day feeling an immense gratitude for Mary and the others who weren’t afraid to try something new. I get so nervous having people know about my disorder. I mean, people who know me well know something is up, especially since I use crutches a lot. But it’s amazing how few people really, truly know what’s up. I’m not ashamed that I have PC, it’s just awkward and it’s embarrassing somewhat to put it out there that I have some rare, kind of weird, and yes, kind of gross thing going on with my skin.

And yet, at the golf fundraiser, no one seemed to mind. One of the golfers was a guy I knew from high school. He came up to me and said hello. I’m quite sure he never knew what I had in high school. But here we are, 25 years later and I don’t think it was a bother to him. So why should it be to me?

Likewise, PC Project held a big yard sale. I was reluctant to ask my friends and neighbors for help. I don’t know why – something about me again - come help me – I’ve got this rare, weird thing going on. And yet when I finally did send out a few emails, I got incredible responses. Mary recently reminded me – it’s not about me anymore anyway. It’s about helping so many others.

So I’m learning. Maybe it’s years of insecurity and yes, even times of rejection or being made fun of as a child that make me reluctant to put myself out there. How refreshing it is to know that so many people are really accepting and kind. I’m dealing with mature adults now and it’s a whole new world!

July

Vacation Worries

1 July 2011

Dave and I are taking the kids on a family vacation to Washington DC. I toured there once on band/orchestra tour in high school 25 years ago. I remember our bus driver somehow secured a wheelchair for me, which was very nice. But other than that, I can hardly remember a thing about how we got around and how far everything was other than there was a lot of distance to cover.

Dave was in DC once on business and spent a free day there. Dave is a fast walker and in good shape and he said his feet were sore and his legs were tired at the end of the day.

So here we are – a family of six, with three PCers, including me and my two boys. And already I’m getting nervous about this vacation, thinking what in the world are we getting ourselves into?

I’m back to the whole vacation nervousness of going somewhere new, wondering how we’re going to do it with three of us with sore feet. It’s one thing for us to take a vacation in our car where we just drive up to places and don’t have to walk much. But DC seem like it’s a place where we’ll be walking a lot and taking a lot of public transportation. If it were just Dave and I it wouldn’t be an issue because we’d just take my wheelchair and Dave would take care of me.

But this time we’ve got the whole crew - three who hurt to walk and two younger ones, especially our young daughter, who will need to be held onto in the big crowds.

Our kids love history. They love learning. Dave and I decided this was the perfect time, especially for our older boys, to see the nation’s capital. Even when we told the kids we were going, they each had specific places in mind that they already knew about that they wanted to be sure and visit. So we’re doing it.

It’s just one of those things about having PC that adds that little extra stress in my life. Once I’ve been somewhere and done something I don’t worry about it so much. But when my feet are sore and I can’t walk a lot, there’s a kind of vulnerability I feel, going to a new place. Having kids to take care of – especially ones that will also be hurting - just adds to that feeling.

I’m sure it will all be fine. I’m trying to get us prepared. I’ve tried to research as well and it looks like there are lots of hop-on/hop-off buses that just might save our feet. I’m trying to map out where we want to go and when so that we minimize our walking. And we’re taking two manual wheelchairs that we can share between the three of us if we need to.

We’ve just never done a trip of this scope where we need to get a whole bunch of us around in a place where we have to cover large distances. And for those of you know Washington DC, you probably think I’m crazy to even be worrying. But like I said, it’s just one of those things about having PC where the unknown makes it a concern.

I wonder if others with PC ever have concerns like this or if it’s just me – the chronic worrier?

May

Springtime 2011

1 May 2011

It seems like I recycle a lot of my thoughts here from season to season, simply because the same things happen with my PC season after season. I’m beginning to see patterns in my PC. Ever since PC Project was formed, I’ve tried to pay more attention to how my PC is affecting me and when.

Springtime is certainly a time for a PC pattern for me. Right now spring is trying to emerge here in beautiful Utah. While most people I know are looking forward to warmer weather, I feel a little trepidation. I, too, look forward to that good earthy smell and jacket-only weather, but I also know what’s in store.

A few weeks ago, the temperature increased by about 20 degrees and suddenly so did the pain in my feet. It’s ok. I expect it. I say to myself, “Here we go again.” Although I admit, when the pain increases each spring, I’m always taken a little by surprise initially. It’s amazing how easy it is for me to accept life in the winter when I might not hurt as much. Even with constant pain while walking, it’s easy to forget that it does get worse.

Perhaps the spring pain is just to prepare me for the summer months ahead when it really gets hot and I will really feet an increase in pain. I guess we can start saving now for that big air-conditioning bill we’ll have this summer! :) And it still won’t stop me from enjoying the tree blossoms and flowers and the warm weather after a cold winter

March

Getting Old

31 March 2011

A few weeks ago I sat in a high school auditorium with Dave and all my children except Sam, who was up on stage, singing in a choir. As I watched Sam perform and looked over at my children in the seats next to me, I felt a little freaked out. Yes, I’ll use the word “freak”. All of a sudden, my kids seemed to be growing up too quickly.

Sam really just has two more years of high school. Nate has four. For the first time, I really thought about the fact that my kids are going to leave home, maybe sooner than I want them to!

What made me especially thoughtful was watching Sam up there singing. He looked quite dashing in his tux. But I also know he was in pain, standing up there so long. I wondered what the future will hold for him, especially how it relates to his PC. Sam is just 16 and hasn’t shown much interest in dating. Is that because of his PC insecurities or is he just not interested?

I have four brothers who didn’t date much in high school – they just weren’t interested either. They didn’t have PC though and they all went on to marry nice women and have happy lives. So perhaps that’s the same for Sam. I do know that when I was in high school and even into college – where I dated a lot – I still wondered if anyone would want to marry me with my PC. I wonder if Sam ever thinks about that. Or Nate. I guess I’ll just ask them. (In one of those good talking moments I have with my kids, of course. Not just over breakfast.)

Nate is less than two years younger than Sam. Yesterday I watched him play in the Jazz Band. He’s a trumpeter and he stands in the back. If he wanted to he could use a high stool to sit on. But he doesn’t and he won’t. He’s too embarrassed for anyone to know he has PC or that he might need a special accommodation. I sometimes think it’s ridiculous. After all, it’s just a stool. But I’m also not in junior high either. So like Sam in the choir concert, I watched Nate shift around from foot to foot. I knew he was in pain. But he never says a word of complaint.

I wonder how long both boys will be able to get away with it – this standing and extra walking and not wanting others to know and so doing nothing to relieve the pain – even something as simple as sitting when everyone else is standing. They both had to come home after their respective concerts and pop blisters. That’s the thing about PC. You can say you’ll tough it out – and you probably can. But then you have to live with the trauma you cause to your feet. For me, I will blister within just a few hours of walking or standing too much. It also translates to lost sleep and lost production later on. So I’ll always have to weigh that in to my walking choices. My boys do too and as they grow older and have to walk even more, especially when they go to college, they will really have to make good walking choices.

I do know that PC influenced some of my decisions in the teen and young adult years. I wonder how much PC will influence my boys’ choices, especially as they are entering the ages where their choices will have an ever greater affect on their lives.

I have no doubt whatsoever that my boys can and will do fine in life. It’s just lately that I’ve realized their time as kids in my home is quickly closing. I know they have to go through their own set of challenges. As a mom, though, I also want life to be kind to them. I don’t want things to hurt too much. I know that’s not realistic because that’s not, well, life. But I can’t help but still want the very best for my boys – PC and all. In turn, it’s my hope that regardless of their PC, both boys will continue to be the good individuals they are and bless the lives of others.

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