I don’t remember a time when I did not know what Neurofibromatosis is. My earliest memories are of my Grandmother and Uncle in hospital beds at my Great-grandmother’s house. I would crawl into the bed with my Grandma Norma and she would bribe me with little cookies. She couldn’t hear me and was so skinny, but had the most beautiful Colombian accent. My Uncle was only 25 but as a child I thought he must be older than my grandfather, his crooked smile and patched eye only added to his character. By the time I was 7 they had both passed, and all I had were photos that still hang on my walls, fading with time.
My memories of my mother are much more complicated and expansive. As a child I watched in awe when she dressed and did her makeup, she was vain and beautiful. As a teenager I averted my gaze in fear as I helped her dress, her entire spine mottled by layers of thick scars across a back that was hunched over from being cut open countless times. The makeup was long discarded, her face drooped in uneven frowns, her eyes unable to produce the tears she so needed to release. 10 years. In 10 years NF2 took an amazing, vibrant, and crazy woman, and robbed her of her vitality, beauty and purpose. I assumed the same would happen to me. Every surgery, every scar, every tumor, I would one day relive and call my own. I vowed to live fast and die young, throwing sand in the face of NF2 and taking away its power. I had surgery after surgery and began to lose things I always knew I would. I was numb and in pain at the same time, I saw no other way to exist. My son JT was born and I knew he had NF2. It was confirmed when we found out he was blind in one eye from a tumor. I had more surgery, and then became completely Deaf. Soon after, my mom passed away. I was alone and surrounded by hearing people who only seemed to care about trivial things. I joined the support group my Mom had always leaned on, the NF2 Crew. I met other people going through the same things, and much worse. People who were still going to school, working, and accomplishing things without using NF2 as an excuse. I knew things had to change.
Then, I discovered running and the NF Endurance Team. An entire group of people with the same concerns and fears I had who were fighting back and inspiring others to do the same. My first event was the Long Beach ½ marathon in 2008. As the race started and people began to move forward I thought back on my journey. Each mile was another memory to embrace and leave behind, another NF friend I had met, or even lost. I proudly wore my bright yellow singlet, and crossed the finish line into the arms of my husband. I had accomplished something concrete by raising money for CTF, but I had gained so much more along the way… acceptance, friendship, and purpose.I run because it helps me to release the pain, I run because I know my lost loved ones are proud, I run to show others that you can overcome anything, but mostly I run because I can, and I never ever want to forget that again.
Never Give Up Hope.