Our first Conference...
June was the first ever Tango2 conference. Tyson and I were eagerly anticipating this momentous event. We would actually get to meet many of the families that we’ve talked to in our support group. The board members and planning committee had been meeting for months, going through the organization of the conference. It seemed like a miracle that the conference was actually here. At the same time, I was feeling an anxious tremor in the pit of my stomach. I’d been to other conferences before, and I knew how hard and exhausting it could be to talk about a disease for days on end, especially when it affected you in such a personal way. Meeting the families would be a blessing, but it would make everything about Tango2 real.
When I got there, I don’t know when I cried more- hugging the moms that I’ve talked to and leaned on for support for the past couple of years, seeing the “Faces of Tango2” video honoring our children and the angels who have passed away from the disease, when Ryan and Katie (both Tango2 teenagers) knelt down together and gave Thea her special tango2 bracelet, or when Lacey, Thea’s kid’s camp provider spent her $100 gift card meant for gas and food, on doll accessories for Thea because she knew that Thea would love them. It was such a special time.
|Thea with Miss Lacey|
It was so amazing and freeing to be able to say, just for a couple of days, that my child has Tango2 and have everyone around me understand what that means. It was amazing to hear my fear and hopes for my daughter voiced over and over in the crowd. It was amazing to hear the doctors describe my daughter’s symptoms instead of me describing them to my doctor. It was amazing to feel so understood. I saw this in the eyes of the other families over the next couple of days. We had dinners together, swim parties together, and breakfasts together. Though I had never met a single one of these people in person, we seemed to skip the “getting to know you” phase and there was an instant familiarity and comfort. I threw my arms around moms that I’d wanted to hug for years. We all watched each other’s children with interest, either wondering about our child’s future or remembering our child’s past. There was already a feeling of family. Ryan’s sister played with Thea in the pool, and I felt completely at ease leaving her to enjoy the pool while I sat nearby chatting with other Tango2 parents.
|Swimming with Ryan's sister, Kaitlin|
Even the doctors and researchers felt familiar. In other conferences that I’ve been to, the families were separated from the doctors. To talk to a doctor, you made an appointment and I remember joining the line with other desperate parents anxiously waiting for a turn to ask questions about their child’s particular rare disease. Here, my daughter was playing with Mashid’s daughter. Dr. Lalani hugged me warmly. Families were eating dinner with Dr. Miyake, and I was able to chat with her and the other doctors without any formality.
It was scary to think about how new this disease is. I appreciated everyone’s honesty. The doctors told us their thoughts about the disease so far, but they warned us that they couldn’t draw any real conclusions without further study. They described us as the true researchers of the disease in our day to day experiments with what helps our children and what makes them worse. They acknowledged that we would be the better experts with many doctors because we would be the keeper of most of the knowledge that was available at this time. Brownie Scott, our key note speaker, said that having a child with a rare disease makes her a better person and she loves him as he is, but if there was a cure or a magic pill for her son, she would take it in an instant. Kasha admitted that she feels like the clock is ticking. Their brave honesty connected us and made it safe to be real and vulnerable.
Mixed in with all of the emotions of the week, I was also marveling at the small miracles everywhere. I was noticing how far we’ve come from being alone to a Facebook group, to a research foundation, to a conference, to new research. I was awed over the fact that we finally have our daughter’s mysterious symptoms explained and that there were others with the same story all around me. I was grateful that the German doctors shared freely the antibodies that they used in their research, saving other doctors time, in the spirit of helping our children.
I asked Kasha why these doctors were willing to study something so rare, and she said it was because they had parents who were willing and ready to work with them. When the families work together and share with the doctors, much more can be accomplished. Although this is a club that I never wanted to be a part of, I feel grace in the deep connections, the way strangers have worked together, and how such a small group of determined people can accomplish so much.
I found that even through it was difficult to make Tango2 real, it was bearable. There was comfort around the shared experience. There was inspiration in everyone’s stories and there was strength in our combined hope for our children’s future.
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