Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Crohn's Curse

Preface: Along with the woodworking madness, I’ve decided to author a few personal blogs. Personal, meaning I’m likely to ramble about my faith, my family, and just about anything else that relates to “worker” as opposed to the “wood.”
I suppose, in a way I’m relating to the throngs of online bloggers out there. It’s a form of expression. Perhaps a way to organize thoughts that seem stuck in my head until I can write the down. I don’t even care if anyone reads this stuff. I just know I need to write it. 

The Past….

In college I met this beautiful girl named Heather. Lucky for me, she was just as taken with me as I with her. We were dating within days of meeting, and we have been inseparable ever since.

Late in our college years she got sick, real sick. The doctors in our little college town were pathetic. A year went by without a diagnosis, so she was in pretty bad shape by the time her parents had to take her back home for some proper care. Diagnosis: Crohn’s disease.

Basically it’s an autoimmune disorder where your immune system inappropriately attacks your own digestive system. The attacks cause ulcers throughout your digestive track and wreaks all kinds of havoc on your body. There is treatment, but no cure (yet!).

My plans to propose to her were delayed while she had surgery and recouped, but we eventually wed. A few years later we were blessed with our son, Dawson. There’s something about your firstborn. His birth was without a doubt the happiest, most magical day of my life.

Years went by, we added a few more children, mixed with one miscarriage likely due to Crohn’s. Autoimmune disease has always played a role in our lives. It was one of the deciding factors in my taking a job with the Railroad. We NEED good health insurance, and my job has always provided that.

As if Crohn’s wasn’t enough, after one of the girls was born, Heather started having issues with fatigue and joints swelling. Another autoimmune disease was added to battle: Lupus.

These days, our weekly and monthly routines revolve around Heather’s medications and chemo injections. We do our best to have the normal family life, but no way can we do it all.

The Present….

Recently we received the unfortunate news that Dawson, our nine-year-old son, has Crohn’s disease.

Supposedly, if one parent has Crohn’s, there’s about a ten percent chance their children will as well. One in ten aren’t terrible odds, but somehow our firstborn has the disease by the age of nine. Ain’t that some crap.

We all handle news like this in our own way...

Dawson- He’s a pretty special boy, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my son. He’s kept the same great attitude he’s always had. Of course, he’s just a kid, and I don’t think he quite understands that he will battle this for the rest of his life. He just wants to feel better and be a regular kid. Who can blame him?

When Dawson got home from the hospital, I showed him a video of David Garrard, who despite having Crohn’s disease, was able to achieve his dream of being an NFL quarterback. He seemed to enjoy that.

The past few months he has responded very well to his meds. He’s back to eating and running around like his old self. I know there will be days ahead full of frustration, tears, and acceptance…..and we will be there for him through all of it.

Heather- Passing her autoimmune issues onto her children was her “biggest fear.” I have have reiterated that this is not her fault. She did nothing to cause this. It’s a crap hand she was dealt, and she handles it the best she can.

She has been characteristically compassionate and brave this past week. Because of her motherly intuition and advocacy for her child, Dawson did not have to wait a year for his diagnosis. More like a week.

Myself- I love that boy more than life itself. I would gladly take this burden from him if I could. I’ve been through the gamut of emotions already. I’ve been mad, sad, ticked off at God. I’ve even been tempted to revert to my old self. Ya know, maybe I could crawl inside a bottle of bourbon and feel sorry for myself. Or maybe I could blare Nine inch Nails in my car and drive all night to other state as if to leave my problems in the dust. However, these are the coping mechanisms of adolescents, not men.

Today, I’ve come full circle to peace and acceptance.

The Future….

I have a degree in Theology, but I don’t give much thought to the age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I think it’s a waste of time to ponder such things. because I don’t believe we will have the answers this side of eternity. But here’s what I do know:
  • Often people reach their potential BECAUSE of adversity. I have a cousin with another autoimmune disorder- diabetes. She is one of the most beautiful, inspirational young ladies I know. Like her parents, I believe part of the reason she is such a success because of her diabetes, and the discipline it takes to survive it. 
  • I know my son has two parents who love him dearly, and will do anything to help him succeed. Crohn’s is a bummer, but it’s not a death sentence. 
  • I know that what the world often means for harm, God finds way to turn it around and use it for good. I have seen this time and time again in my life. I intend to remain faithful and watch this play out in Dawson’s life. 

This is not the path I would have chosen for Dawson’s life. As parents, we’d love to eliminate all pain, heartache, and disappointment from our children’s lives, however, we have to accept that it is the heartache combined with our love that shapes who they will become.

And I believe my son will be awesome!