Saturday, April 18, 2009

Uncharted Territory

I remember learning about explorers in school. You know, the whole Christopher Columbus, Jacques Cartier, and that guy who went around the world (Cook? No, no, not Jules Verne). I remember being caught up in the romantic ideas of going though uncharted waters, visiting strange lands, yada yada yada. You get the picture.

We're moving into uncharted territory on three fronts in this house:

1. Abby has been seizure-free for over one year! She's never been that long without a seizure in her life (her previous record was approximately 7 months before she was diagnosed with IS). The thought that her seizures may be gone (at least for awhile) is both thrilling and terrifying. Will she still be my child with epilepsy? At what point do they stop being referred to as epileptic? Or is it like being an alcoholic, you never really fully recover as the possibility of relapse is always darkening your door?

Either way, I'm so very, very thankful for having this precious, precious year without a seizure. It's been wonderful to see her grow and develop unobstructed by the damaging fits. I hope we can throw that map away, and never sail that sea again.

2. Rachael is rapidly approaching 7 months of age, and I realized a day or two ago that we're moving into uncharted territory with her too. I've never had an average child after Abby's diagnosis and everything went to shit (sorry mom, bad word, I know). The second half of Abby's first year of life passed in a blur of daily ACTH injections, thrice weekly hospital visits for blood work and blood pressure readings, doctor's appointments, EEG's, more blood work, more doctor's visits, MRI's, 7 daily doses of 3 different oral medications, hospital admissions, visits from my social worker... my head is swimming just thinking about it.

I was trying to corral Rachael into her diaper, thinking, "I never had so much trouble diapering Abby at this age!". Then I remembered Abby at that age.....................

What is a normal 7-month-old like anyway? When do babies normally crawl? When will she start speaking? Waving bye-bye? I don't really know! I get to experience all kinds of firsts that, in a sense, I sort of missed out with when Abby was oh so very sick.

I feel kinda cheated that I missed all that with Abby, but also like I've been given a second chance. Rachael is, in a lot of ways, a little Abby 2.0. I see her big sister in that face. I get to experience that babyhood that Abby missed, and was forced to grow up out of far too fast. I'm looking forward to it.

3. This gluten-free, casein-free diet (GFCF). We removed dairy (and the offending casein protein) from Abby's diet several months ago, and it's made a substantial difference in her maladaptive behaviours. She can sit and concentrate far better, she's less aggressive, she's needing less of that constant vestibular stimulation, and her language skills have vastly improved. She still misses the dairy (she was determined she was going to have milk at Nana's house when she saw the carton in the fridge, she was also sneaking cheese at Auntie's house at Easter from the taco salad dippy thing and feeding the parts she didn't like [such as lettuce] to the dog, and forget about reusing old cottage cheese containers as poor-man tupperware!), but is generally happy with the level and variety of foods I can provide. She's about 95% casein-free, and it's a balance between what she can tolerate and what is relatively simple to provide.

We're moving now into the gluten-free phase of the diet. I needed to learn a different vocabulary. Xanthan gum? Guar gum? Teff? Jowar flour? It's taking some experiementation, but we're starting to get the hang of it. (My husband told me this morning that this GFCF diet thing was not too bad, so I'm taking that as a compliment!) Let me tell you, it's hard. I have to totally rethink what I give her.

Luckly, there's been so much research and awareness in recent years about gluten intolerances due to Celiac's disease that there's lots of "maps" of where we need to go. But you know how it is when you're trying to navigate a new city even with a map in hand: it's still confusing as hell.

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