When Sonzee was first diagnosed everything to me about her future seemed to be equally depressing. I would look at the older kids who also had the diagnosis and wonder if Sonzee would present with the same physical delays. It was honestly really challenging to look at my 2-month-old baby and picture that her body would grow bigger, but her capabilities would remain the same as they were.
As her journey continues to unfold I am less and less phased by her physical limitations but watching her having seizures....the seizures are for me by far the worst effect. As I look toward the future, imagining her in an older form seizing uncontrollably makes my stomach to flips and flops. I have no other way to describe the feeling other than just plain helplessness and sadness. I can see how much 15 months of a diagnosis has changed my perspective and feelings and to be honest, it isn't all bad.
A year ago Sam and I took Sonzee to the CDKL5 clinic in Denver, Colorado. We met other families and they all had much older children. They were beautiful girls, quiet, content, and in wheelchairs. There was one boy who was walking around and Sam was eager to learn more about him. To be honest, we didn't find ourselves wanting to be around the other families, it was really difficult to take it all in. It sounds so awful, but it was really challenging. I honestly didn't even realize the psychological toll that it would take on us when I originally planned the visit. Behind the closed doors during our visit both Sam and I were optimistic as the doctors told us to keep doing what we were doing with Sonzee because she was doing things that "other children with a CDKL5 diagnosis weren't doing". We wondered if it was simply because Sonzee was the youngest diagnosed child and they didn't have children to compare to her at that age or if in fact, we had a rare gem in the world of CDKL5. We left feeling a false sense of hope and with a false sense of confidence. It wouldn't take us long to realize that Sonzee was just like every other child, and she wasn't going to be known in the CDKL5 world because of her extra special exemplary skills.
While it continues to be an inner struggle at times seeing pictures of children who also have a CDKL5 mutation complete milestones Sonzee isn't ready for, a year later I can say that things have actually gotten easier. If I asked myself a year ago if I thought my mindset would be any different in regards to acceptance I would have told you "no, it won't get easier", but that isn't entirely true.
On Sunday we found ourselves fortunate to meet with another little girl with a CDKL5 mutation. Talk about becoming instant family friends (at least on our end). As we spent time with her parents it was similar to seeing a childhood friend who you haven't seen in years, but instantly pick back up from where things were left off. The hours flew by as we talked and let all of our children bond. How special it was that our older children had other children who also have a sibling that has seizures, delays, and are different...but they all have a bond because they "get it". I don't even know if they realize at their young ages how unique and special their relationship will be as they grow up. It isn't even a doubt in my mind that they will remain in contact in some way.
Besides the amazing tips and information we took away from our visit, what stands out the most to me is how much I have actually begun to "accept" CDKL5. **I don't know if full acceptance will ever occur, but this is a start. The girls are almost exactly a year apart. Her skills slightly more advanced than Sonzee but on the whole, they were very similar. As I looked at Sonzee's CDKL5 sister, I could envision Sonzee in another year, it was at that moment that I realized I wasn't phased by what the future looked like. This time, instead of being fearful about what Sonzee might not be doing I saw the possibilities of what she might be. Here in front of us was a beautiful 2.5-year-old with a love for belly dancing scarves, who is smiley as can be, and communicates when she is upset and happy. A happy little girl who is content with just hanging out and who enjoys being on her playmat. I saw a glimpse into our potential near future and I could easily see Sonzee in her as if I was a pregnant woman looking at a newborn baby and imagining she was mine. The same excitement and anticipation came over me as it would wondering what my other children will do when they turn a year older. It was at this moment that I realized that while this journey as a whole is not going to be a walk in the park, there are definitely areas that will get easier. There is a reason our motto is HOPE-LOVE-CURE, and I don't think I truly understand the meaning behind these words until yesterday, and I owe that to our new extended family in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.