I have mentioned before in this blog that beauty has gotten me out of the worst times. Even though I have touched on it, I never dove in and explained just how much the beauty community has helped me. Sit back, grab a snack. This post is going to be long and in depth……I have never been just a “normal kid” living a “normal life.”
To start, we need to go way back. I’m not talking days, weeks,or months. I’m talking years…..I’m talking 20 years.
In 1998 I was two and fell in love with makeup……..Just kidding. In 1998 I really was 2, but what really happened is that my life changed forever. My sister was born in August of that year. She was a perfectly healthy baby and my mom had a typical and by the book pregnancy. It wasn’t until about 4 months later that they realized something was wrong. No milk was being produced, she was getting sick all of the time, she had gained about 85 pounds rapidly. He face swelled up and looked like a moon. She was not my mom anymore. After tons of tests, it was confirmed that my mom had cushing’s disease.It is a disease that is commonly found in dogs. The official definition is “Cushing’s disease is a serious condition of an excess of the steroid hormone cortisol in the blood level caused by a pituitary tumor secreting adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is a hormone produced by the normal pituitary gland.” In earth speak, her body was producing too much Adrenalin. The key with her, was that there was no tumor to be found. Not a single one. To be safe, her doctor decided to remove her adrenal glands and stop the production of Adrenalin all together. This one surgery took cushings and instantly turned it into the opposite disease known as addison’s. This disease, occurs when your body produces insufficient amounts of certain hormones produced by your adrenal glands. In Addison’s disease, your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol and often insufficient levels of aldosterone as well.
Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease occurs in all age groups and affects both sexes. Addison’s disease can be life-threatening……We almost lost my mom numerous times. Our house went from one toddler and one infant, to a toddler, an infant, and a hospital bed. I have few memories with my mom for a few years. My grandmother moved in, I went to school, my dad worked, and my mom slept.
Everything turned pretty steady for awhile. The next 12 years or so were pretty anti climactic. She became dependent on her medicine, it kept her healthy and alive, We had our mom back and she was as normal as we could ever hope for……….
Alright lets fast forward to 2010. I was now 14 and living in Colorado. My dads job had moved us out there in 2007 and those 3 years were great. No trips to the hospital, no sickness from my mom we were doing as good as can be. Or so I thought. My dad started not feeling great, I remember this morning, he told me he was going to the doctor because he was experiencing some pain and thought it might be kidney stones which he has had before. Boy were we wrong. I’ll spare you the less than pleasant details and sum it all up in a few words. They found blood in the stool, and a mass on the colon….Yup that is right, in 2010 my dad and only healthy parent I had was diagnosed with colon cancer. The doctors in Colorado got our hopes up and told us that they believe that it was treatable, and at a low enough stage for good results. Something in the back of my parents heads told us that we should take a trip home to Boston for a second opinion. Our hospitals are state of the line, we trusted them, we have worked with them while my mom was sick and so they went. The two of them flied home while my sister, my grandma and I stayed home…..Only my mom came back. That stage 2 diagnosis turned into stage 4. My dad stayed in Boston to start treatment immediately. They made the decision to move us back home to be closer to family and the best medical sites in the country. It is all a blur. From the time he was diagnosed only 3 weeks passed before we moved home. Chemo, radiation, surgery. We have tried everything and the cancer continues to grow. The doctors gave my dad a prognosis of 2.5 years. I officially was the child of two terminally ill and disabled parents.
From 2010-2014 everything seemed to work. My mom was doing fine, I had graduated high school that year, my dad was continuing with bi-weekly chemo infusions. It was as good as it possibly could be. Fall of 2014 I had gone off to college about two hours away. I came home in December for winter break and here is where the story get interesting and real.
December 15, 2014 I had been home for two days and my mom had been sick. She had low energy, wasn’t eating and had been in bed. We thought it was a bug, we thought she just needed rest. Something in my head clicked. It was about midnight when I walked upstairs to check on her. She was not herself, she could barley speak, fell asleep mid sentence. It was not normal. I woke my dad to tell him. He assured me that he would keep and eye on her and let me go to sleep. 3am rolls around and I wake up and my dad and I decided to check on her together. We helped her to the bathroom and on her way back. It happened. She lost consciousness. She became delirious. we called 911 and the ambulance came. The brought her to our local hospital and after taking one look at her, they knew they could not help her. Back in the ambulance she went and into the city they brought her. Brigham and Womens Hospital would now become our home.
3 days, little improvement and one code blue ( yes a code blue) later, They decided that in order to keep her alive she would need to be placed in a coma and put on lots of machines to pump her blood. The doctors summed it up as broken heart syndrome. Remember when I told you earlier about addisons? That is about to come into play. Basically what had been happening over time is that the stress my mom was experiencing caused the right side of her heart to fail her. With addison’s, the body does not produce Adrenalin. She is not able to have that fight or flight instinct that we have. I remember one doctor tell us ” It is possible that she can come out of this, but I am not confident” All the doctors who came in, were not giving us great news. She was in the cardiac ICU wing. Her nurses were amazing. I was there day in and day out. From 6 am-midnight every day I was by her side. I saw her laying there. Tubes to breath, a machine to pump her heart, she was as close to being gone as possible.
Christmas morning, we got our miracle. They lessened the sedation to see her condition. She showed signs of heart and brain activity. The next month was a slow process to get her to speak, eat, and be my mom again. A Month late, we said goodbye to the hospital and hello to a rehab center. My dad still had chemo every two weeks. My sister was a junior in high school. That’s when I made my decision. I left school, and stayed home to help out my family. I got a job and became the caretaker at just 18 years old. It was time to grow up.
Now that is it for the medical side and the back story behind my stressful childhood as the daughter of two sick parents. Here is where my story starts to accelerate.
I started to spiral downward. The stress of both sick parents, PTSD from my moms hospitalization. Nightmares, robotic lifestyle. Work, rehab home. It was so much. My mom came home, and it got a little easier. She had visiting care for awhile but was never the same. She began staying in bed all the time, was still stressed and depressed about my dads prognosis. He was still getting sicker and sicker. Other than doctors visits they did not leave the house much. I started feeling like I lost my parents. I turned to a lot of drinking, doing the wrong things with people to get attention I thought I craved. Put myself in terrible relationships that were toxic. I worked as a nanny and lost all contact with people my age and felt more alone than ever. No friends, a boyfriend that was less than supportive, a job, a house with two parents constantly in bed. I was flying down to rock bottom.I tried therapy but did not receive support from home, I gained 50 pound, I hated my life and wanted to end it many times. That boyfriend finally left me for the last time. I was broken. I have never been that low before. I went to my doctor and was put on a pretty high dose of anti depressants. I wanted to be myself again. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be loved. I started communicating with my parents more. I told them how I felt and what I needed from them. Things got a little better.
One day I was on youtube and came across a beauty video. I believe it was a makeup haul or wish list. Next thing I knew, three hours had passed and I had watched 40 videos. I was pulled in. With my weight gain, shopping only made things worse. The tags had number 4 sizes larger than what I wanted to see. I became embarrassed about how I looked.But makeup, makeup was a way for me to feel and look beautiful that I could always count on. It was always going to fit, it never would be too tight or show off my fat. It was a way for me to control how I looked. It gave me confidence. It gave me hope that I was worthy of feeling good again. It was like diving into this world of acceptance, support, passion.
The last part of my story is really more of a fairy tail. Makeup and my new found confidence allowed me to put myself out there to find someone. and it worked. January of 2016 I met my best friend, my prince charming, my superhero. I met Matt. He made me feel worthy. He showed me what is was like to be loved, and respected, and cared for. He accepted me for my past, he accepted my family, he knew things in my life were tough. He didn’t care. It is now September of 2018. I am lucky enough to be engaged to my best friend. We live with both of my parents who are holding steady. My mom goes to tons of doctor appointments, they monitor her closely, she has been pretty stable lately. Although my dad is really slowing down, getting tired, and the medicine is having less of an effect; we have had time. He was given 2.5 years to live and we have almost hit 7 years since he was diagnosed. My life is good. I spend tons of time playing with makeup and beauty. When I feel sad, when i’m scared, stressed, depressed, hurt. It is always in reach. It is always right there. I can count on it to help me. It has really saved my life. I have learned to love myself again. I love my face, my body, my mind. I am working to get back to where I was. Losing weight and gaining confidence. I am not cured by any means, but makeup has put me on the right path to get there.
I know this post was WAY longer than it needed to be, but I needed to share my story. Share my past. Hopefully at least one girl will read this and get something out of it. Makeup and beauty is what saved me. If it helps someone else, I will feel like I did my part.