And because I like to keep things real, the weekend of the symposium wasn't all sunshine and rainbows...and pink cotton candy clouds. (Can you believe this sunset, though!? This picture was taken from the glass elevator of our hotel on our last night in Seattle).
Well, happy wasn't the only feeling I felt. Let me first explain that along with the RASopathies Symposium, there were also the CFC and Costello Family Conferences happening at the same time. CFC and Costello are also RASopathies syndromes, but they have many more outwardly physical symptoms than Noonan Syndrome. I've seen photos of people affected by all the RASopathies online...but this was my first time seeing these faces in person. And it was hard. Hard as in I practically had to run to the bathroom to keep from bursting into tears when I first stepped into the hotel. Even now I'm embarrassed by my reaction to seeing these uniquely beautiful kids in person. There is so much guilt that goes along with the fact that Ezra is only mildly physically affected...and the fact that things (although many have been excruciatingly hard so far) could be much, much worse. I'm still not sure how to process these feelings. They're the same feelings that come up when I'm reminded of our leukemia journey and how much worse it could have been. This stuff is HARD. And it just doesn't go away. "Easy" cancer journey guilt / not-as-severe-of-a-
There was also this realization over the weekend that for us and these other families, this was how we were spending some of our precious "vacation" days. And that this is our life from here on out. Like okay, if we want to be informed, and if we want to make these important connections with our genetic condition community, a large portion of our vacation days and spare change will be spent on these types of conferences for the rest of Ezra's life. And that's not a bad thing, but it's not a "normal" thing...it's not what most families picture when they're planning their much anticipated vacations. And what does this mean for Judah? How are these types of "vacations" going to shape who he is and how he feels about his brother?? Well, I'm hopeful that they will fill him with compassion and a greater capacity to appreciate his brother and those who are "different." Still, it's a crazy thing to be pondering about our five and two-year-olds' futures.
And perhaps the hardest realization of the weekend was this: some of the adults we met who are affected by NS, although vibrant and wonderful and capable, have spent their entire lives being bullied because they look different. They deal with constant pain and anxiety and depression. And while that might not be the story for every person who has Noonan Syndrome, it's not the first time I've heard this...and it is overwhelming to think about this kind of future for Ezra. It is heartbreaking to hear that on top of all the medical issues, all the surgeries and procedures, there might still be these underlying issues that there just aren't answers for.
I don't want to end on a gloomy note, because that's not my thing either, so I just want to reiterate how thankful we were for this symposium...hard-to-feel-feelings and tough realizations included. We are so thankful to live in a time when there are so many medical advancements and a greater understanding of genetic differences. We're thankful to the doctors who aren't content with unanswered questions. We're thankful for people who look beyond the diagnosis and beyond traditional definitions of beauty to see our son and these people as the miraculously beautiful and amazing individuals they are.
And although it's not always easy, we are looking forward to the good stuff that lies ahead of us on this journey. We are committed to continually expanding our knowledge. We are committed to sharing our knowledge. And we are excited to see how our hearts and our perspectives on what is "normal" and "beautiful" shifts and changes and grows along the way.