From hiding to Hollywood!

Mermaid’s disease has introduced us to all forms of Nevus, where occasionally we shed tears over the stories and difficulties everyone faces, we also get to celebrate.

Meet Marika Nagy from Manchester, a fellow member of one our support groups who got her chance to tell her story.

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My favorite line…

“My birthmarks make me special. The world would be a very boring place if we all looked the same.”

With Marika’s blessing we share her story, she is such an inspiration to all of us!

Click below to read her story on the daily mail!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3809507/Girl-coverered-birthmarks-bullied-looking-like-cow.html

Marika – we look forward to seeing you on the big screen!

Thanks for walking with us today!

Mermaid’s Mommy

Lean toward happy…

Those of you that know me personally, know that I am a huge baseball fan. Where my team’s season is about over with basically no shot in the series I will still be glued to what’s happening all October. I recently read an article rooting against the Cubs to take the World Series and before everyone in Chicago gets upset at me for agreeing, let me tell you why. You see, the Cubs haven’t won a world series since 1908. Yes, they deserve their moment in the limelight but if they win, we lose one of the last connections to old-time baseball. To me, the time of the greats. The time where players were heroes, before other sports dominated the world and baseball was the leader. If they win, what will they grumble about for the next 100 years? I love this writers perspective, but win or lose, I love the sport.

There is a special little boy named Dylan who also has a love of the sport and right now, he needs you to help him hit a home run this October. October 3rd Dylan will be going in for his 27th… yes, you read that right, TWENTY SEVENTH surgery.

Dylan was born with Giant Melanocytic Nevus. A rare condition found in 1% of infants. Additionally he has Neurocutaneous Melanocytosis (NCM) which means he has it in his brain and spine as well.

Dylan’s form of Nevus runs the risk of melanoma and to help prevent that he will yet again, be undergoing another surgery.

In the photo on the right, Dylan is holding a picture of his friend Christian wrapped in the Lord’s arms. Christian and Dylan became friends when Christian was only 6 months old. This week marks Christian’s 2 year Angelversary. Christian lost his battle with Melanoma that was present in his Nevus at 19 months of age. I speak frequently about the potential side effects and our fears, our family has also endured the loss of a friend to Melanoma but Dylan’s fight reminds us all too much of those painful realities.

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(Dylan and Christian a few short months before Christian’s passing)

Christian’s Mom shared with me that the two boys and families became fast friends, following Christian’s passing Dylan even stood in her wedding. His Mom wanted me to share with everyone reading this that even in his darkest times, Christian was always happy. A doctor on the palliative pain team at children’s hospital said he’d never seen a baby so good spirited. He said ” no matter what gets thrown Christian’s way, his natural inclination is to ‘lean toward happy’… its remarkable, really!” That stuck with Christians Mom and has been a huge piece of her grieving. When things get tough, she remembers Christian’s resiliency and leans toward happy.

We NEED a cure for Melanoma. No family should endure what either of these boys families have, whether it’s in the form of loss, or prevention.

I was talking with one of Dylan’s parents today and I felt silly for my worry surrounding Mermaid’s nevus. She gently reminded me that we are all on a different journey, and she is right. We all have struggles and concerns valid to our lives. Some bigger than others, but in no way, shape or form, does it make any of them less.

As I’m sure you can imagine, with surgery comes cost and time off of work for his family. He has an amazing family that has done everything they can, and will continue to do everything they can to ensure his wellbeing. Right now, it’s our turn to help ease their burden, just as they have done for Dylan his entire life.

Dylan’s family has put together a fundraiser where they are selling water bottles and shirts to raise money to help offset some of the cost following surgery. You can donate or order using the link below.

http://fnd.us/01ASMb

I know we can’t always give by way of money and sometimes the biggest gift is that of prayer. So as October rolls around, keep this little slugger in your thoughts, give the family some encouraging words and tell them Mommy’s Mermaid sent you!

You can read about the specifics or follow Dylan’s story on his own personal facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/DylansAmazingJourney

To follow Christian’s mom on her path of recovery and learn more about his short but meaningful journey you can go to:

https://www.facebook.com/ChristiansSpecialSpots/?fref=ts

To Dylan, you are stronger than most people I know, you will heal and once again amaze us all. I have no doubt that Christian will be by your side through your entire process. You will be back on the ball field before you know it, and think of it this way, while your home healing, you can enjoy the world series! You will be in our thoughts and prayers before, during and after your surgery.

Tanya, Kara and Nikki – your strength is far from unnoticed. To Tanya and Kara, I want to thank you for trusting me with you stories, emotions and lives. I think I will forever remember to “lean towards happy” when I am having a rough one.

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”
David Richo

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

A threenager’s thoughts…

Most days our lives mimic other people’s with a toddler, trying of our patience, astonished by the next big accomplishment, mortified by the new sentence or phrase they picked up, tiring as we fight sleep, attitudes, messes and defiance, and quite possibly the most beautiful experience we will ever have. I find myself constantly in awe of what my little being is teaching me and often forget what life was like before she was here. I joke that I want quiet and moments of solace but when I get them, I feel partially empty. I have learned that the pure chaos she brings me, is just what I always wanted.

Then there are times when I am reminded that unlike other people’s lives with a toddler, our journey is slightly different. Where her disease in no way, shape or form prohibits her from anything in life, it occasionally rears its ugly head and forces us to face it dead on. Sometimes that’s in the form of an appointment or treatment, but tonight, it was in the form of words.

As we were finishing bath time I asked her to lift her arm so I could use our special soap on her scales and very matter of fact she said “My scales are disgusting.” First of all, disgusting? Big word for a little girl. Second of all, how, why, where would she have heard something like that? but lastly, ouch. That hurt Mommy to hear. I replied just as matter of fact by saying “No they’re not, your scales are beautiful.” To which she replied “Thank you Mommy, but they’re disgusting.”

I opted not to argue or acknowledge her second statement and just moved on. I told Daddy what she said and he frowned. It seems harmless but it’s so far from that. My two biggest fears are of course, cancer, be it in the form of a wilm’s tumor or melanoma and her being embarrassed or uncomfortable in her own skin. Were blessed that for the most part, her nevus is hidden beneath her clothes and the ones that aren’t are hard to spot with the naked eye unless you know it’s there or are looking, so to this point we have had very little interaction with the public making much of a fuss. So where did she get this idea? Yes, she is three and they come up with the craziest things, half the time she doesn’t even really know what she is saying, but she was so matter of fact about it.

I think back to our first days after being diagnosed and how plagued I was by the thought of this very scenario. That one day, I knew she would resent her disease. That one day I would be trying to reassure she was beautiful even with a few blemishes, but not at THREE. My hope is that by not engaging in it, telling her I love them and moving on it gets out of her head, that she sees I don’t fuss about it.

As her Mom it completely ruins me inside. There are so many other things life she will have to overcome, things she will have to give all her attention to overcome that I never want this to be one of them, though I know that is only wishful thinking. It’s hard enough as a woman to live up to what society thinks we “should be” that I fear the additional hurdles she will face as her nevus continues to spread. I suppose at some point it was bound to happen, I just wasn’t ready for that time to be now.

Her timing is odd considering right now, it looks the best it has in months. I think the cooler weather is limiting the irritation and amount of flare-ups we have had. She has complained maybe once recently that it was bothersome.

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So to all my parents out there, nevus or other skin conditions, what do you tell your little one’s when they say stuff like this? How do you address their remarks about themselves? I look forward to hearing your expert advice!

Thanks for walking with us tonight,

Mermaid’s Mommy

New adventures…

This past week we said our farewells to our favorite Physician who has chosen to depart our health care organization and explore other options in this crazy thing we call life. Where selfishly we are sad, we are excited to see where his next adventure leads him. It feels like we have been saying a lot of goodbye’s lately but it’s not completely surprising. We are home. Most physician’s take jobs far from their roots and eventually life leads them back home. I have long thought that any decision that puts your family first, is never the wrong decision. Medicine is a tough world to be in, appointment times are getting shorter, enrollment increases, demands skyrocket and all the while we try to do what we can in the given time, but its never really enough time. It’s stressful to say the least. There are a million reasons one chooses to leave, we are just sifting through the emotions of seeing another fantastic person go.

I had to ask myself why I am so upset about his departure, yes – we have been with him for many years now and he has been with us since day one with Mermaid, but it’s not the length of the relationship that brings me down. I’m not one to feel overly impressed by a degree or status. knowledge is helpful, but even in the beginning he let us know he would be learning with us when it came to Mermaid and I respected that honesty. You can be the best scholar, have rotation experience beyond your coworkers, years under your belt, but is that all that matters? So what is it? It was a different relationship, I never felt like I was a number, he listened, understood where I was coming from and trusted my thoughts that weren’t always traditional. On our last visit he mentioned me wanting someone who would think outside of the box and he nailed it on the head. I have a daughter with an unconventional rare disease, with little to no treatment, it forces me to think outside of the box when it comes to treatment. With little knowledge in the medical world I lean on all of you along with extensive research to help guide us and he respected that.

I have spoke briefly about my rough pregnancy and struggles that followed after birth but not a lot of detail, saving that for a different avenue I’m working on, but he was there through what feels like the roughest 3 years of my life, physically and emotionally. When Bailey was diagnosed, I was heartbroken, when her specialist declined to perform a biopsy, he did it. It may have been a first on such a little one and he did amazing. When I needed a signature for one of our unconventional treatment ideas he signed it, and again to hold onto at our last visit for future use, despite recently being denied by someone covering because they felt uncomfortable with it. When I felt crazy after having Bailey and cried every single day from the pain I was in, he helped me through it. When my options ran out and it led to my hysterectomy, he was there for anything I needed leading up to it and after as we sift through the last leg of remaining symptoms. The thought that I have to start at ground zero with someone who won’t fully understand the level of despair and need we had been at is hard to swallow. Yes, I cried in our last visit.

We are nearly the same age and did  lot of life events close together, marriage, kids… it gave us more to talk about than just “what can I do for you today” and I always appreciated that. No, I have never been one to be overly impressed by a degree or status, but I AM impressed with how someone treats you. We spent most of our last visit talking about life, where we hoped both our paths would lead in the coming years and it was bittersweet.

Mermaid was snapping pictures with her tablet as we talked, it was borderline creepy, but she was entertained and honestly, it’s probably my fault for taking pictures literally 24/7 so I couldn’t blame her. Now, I’m glad she did, where she really needs to work on her skills, I suppose this is how a 3 year old views her visit.

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Don’t get me wrong in reading this. We have an amazing support system. Immediate family, extended family, work family, friends, my amazing husband, we truly are blessed, but there are some things your support sytem can’t do for you. You know, like the medical side of things. To so many people reading this I know you understand what it means to find that right Physician, someone who you trust, in our case, someone who felt like a friend, I know you are keen to how important it is in our world, and when it goes away, we all feel a little lost.

To our favorite Physician, may you ever lay eyes on this… and don’t feel like I made it clear,  Thank you. Thank you for being our rock, our advocate and always treating us like people. Whether you feel it or know it, you are an amazing Physician, as you know, I have been around a long time and I put you in that handful of exemplary people to walk into my Kaiser world. Whether you choose Medicine or a different road, keep that bedside manner. Continue to get to know people and truly show them you care. It will take you far.

To all our readers, so much of my knowledge never would have happened without that biopsy, it led us to a true diagnosis and the Yale study, without that signature we never could have shared the incredible results of our wartPEEL trial and without his helping hand I personally never could have gotten to the place I did to start this whole adventure. Wish us luck on our journey to find our next cohort on this wild ride.

Onward and upward to our next chapter.

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

Back to ground zero…

Well, sadly… we are losing our Primary Physician. Those of you that have been with us from the get go know that he has been the one constant in supporting Mermaid’s care. When we fought with dermatology to have the biopsy done because they said it would be too “traumatic”, he gladly did it for us and she was a champion. In fact, everytime we went to see him there on after, she said she would let him have another mermaid scale if he wanted. When Yale wanted the biopsy sent to them, he put it into action without hesitation. When we needed physician approval for the wart-PEEL, he signed off on it and backed my decision to trial it, knowing it may be a bit controversial – and to date, it has been the best treatment we have had.

Though our early days left him perplexed and we were sent to Dermatology, we never quite stuck with anyone and he became our safety net for all our needs. It seems kind of silly to recognize just how upset I am about it when there is a huge pool of perfectly educated Physician’s to choose from but when someone has been there from the beginning, it’s hard to let go.

Some of you know, others don’t, but after Mermaid I got moderately ill. Enough that after 2 years of treatment a decision was made that I had to have a hysterectomy. When the decision no longer feels like you own it because there are no other options, you crumble a little bit. Throughout that process he has definitely seen me at my worst. Within a matter of a few short years I rode quite the emotional roller coaster between Mermaid and myself and through it all, he was with us, helping in every way he could. For the care he has provided I will forever be grateful.

While we sift through a period of limbo searching for our next permanent physician we may turn to all of you more than normal for help and direction. Luckily, we have all of you! So, with that being said… were looking for some advice!

Mermaid’s hand seems to be progressing again. I don’t want to use the peel on the surface of her hand due to potential scarring and pain but not only has it cracked and bled it’s now thickening. Aside from “moisturizing”-  those of you that deal with the thickening aspect of it, what do you recommend and does anyone have experience with hand lesions specifically? It’s such a sensitive spot and I hate to cause any damage drawing additional attention.

Have any secrets you care to share?

Wish us luck!

Thanks for walking with us today!

Mermaid’s Mommy

Small gestures make big things happen!

Over the past few weeks I have grown weary. Mermaids Nevus has spread and thickened  down her arm. For the first time EVER it cracked on her hand and began to bleed. My heart sank.  Like all of us Nevus parents, we worry… will it be painful? Itchy? How much more will it grow? Will people now start saying stuff about it? Will she be able to tell me if it’s bothering her? What can I do to FIX it? Though deep down inside, I know I can’t “fix” it.

The timing seemed impeccable that just as all of this was running through my head, we had our dermatology check up. More than a check up, we were once again, meeting a new Physician. From day one of questioning my little one’s first initial “spot” at less than 24 hours old, this marked our seventh physician to now play a role in her care. Some passed it off as nothing, others perplexed, one with which – we will just say – we didn’t “click”… and now another to lay eyes and insight into our world. I am always nervous about their responses to me, how they will treat all of us, what they will advise, will they be knowledgeable?

Well, I can only say this… best appointment to date. He spoke to the given they all do when we meet someone new – no cure, little treatment, managing symptoms but then hit on the piece I have been dreading. I have been told by two separate physician’s now that the location of Mermaid’s Nevus on her hand will most likely result in surgery. The target was school age. The thought of taking the risk to put her under and the pain she would endure following the procedure is hard to swallow, though I fully understand the downfall of not having it done. With each patch that grows I feel our days are numbered. Going into this visit I was prepared to hear the dreaded words. To my surprise it was the complete opposite. I showed him before and after pictures of the wart-PEEL treatment we did and the spot now cracking and he seemed both intrigued by the product, which he had never heard of being used for this, and impressed by the results. He felt that she was still in a state of manageable care.

We talked briefly about abnormalities and he felt it would be a reasonable time to have her eyes re-checked. For those of you asking recently about the ocular abnormalities, he did confirm that cataracts could develop at any time, it is not something that would necessarily arise in the youngest of age.

He noted that her skin tone works nicely to hide a lot of her nevus which made me laugh, supported our use of the controversial wart-PEEL that contains a cancer agent and said I was doing a good job. It didn’t hurt that he also complimented my own knowledge but what I appreciated most, was that he said he trusted me. He said we do not need to return for 1-2 years unless I have a concern and to keep doing what we have been doing. At that time we will re-asses the need for surgery.

It was short, to the point and felt amazing to leave knowing that as a family, we are doing all the right things.

Moving forward we will schedule another eye appointment with the specialist and continue to search the world for helpful products, and of course… share the outcome with you! Speaking of… seems like it’s time for a new trial!

With the new growth and being in swimsuits, dresses and tank tops over the summer I have wondered about more kids seeing it or asking about it and how she handles that. Picking her up from school one day last week one of her teachers shared a cute little story with me about Mermaid loving bumblebees. I said ya, her Dad taught her they are nice and she pets them at home and we have made some products for her skin with beeswax. She has said to me many times that the nice bees make honey for her scales and it’s adorable to hear her make that connection. Her teacher said she noticed her Nevus and asked Bailey what happened, her response? “Oh those are my Mermaid Scales” and just moved on.

It brought me comfort knowing that even when brought to her attention by someone, she is not ashamed nor phased  nor hesitant to answer about her uniqueness. It made me feel proud to hear of her confidence.

It doesn’t matter what your differences are, be them seen by the naked eye or something internal, it’s how we handle what we were dealt. It took me a long time to get here, to feel confident both in my own understanding of her disease and making sure she knows it’s ok. I didn’t get here alone though, whenever I feel like we have a success, I feel like I owe thanks to those who helped it come about. My dear friend Aindrea who is across the country not only introduced me to the treatment for her hand and walked me through it but has remained at my side through this entire journey since our first encounter with one another(one day we will get to have the biggest hug ever) and to all my family, who have never treated her differently and encouraged my path of finding more knowledge. Last weekend I saw my Mom kiss Mermaid’s scales on her hand,  letting her know she see’s them, but loves them. Of course, lastly, to each one of you reading this, whether it’s because you love my Mermaid and enjoy hearing about her journey or find yourself looking for answers and support through our path to relate in your own nevus world, we know you are here and appreciate you.  It’s the small things that get us to big places.

Here’s to hoping we have many more successful months ahead of us!

To being confident and finding acceptance, we thank you all!

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mommy’s Mermaid

Lending a helping hand…

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”  

I rarely use this platform for anything not related to our Nevus journey. However, when I do, it’s for good reason, and THIS, deserves your attention.

With the help of Nichole Montgomery and the approval from Lauren Wallaert, I am reaching out for help by way of donations and prayers. I know this platform reaches people across the World and hope you will take a minute to look despite it being a different subject matter than your used to seeing from us.

I grew up in a small town, a very close knit community and one of my childhood friends who now resides in New Mexico, was involved in a very traumatic accident this past weekend. Neither time nor space can change that we come from the same place and in time of need, we reach out. While riding his motorcycle with friends, and wife on the back, an SUV crossed into their path at a high speed causing them to wreck.

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As of now Jeremy and his wife Lauren are receiving care in separate hospitals, I can only imagine how difficult it is to be apart during this time. Both of them have had portions of a leg amputated and Jeremy may need further surgery to amputate more. They sustained other substantial medical injuries and have a long road to recovery.

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Jeremy is self employed and at this time it is still unknown how long they will both be in the hospital. They have a blended family and share children,  including a little girl together, who now has 2 parents that are not only embarking on a long road to recovery, but a new way of life.

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I have included the news story below and a link to the Gofundme. Yes, the goal is high but remember, we are talking about an entire family needing help, not one person.

I typically pass these things up unless I truly know it’s valid or needed and I can personally vouch for this. Remember, it’s not about the amount we give, every single dollar adds up if we all give a little. Please take a look and share!

Gofundme Link:

https://www.gofundme.com/2jtrdwak

News Stories:

Original –

http://www.koat.com/news/1-dead-at-least-2-others-injured-in-sandoval-county-crash/41084142?utm_campaign=KOAT&utm_medium=FBPAGE&utm_source=Social

Latest information:

http://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/victims-identified-in-fatal-crash-on-state-highway/4227460/

I will also ask you to keep the other families involved in your thoughts and prayers, as noted in the news article, a 15 year old girl lost her life that day and other members of their extended family were in the car. Where Jeremy and Lauren survived, someone else did not and I can only imagine there are a lot of people out there grieving her loss.

In the blink of an eye so many lives were altered.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
– Charles Dickens
From our family to the Wallaerts, may you find strength and faith during your recovery, you are in our thoughts and prayers and we hope you are home soon with those beautiful children!
Thanks for walking with us today,
Mermaid’s Mommy

Mermaid’s Ashore!

To most people, Portlandia is just a quirky show poking at the oddities of Portland, Oregon. I have to admit, “put a bird on it” and “the dream of the 90’s is alive in Portland” are genius and crack me up every time I see them but most of it is beyond me. We live in a small town East of the city and trips there are rare.

Where I may not frequent Portland these days, being born and raised in this great state I am very aware of who “Portlandia” really is. In the midst of downtown in a rather modest location sits the second largest hammered copper statue in the United States, right behind the Statue of Liberty. At 34 feet 10 inches tall a woman holding a trident reaches down to the people below her. Portlandia was modeled after the city’s seal which also boasts a woman holding a trident.

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The trident is known to be the weapon of Poseidon, the God of the seas, and Neptune, the God of freshwater and the sea. As a city that was once known to be the number one place in the western hemisphere for “crimping” and “shanghaiing” amongst the sea captains and sailors, a city that’s known for it’s beautiful bridges spanning the river, a city that boasts the amazing dragon boat races, has a waterfront walkway that hosts festivals – bike riders – walkers – runners – fountains and those just gazing at it’s beauty and a city who’s access to the water make it an easy port for transportation of goods; once known as one of the most dangerous ports in the world; it seems only fitting that it has a protector in Portlandia watching over the city.

With so much action on the water it was only a matter of time before it hosted it’s own Mermaid parade.  On July 30th Una the Mermaid & the travelling Fanta-Sea Cove organized Portlandia’s first annual Mermaid Parade.

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Those familiar with us can only imagine the excitement in my household upon hearing this news, those new to us, let me explain.

My beautiful daughter was born with a rare genetic skin disease called Linear Epidermal Nevus. It’s complicated, it comes with a laundry list of potential complications including skeletal, ocular and nervous system abnormalities. Has the potential to cause both benign and malignant tumors, raises the risk of melanoma, and in our case, may potentially take over the entire left side of her body. At first we were devastated, plagued by the “what if’s” and lost due to the lack of information and medical knowledge surrounding her disease. Over time we found some support groups and started this blog to share our journey and connect with the world to both learn from them, and share what we know. It’s hard to explain to a child what’s slowly growing on their body, we joked that her “scales” were from her previous life as a fish. A friend said to us, can’t you find something better? Like a Mermaid? and it stuck. From that moment on she became Mommy’s Mermaid. As she has gotten older she has told strangers, doctors, friends and family about her Mermaid scales, she whole-heartedly believes that they were a gift from a Mermaid. She believes they are a special and wears them proudly.

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An opportunity to take her somewhere full of Mermaid’s, those magical creatures that shared their beauty with her, to walk amongst them and relate, could not be passed up. I had no idea what to expect, I thought it would be small, generic, cute but nothing to write home about. I could not have been more wrong. I know now, that I need to start preparing for next years event! Mermaid could barely contain herself as we got ready, Mama are we leaving yet? Mama, are we ready? Mama, can we pleeeeaaaaasssseee go now. As if she knew just how special it was going to be.

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We were blessed to have a friend and her little one in tow with us, with the girls in wagons we headed to the historical waterfront, the friendship circle to be exact. The friendship circle celebrates the sister city relationship between Portland and Sapporo, Japan. The Friendship Circle includes a pair of 20-foot stainless towers that generate electronic tones. I can only describe it as nothing shy of magical. Men, Women and children of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicity filled the gorgeous backdrop of Portland in full costume. There were people giving out gifts, bubbles, shells, dancers, birds, artists and even a man fishing for Mermaids with a cat on his line.

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We flipped down waterfront passed Saturday Market and the Brewfest. People lined the path taking pictures, videos and cheered. After the parade we took some time to enjoy the city and played in the fountains!

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We get caught up in the daily grind, I often forget to take moments to stop and truly let myself enjoy the beauty of imagination. Mermaid’s disease will be with us forever, there is no cure, very little relief for symptoms, and at this time – minimal research or trials to move in a forward direction. If allowing my 3 year-old to believe that she was gifted her scales by a Mermaid gives her even one small ounce of happiness in this journey, I will believe it too.

To the amazing group that made this dream a reality, to every single person that came to celebrate and to our honorary Mermaid’s Geneva and Charlee for walking this path with us, I thank you all. This parade meant so much to us. As magical as I saw it, I can only imagine what my little girls thoughts were.

There are no words to describe the beauty and creativity that was bestowed upon us that day but thanks to the talented Christelle Morgan who has graciously allowed me to share some of her work, you can enjoy some of the sites from our day. Enjoy!

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You can find more information about the wonderful Christelle and her work at:

cmphoto.smugmug.com

To learn more about Una the Mermaid you can visit her site at:
Thanks for walking with us today,
Mermaid’s Mommy

Eye see you…

Let’s talk about the connection between Epidermal Nevus and ocular abnormalities. Right out of the gate I  want to clarify that a diagnosis of Epidermal Nevus in any form without one or more of the potential abnormalities is the disease itself. To be classified as having the syndrome you must have additional abnormalities. Additionally, there are different types of syndromes depending on what form of epidermal nevus one has and what abnormalities are present. This has caused a lot of confusion and controversy in the medical world. I see the term used interchangeably all the time, causing additional anxiety but have clarified with multiple physicians that the absence of any abnormalities does not classify as the syndrome. I for one, am the first person to recognize that the diagnosis itself carries enough anxiety provoking elements and issues without any abnormalities that making sure I understood the difference was vital.

It is also important to remember that the sydromes are rare and chances increase with wide spread lesions.

Ocular abnormalities may include Colobomas of the pupil, iris or eyelid and Cataracts.

A coloboma is a hole in one of the structures of the eye, such as the iris, retina, choroid, or optic disc. The hole is present from birth and can be caused when a gap called the choroid fissure, which is present during early stages of prenatal development, fails to close up completely before a child is born.

Colobomas are sometimes referred to as keyholes due to their shape. They can effect one or both eyes.

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There can also be an association with colobomas of the eyelid. This would be the result of incomplete cell migration and present at birth.

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A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that can make it harder for you to see. Cataracts happen when protein builds up in the lens of your eye, making it cloudy. This prevents light from passing clearly through the lens, causing some loss of vision. There are many causes including, age related, from trauma, congenital – meaning born with it, or secondary – which can be due to other medical conditions.

cataract

I have searched and searched and cannot seem to find a solid answer to whether or not cataracts would be present at birth only or can develop at a later age but I have an upcoming appointment and will be sure to ask.

Oregon Health and Science University told us that it is recommended to have eyes of nevus owners checked by age one. Where some of the abnormalities would be obvious to the naked eye, others are not.

I downloaded a pediatric neurology book that speaks in more detail about the syndromes and hope to find more valuable information to share soon.

To all our new followers and newly diagnosed nevus owners we hope you find this useful!

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy

 

 

 

Our skin will not define us…

All the stories I have shared about other people thus far, have been about fellow Nevus owners. It’s true, no ONE story is alike, nevus has a mind of it’s own and presents in so many different ways that each individuals experience looks different. We cannot say that what someone is feeling or seeing happen is right or wrong because the reality is, we just don’t know.

Meet Vicki, a lover of music, all genres but especially reggae, a singer, and a Pittsburgh Steelers fan from the East Coast. A beautiful Woman that as a child, played Pop Warner football and helps to lead the children’s choir at her church. Where Vicki has not “officially” been diagnosed with a form of nevus she has struggled for years with a debilitating skin condition that presents in many ways as ILVEN. She has faced other health challenges on her journey that she openly shared with me.

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Vicki remembers from a young age, 5 or 6, having spots on her left fingers and palm. Visits at both the Pediatrician and Dermatologist led to treatments with liquid nitrogen as they all thought her spots were warts. Vicki knew, even as a child, that they were not warts. It got to the point she would cry and beg her Mother not to go back because it hurt so bad. As Vicki got older, her skin condition got worse and more symptoms began to arise. Currently both sides bare her condition. She has it in her hair, side of face, both ears, neck, back, buttock and bottom of her right foot.

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Throughout her life Vicki has endured 5 biopsies, all of which have failed to pinpoint her exact condition. She has been treated with Humira for psoriasis, which made her extremely ill and despite the negative biopsies one physician insists this is indeed ILVEN. She has been to John Hopkins and hopes to return one day for more answers. The growth on her foot causes severe pain. It hinders her from walking and wanting to do the things she loves to do in life. In Vicki’s words “My skin itches, stings, blisters, bleeds and causes pain to touch it. When I shower the water hurts touching my body.”

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In addition to the skin disease Vicki has been diagnosed with a Rathke Cleft Cyst. A Rathke Cleft Cyst is a benign growth found on the pituitary gland in the brain. Typically RCC’s are asymptomatic but occasionally, if it grows large enough, it can cause visual disturbances, pituitary dysfunction and headaches. RCC’s are seen on MRI’s or CT’s of the brain. She has been told that her RCC will need to be monitored for the remainder of her life.

One of the physician’s Vicki visited suggested her symptoms may also be related to an autoimmune disease. She had a positive ANA and her physician suggested possible Lupus but again, no official diagnosis. A positive ANA alone does not necessarily define a diagnosis for Lupus but it IS present in 97% of people diagnosed with the disease. A positive ANA can be a sign of multiple auto immune diseases, a false positive or a reaction to a medication. A good rule of thumb with a positive ANA is to keep looking for the cause.

Between the possible ILVEN, Auto immune disease, Positive ANA, and RCC Vicki has had a rough time with her daily life. She has been struggling with depression and anxiety for quite some time. A once active vibrant being who was attending college, singing in the choir and happy; now says that she cries at the drop of a hat, lives life in pain and is full of anger and frustration at the fact that despite all her visits to the Dr. and multiple symptoms, nobody can seem to give her an official diagnosis. Her Pediatrician, who she saw until age 21, made the decision that she should stop attending college. She had missed a lot of class due to ER & Dr. visits, was falling behind and suffering daily with joint pain as she traveled from class to class making her late and aiding in her emotional instability.

Vicki’s biggest challenge is that she has a variety of symptoms that may or may not be connected to one another. The majority of us in our support group have an official diagnosis, though any form of nevus can certainly follow its own set of rules, it offers us a sense of relief to know exactly what it is that we are up against. I sympathize with her lack of certainty.

So how does Vicki cope? When she was about 22 she began using occasional marijuana. Her Doctors are aware of this choice and she states that it allows her to forget about “Everything” and manage her pain. I understand that this can become controversial but it is important for everyone reading this to understand that Vicki is coming from a place of struggle. I live in a very liberal state where this is normal for me to see on a daily basis. Living in pain and lacking the ability to enjoy life often leads us to any form of relief. Traditional medicine has failed to provide results at this time though she intends to follow-up with a Psychiatrist at some point and potentially start a medication regimen for the Mental Health side of things, but that is down the road. In the meantime she copes how she can, and knows how too with the support of her Physicians, family and friends. She continues to attend church and assist with the choir, something that has brought her joy since childhood.

Vicki’s case is complicated and rare, many physicians are led to a dead-end but it has not stopped her from pushing forward to find answers.

Vicki told me that she has 2 goals in life… first, to bring awareness around the World to invisible diseases. She wants to educate people to understand that not every disease requires a wheelchair, people with “invisible diseases” often get overlooked. She would also like to travel and hopes to one day be in a place both physically and mentally to see these dreams come true.

She recognizes that bad days will happen and the only way she will feel good during those times is to surround herself with positive people.

It’s human nature to fear the unknown, I for one struggle with “surprises” or not having a plan on a daily basis. Where some people thrive in going with the flow, I need structure and answers. I cannot even begin to imagine a life full of medical mysteries with little to no answers.

As the famous Lauren Hill once said:

“We can’t plan life. All we can do is be available for it.”

Vicki’s story brings to light an issue our society shys away from and I respect her willingness to let me share it, you may or may not know, that I work in Mental Health. I hear people day in and day out feel ashamed that they came to see us or express their families discontent with admitting any sort of psychological discord. It’s shameful to me that we still live in a world where Psychological concerns are not treated as openly and regularly as Physical ones. From day one my biggest concern about Mermaid’s disease was how she would handle it emotionally. Would this disease in any way, shape or form dictate her daily happiness or prevent her from doing things “normal people” do.

To me, with everything Vicki has endured, the most important one to speak about is the emotional effects. The reality is that we are dealing with an incurable disease, one day Vicki may get that official diagnoses confirming some form of nevus and we can share remedies we have used to ease the discomfort; but for now, we cannot cure it. Diagnosis or not, it sure presents as many others I have seen. I want to see us having more conversations about the emotional effects and aiding eachother in the healing of our souls. Afterall, we heal from the inside out.

Tonight both Vicki and I prescribe all our fellow nevus owners a dose of Reggae, listen to her current favorite song, “I’ll take you there” by Vybz Kartel and know you have friends from across our great country wishing you all the best.

Tonight Vicki, you are an Honorary Mermaid, Thank you for being so candid with me and sharing your story, where these stories are just small blips into the struggles one lives with on a daily basis they serve as a reminder that we are all human and our skin will not define us. You  are brave and helping us to forge a road of acceptance.

Thanks for walking with us today,

Mermaid’s Mommy