#RareAsOne

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder, and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, committed to the challenge, “Can we cure all diseases in our children’s lifetime?”  Daunting.  Amazing.  Fantastic idea!  Can they do it?  Here is to #hope…

On Monday, the couple announced one step in the right direction to conquer the challenge set forth in 2016.  They will offer grants to 30 recipients to advance research, training, and awareness.  Of the 30 selected, the dada2 foundation is one of the recipients to benefit from this large grant along with other resources over a two-year time period.

Wow.  We only hope our small community of dada2 patients grows and the resources lead to a cure for our girl and the many others we know with dada2.  Here is to hope and generosity in 2020…

#RareAsOne

Nine Lessons in Nine Years

Kelsey soon celebrates nine years of life.  Each of her nine years has been unique.  She has endured so many inquiries, tests, and circumstances, many of them we as adults may not have experienced.  To put it another way, it has been a journey.   Each year of the journey has taught us something new.  We are grateful for each year and the lessons we learned.

Year One taught us resilience.  We spent 16 days hospitalized and torn apart as a family, each in pain with worry, concern, and lacking a diagnosis.  By the first birthday celebration, we bounced back ready to learn more and find an answer.  Each one of us was forever changed by the experiences that we can never fully explain.

Year Two taught us to advocate.  In year one, we listened to poor medical advice and waited on others to seek solutions.  Year one was painful.  Year Two was the year of advocating.  Remember to be your own advocate and advocate for your children’s needs, always.  No one will ever care as much as you.  We did not accept, “she is fine!” and we sought answers instead of waiting for them to come to us.

Year Three taught us to listen.  Year Three gave us a diagnosis.  We thought that would make life easier, but instead, it led us to more questions and further complexities.  Medication battles with insurance and a true inability to process how little we knew made us listen more and savor small moments.  Upon one biopsy that resulted in a huge incision on the neckline, the surgeon soothed a mother’s worry about the scar to say, “We have to make sure she sees her next birthday.  This scar will help us figure out how to get her there.”  Listen.  Trust.  Breathe.  That was Year Three.

Year Four taught us promise.  There was so much promise in the medication we were using and so much happiness and joy brought back to our life when the medication started to work for our child.  A child who was once lifeless and listless was running and climbing stairs.  Promise and joy were restored in many of Year Four’s moments.

Year Five taught us Vulnerability.  We began this journey with Kelsey’s Kaleidoscope and we started to tell our story.  We put ourselves out there and started to spread awareness and raise money for our foundation.  We connected with others who shared our story.  We were weak when Kelsey took a tough turn and faced the return of frequent hospital visits and scans.  We had a fridge full of medication that no longer eased pain or brought joy.  We were vulnerable and scared.

Year Six taught us patience.  We trusted and prayed and after eight months of changes, a calm came for Kelsey.  She was walking, running, and smiling with ease.  We were patient and we were grateful.

Year Seven taught us endurance.  The road had been long and pain Kelsey started to feel emotionally and physically transferred to each member of her family in some way.  We laughed, we cried, and we got each other through.  It was not without a long road and another failed medication.  Spots, weakness, and pain returned to bruise emotions and bodies.

Year Eight taught us hope.  We were beyond touched by the community efforts and new faces that learned of our journey and cared.  We published a book, we went on television, and we reflected on where we are at this time.  We have hope and gratitude.

Year Nine is unknown and undefied.  Together, we are ready to persevere and lift each other.  We plan ahead and dream big.  We thank you for your support and kindness.  We wish Kelsey a happy ninth birthday and pray for all of her wishes to come true.

Brave Day – THANK YOU!

Samuel Mickle Elementary School holds Brave Day for student with rare diseaseSamuel Mickle Elementary school holds Brave Day for student with rare disease

This is how we braved:

Click here to read NJ.com’s story on Brave Day in support of Kelsey!

Thank you for your love and support!

Wednesday on Saturday

Wednesday Addams… a classic television character was the recent choice of a party we were invited to with an Addams Family Theme.

Wednesday, “the dreaded day” seemed fitting in many ways for Kelsey.  The mention of the weekday sends a jolt of fear and frustration to Kelsey each week.  We were surprised that she decided to dress the part, but being Wednesday “the worst day of the week” on Saturday made her smile.

Kelsey said that this was the first and probably last Wednesday she would enjoy talking about.

Wednesday on Wednesday does not have the same sentiment, but at least she found a way to smile for Wednesday (on Saturday).

Birthday Wishes

Family is truly the epicenter of this foundation.  Without the love, support, and generosity of our families, we would not be the organization we are today.

The love we feel from our family also lifts us up.  We have met new families on our family support group site and pray for the families around the world afflicted with PAN and dada2.  It is not always easy to digest the reality of this disease and the daily strife it causes for families.

Last week, we tapped into social media with another feeling; hope.  We know that we are not alone in the rare disease community and we try to lift each other up as a result.  Sometimes, when things get dark, you need to find strength in those around you.

A dear family member has been struggling with her own battle and for her birthday this year, she wanted to do something special for Kelsey’s Kaleidoscope, Inc.  Inspiration can come when you least expect it.  Though she already reached her goal, I invite you to view her fundraiser and want to thank her for spreading awareness and raising funding for our fight.

Love.  Hope.  Gratitude.

May your birthday wishes come true, Jessica.

Click on the link to see the cause or donate!

In a Field of Horses…

In a Field of Horses, be a Unicorn.

May you always be a Unicorn, following your spirit animal …

Nanobots

The bond between a brother and sister can be tough at times. Various interests, ages, and hobbies do not always create a harmonic environment. We work very hard to foster respect, love, and friendship regardless.

Kelsey’s brother worries about her.  There is no question about that. Although he has seen her at her worst, he also sees her at her best. They compete, they laugh, and they play together at times in a way that warms my heart.

Every once in a while, I worry that he feels less special or just “less” because he does not have a medical condition that requires the monitoring and lengths we must go to for his sister.

Then sometimes, I really that he does understand and he is more concerned than I realize.  He was reading a non fiction text and surprised me with the text from above.  He said, “Mom, can you please read this?”

When I read about nanobots that can cure diseases, I stood still and listened.  “Mom, do you think this could be the cure for Kelsey that we are looking for?”

“Whatever it takes,” I thought.  Maybe someday big brother…

Here’s to hoping, wishing, and praying.

There’s Something Special

There’s something about a Sunday night outside.  There’s something even more special about a Sunday night outside when your daughter says she has a surprise in store for you.

She grabs your phone and puts on There’s Something Special from Despicable Me 3.  The lyrics, “there’s something special on the other side of this moment,” brings a tear to your eye as she comes to your side to hold your hand.

In my mind, the special moment is happening now.

She sways and sings with you for a minute before she releases and runs off.  The moments are fleeting at times, but you still smile.

She runs back to you with six dandelions in her hands.  “Let’s make a special wish, Mom,” she says and the moment now has you holding back tears from behind your sunglasses.

We each made two separate wishes and two in unison.

I will not write the wishes, but I am sure you can imagine what Kelsey wished for…

Something Special… indeed…

Spirit Animal

The power of a spirit animal is meant to depict  a member of the animal kingdom that embodies and conveys your natural, wild soul.  It also happens to be mentioned in a show Kelsey has been fond of recently.  The title is Alexa and Katie and the series depicts two best friends, one battling cancer as a teenager.  The show actually helps Kelsey feel better as she watches the struggles of these fictional characters.  Though they are in High School, Kelsey finds a connection in each episode.

Thus, when we walked into Build A Bear for a birthday party recently, the struggle to select a furry companion was real.  She contemplated and debated.  She paced and wandered.  She almost selected the colorful, rainbow bear like most of the other girls.  And then, she saw the one.

The rainbow tailed unicorn, dressed in an ice cream dress was named Addison after the main character of Zombies.  Before bed on the night we brought her home, Kelsey shared that Addison was, in fact, her spirit animal.  She claimed that the free spirit and colorful tail of her new furry friend was indeed how she feels inside.  Addison was “channeling her inner self.”

Unbelievable, I thought.

Though her imagination astounds me, I truly see the reflection.

UR SO Generous

When Anthony Urso and the Almoras join forces for a Pop Up charity event to celebrate Chicago the Chicago Cubs all while supporting Kelsey’s Kaleidoscope, Inc., the president jumps on a plane to attend the festivities.

We cannot thank Anthony Urso enough along with Albert and Krystal Almora for their support and generosity.

The clothing is incredible, the company is fantastic, and the support was overwhelming.

Thank you is not enough, but it will have to do for now

Anthony Rizzo, Albert Almora, Jr, and Krystal Almora pose with President, Mary Wagner, and Elizabeth Gregorio.

Anthony URSO family

Anthony Urso and President, Mary Wagner.