My cousin Lauren and I were born 13 hours and 54 minutes apart. Not exactly Guinness Book of World records material, but to us it’s special. “Cousins born 13 hours and 54 minutes apart - imagine the odds”! We manage to work it into every phone call, visit, etc...between us. It just never gets old. Every March I receive a text from Lauren wishing me a Happy Birthday, and she receives a reciprocal message from me.
When we were younger I would spend a week each summer with Lauren, her brother Matt, and my Aunt and Uncle. Lauren and I loved staying up until all hours drinking sweet tea, eating saltine crackers, talking about boys, and listening to Def Leppard (forgive us, it was the 80’s). I loved the slower pace, Church suppers, lazy days at the pool, the hot South Georgia sun.
I have always admired my cousin. She’s pretty, stylish, funny, AND sweet without an ounce of pretension. She is a stay-at-home Mom, arguably the World’s toughest job, and a devoted wife. She has an unwavering faith in God and a real desire to do good in this World. Oh, and she always has perfectly painted nails AND never forgets her lipgloss. #superwoman
I don’t remember where I was when I found out Lauren had been diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy, but I do remember how I felt. Confused, sad, scared. How could this happen? Why did this happen? We were in our mid-30’s, why had It waited so long to rear it’s ugly head?
Lauren was diagnosed in 2011 after a few curious incidents left her wondering, “is there something wrong with me?”. When she tried to put on high heels her feet just wouldn’t go into the darn things anymore. And when she was getting her hair washed at the salon she couldn’t lift her head out of the wash basin. A small series of events that gave way to a nagging feeling and eventually lead to the diagnosis of myotonic muscular dystrophy (DM). DM affects muscles and many other organs in the body as well. Myotonia is the inability to relax muscles at will. For example, it may be difficult for someone with DM to let go of someone's hand after shaking it. As the disease progresses, the heart can develop an abnormal rhythm and the heart muscle can weaken, the same is true for the muscles used for breathing. None of it very fun, all of it pretty scary.
Life post-diagnosis has been different. There are every day challenges: lack of energy and inability to do some of the things she used to be able to do, problems with breathing and swallowing. And the words “doctor’s visit” don’t mean hopping into the car and driving 15 minutes down the road. They involve a plane, or a long road trip, and there are tests. Lots and lots of tests. Long appointments that last several days and leave her drained.
All the while, she doesn’t complain. She considers herself blessed to have access to the kind of care she receives and the support from friends and family. And she is indeed blessed, but that doesn’t mean that everything she goes through doesn’t stink. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when she wonders if and when she will be bound to a wheelchair. Or how she will continue to keep up with her busy 9 year old, Sarah. It’s probably this last point that hits home hardest with me. As a very proud Mama of a 2 year old boy, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I were in her shoes. My soul purpose in life is to take care of my child. He is God’s gift to me and my husband and it’s my greatest privilege to look after him. And Lauren feels the same way. We’ve spoken about the fact that we could endure anything if we could spare our children from pain. But what Mama wouldn’t be scared to go what she’s going through, even more so because of her child.
And the worst part? There’s no cure. None. No medicines to be prescribed, no surgeries she could schedule, no treatments to be undertaken. Just prayer, healthy living, and dealing with the side effects of the disease in the best way she can.
And here’s where YOU come in. Here’s the part where you can help Lauren and over 200,000 people diagnosed annually with Muscular Dystrophy. And it’s so easy!
I’m running the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon to honor Lauren and help raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Every mile I run and every dollar I raise along the way will help MDA fund groundbreaking research across diseases, provide critical care from day one and empower families with services and support in hometowns across America. A cool way of looking at it: By moving my muscles, I'll be strengthening theirs.
I'm telling you all this because I'm hoping you might like to flex a little muscle in this battle too. No worries — you don't have to sign up to run a race, although you can join me if you'd like! If you'd prefer to donate from the sidelines, you can support my efforts by making a donation HERE. Your support will help the Muscular Dystrophy Association bring help and hope to the families it serves.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read about my very special cousin and this very special cause. Let’s make a difference together!