We are all faced with at least one event, one experience that shapes us, changes us, and forever transforms us. It etches out a path, trailed with the obstacles and joys that may stem from our transformative experience. We're drawn to this path like a moth to a candle, we may fly elsewhere but we are always drawn back.
Familial Adenomatous Polyposis is that transformative moment that lasts a lifetime for me. For someone unfamiliar with FAP, it's hard to grasp the full meaning of what FAP is and how it changes a person. FAP is more than a mere chronic illness, it is more than a lifetime of coping and managing a disease. Every aspect of one's life is touched along with the potential for generational changes. In the midst of the horror that is FAP, inspiration and goodness is able to sprout. These buds provide deep wells of strength, compelling us to forge on, lighting our path.
I've shared my struggles with FAP throughout this time; the new and old challenges, haunting memories, overwhelming fears. There's more though to the true depths of FAP, it's easy to overlook as it's overshadowed by the medical, the now that constantly berates us for our attention.
FAP is my disease, it is what makes me me. I own this disease, I know nothing different. I am the last known in my family to have inherited this disease. I come from a long line of FAPers and I'm not sure if any of the descendants of my great uncles and great aunts have FAP as the family has lost contact. As a child, the only individuals I knew with FAP, who were like me, were my grandfather and my mother.
FAP is my taker. I endured the constant barrage of death taking loved ones since I was an infant but I was to be surrounded by FAP as well. Not only was FAP within my genes but it was attacking my mother while I was developing within her womb. My life was to be intertwined with the mixture of death and FAP in a twisted poetic sense. Shortly after my birth, my mother discovered she had stage II colorectal cancer. At 3 months old, I nearly lost my mother to FAP and the cancer it brought. Real or not, I have always had the vision of myself as an infant sitting or lying atop my mother's stomach while visiting her in the hospital as she fought for her life. Years later FAP took my grandfather from me - he survived colon cancer but decades later developed stomach and esophageal cancer courtesy of FAP.
FAP doesn't end with the removal of the colon. The polyps often spread, we're at risk of associated cancers and other complications. There is no security with FAP. These complications limit my everyday life. Food and activities are my enemies, easily upsetting the delicate balance of my stomach and my body. Stress and lack of sleep aggravate my symptoms further creating obstacles. Everyday is a new day, a new race for the end of the day onto the next. No longer do I have easy choices, I am forced to make some of the most difficult decisions I have been faced with and as a result long time dreams have been stolen from my grasp. I can no longer think of the present only or what I want, I must take into consideration the greater good for the long term. Decisions I am still preparing to disclose that have ripped apart my heart.
Somehow, FAP has also become my giver. In the course of changing my life with ongoing medical issues, trials, and even near death, it sent me on a road that I'm not sure I would have traveled without the guidance of FAP. Amidst the landmines, FAP gave me a beaten path that led me to a beautiful oasis. I couldn't be more grateful for the treasures of my life. I have found blessings around every corner - through my parents, spouse, friends, school, and employment. FAP gave me a compassionate understanding, strong will, incredible sense of determination, and need for security. This combination has driven me throughout my life to conquer my goals. I have managed to achieve the goals I set forth and continue efforts to reach new goals. My doctor, parents, and I were uncertain of what my body would withstand. Without disability accommodations with my schools, I wouldn't have been able to complete high school or college as scheduled. My first attempt at full time employment was a failure; the stress crippled my body. I will never forget the lessons I learned and the skills I gained. With each trial, each failure, and each success I withdraw information about myself necessary for my survival so that I may try again and reach higher. FAP even shaped my career, steering me into the medical field with the intent of improving medical experiences for others. I am amazed by where I am in my life now. Although I would have easily made it here without FAP, the journey is that much more beautiful and triumphs that much sweeter because of the obstacles set forth by FAP.
In spite of my triumphs, FAP and fortune are not always so kind and can change directions without notice. We can't be safe guarded forever from the complications of FAP. Many are lost to the devastation of FAP and there will be many more. This is not an easy battle to win and we are at a disadvantage due to the rarity of FAP. Too many of us have doctors who are unfamiliar with FAP and attempt to lead us in the wrong directions in our care. I have fought to end FAP in my family. Now I would like to expand my fight and join the ranks of others battling to end FAP for future generations, prevent the development of colorectal and associated cancers and reduce or eliminate the other risks and complications for present FAPers.
It's these personal touches and steering by FAP in my life that led me to launch the FAP Research Fund Fundraiser. My hope is to launch this fundraiser regularly in partnership with National Organization for Rare Disorders. I have had the life long goal to change the course of FAP so that others close to me may not suffer as I have, I take this hope to the community now. As a community, we are stronger. As a community, our impact is greater. I ask you to join me so that we may fight along side one another against this disease.