I’ve always found it difficult to share my feelings with other people. I would keep it all to myself. This, however, changed when we received the latest diagnosis for both my daughters.
Let me start by giving you some background information about me and my family: It’s just me and my girls, and we live in Holland. We are also known as the bendy bunch, all three of us have Ehlers Danlos syndrome. And as a bonus, we all have some similar and some different additional illnesses (which we like to refer to as extra toppings). Mine are adenomyosis, dilated aorta, retinal vein occlusions, high blood pressure, and I no longer have my own teeth. Both my daughters have POTS, ME and as we know now since June this year Craniocervical Instability (CCI), Atlantoaxial instability (AAI), hindbrain herniation, and the youngest is close to brainstem compression. When they were giving out chronical illnesses, we were obviously front in line… And I’m pretty sure I forgot to write some of them down.
The shock of these new diagnoses
The latest diagnoses were a shock. We’ve been dealing with chronic illnesses for quite a while now, but this one really gave me a scare. Not one, but both my girls have a life-threatening and life-limiting disease. And as I usually do when I get stressed, I started planning and
As I continued to process this, my thoughts went in all different directions as my emotions went into a spin. You wouldn’t have known that, though. On the outside I was calm and rational, and I tried to stay that way. I had to be strong for my daughters. They needed to know that everything would be okay, or at least, as normal as possible. When we received the news about these diagnoses, the adrenaline took over and I went into first, second and third gear. I’m still feeling it after two months because if I let go of this adrenaline, I’m afraid I’ll break down. And that’s not an option.
Creating a Foundation and Establishing a Social Media Presence
In the last two moths following the diagnoses I started a foundation called Help Jane & Rosa battle CCI/AAI. We had to go to a notary office to make it official. As a result of the Dutch tax laws, I found that a foundation is the best way to go. Otherwise, all donations would be considered an income. Friends of mine built the website, and I deliver all of the text and images. We have also created a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel. Unfortunately, most of the videos on our YouTube channel are in Dutch, however we try to make some English versions too.
Filming these videos was really awkward for me. In the beginning of this article I mentioned that I’m not a great sharer, but as you can see, I’ve stepped outside all of those boundaries I once had. Writing about what’s going on in our lives is one thing, however filming videos was a huge step for me. If you want a grin you should check it out. Even with me speaking in Dutch you can see how exposed and awkward I feel. Luckily my daughters, especially Jane, are taking care of the video aspect. This meant I could start writing a blog for our website. All this work establishing a social media presence is to raise more awareness and to fight for an operation for both of my girls.
The Support of Friends, Family, and Aquiantances
I always knew I had great friends and family (not all of my family has been supportive, but who has a perfect family?) but what really surprised me is how supportive even my colleagues have been. Not only have they supported me by making a donation, they have also done so much more. One started designing T-shirts, one started developing calendars, and Jane’s old school of is thinking about a project for raising funds. They offer help in any way they can. I know not everyone is so lucky, and for me, receiving all this support was a true eye opener.
On the workdays I’ve been drinking my morning coffee there for over the last five years, my daughters’ illnesses have come up in some conversation. He was very concerned
All Of This Helps Me To Stay Strong
Blogging and writing about how I feel what’s going on, and where we stand is really helping me cope. Sometimes it puts things into perspective or helps me to channel my emotions in a constructive way. Today I felt sad while I was going to work. I was quiet during a meeting because my thoughts were all over the place and I felt like I could burst into tears at any moment. So, I started writing this article, thinking about all that has happened in the past two months and all that I’ve achieved. And for a chronically ill mum, with chronically ill daughters, I feel like that’s a lot.
So, I’ll keep you posted about how all of these illnesses have an effect on us and our lives, about how the fundraising is going and what difficulties comes with raising funds, and how all of this mixes with work and day to day life. Sometimes it’ll be sad, sometimes it’ll be fun and sometimes it’s just how it is. Because every day is different and life don’t always turns out as planned. And that’s okay, as long as we have each other we’ll get wherever we want to go, eventually. The love in our family will always get us through the rough spots and that’s how I stay strong.
Monique Blaauw is a mother of two daughters (20 and 19). Founder, chair(wo)man and treasurer of the Help Jane & Rosa battle CCI/AAI foundation. She has been a single mother for 18 and a half years. Works fulltime, as well as being the caregiver for both her chronically ill daughters and older mother and is chronically ill herself.