Saturday, May 16, 2015

Say Hello To My "Little" Friend

THIS IS KATIE! Say "hello" to her. She's my little friend. Seriously, my very little friend. I'm 5'2 and the top of her head only reaches right below my shoulder. No, she's not a "little" person. She is perfectly proportionate. She's just....compact. 

Katie and I met when we were almost two. I don't remember when or how we came to be best friends, but we just did. Katie was always very petite. But so was her mom and sister, and she was also premature, so it was no surprise that she was on the small side.

I remember once, when we were seven, walking through the playground during recess. I noticed that she wasn't growing as tall as I was. She was then, too, right below my shoulder, and I wasn't a particularly tall child. Regardless, it didn't seem to be much of a big deal to anyone at that time. 

Katie and Me On My 7th Birthday
When we hit middle school, things started to change. Due to her size, she became somewhat of a novelty item, and though she handled it well, I think deep down it bothered her. People thought she was "so cute," and that was fine and all, but I do remember a time that someone tried to make fun of her and I yelled, "Well, dynamite comes in small packages!" Katie just looked at me like I was a dork (which I was), but I wanted to protect my friend. 

There were a lot of things Katie went through that I wasn't made aware of. I remember occasional trips she would make with her mom, who was a nurse, to the Bay Area or UC Davis to do special testing on Katie to determine why she wasn't growing. She was pretty private about it, and I never pressed her, but somewhere in that time period, I remember her telling me that she had Turner Syndrome. That was just it, nothing major, and she and her family didn't seemed concerned about it, because now they knew what she had. 

However, Turner Syndrome can cause heart defects, infertility, kidney problems, skeletal deformities and lymphedema. Luckily, Katie wasn't on the extreme end of the spectrum with this condition, but she hasn't gone completely unscathed either. She's had some effects that aren't mine to share, but they have made an impact on her life. The point of this blog isn't to go on and on about Turner Syndrome, or to drum up any sympathy. Besides, if Katie knew I was writing this, she'd tell me to stop, because she doesn't like to be the center of attention. But, being who I am (pushy and enthusiastic), I want to celebrate her because she deserves it. 

Despite whatever circumstances Katie has been given, she's always powered through them. She's what I like to call, "a natural born survivor." And my God, is she independent! I took her to Sweden last year and she had no problem maneuvering her way around, paying for things like train tickets, or retail items. She LOVED just being there and was happy to get in on the action. I just stood there like a dumbass (mind you, I've been there several times) watching her do things that I'm too much of a coward to do! And this is how it's always been. 

Katie would never say that she's "brave." But she is even more than that. She's fearless adventurous. She's intelligent and funny as hell (seriously, she’s so funny, I’ve begged her to write a blog). She's compassionate and fiercely loyal. And lastly, she's one of the best friend's anyone could ever hope for. This could be why I no longer consider her just my best friend, but instead a "sister from another mister." She's family. And in my home, my children call her "Auntie Katie.” 

Last night my "sister," put out a post on Facebook sharing some news about a charity walk called "Chasing Butterflies," which takes place in Portland, Oregon on June 20th. This walk is in support of Turner Syndrome, and intended to bring awareness and research to a condition that affects up to 1 in 2,500 girls. Unfortunately, mainstream doctors aren't always familiar with this condition. Often times they don't treat patients with Turner Syndrome proactively to make sure they start checking their vitals and organs often enough. 

Within the last year Katie has become more active in the Turner Syndrome community. Thanks to social media, she's reached out and met new friends with this same condition from all over the world. This summer she will be attending a conference so she can become more involved in this effort to promote awareness. I've honestly never seen her so happy and comfortable in her own skin. She's found a place where people really understand her, because they are her. 

Because I love my "little" friend, I want to support her however I can. I've shared her exciting news, I've donated to her cause, and I've tried to recruit others to support her endeavor. But sometimes, people just don't. Maybe because they don't understand the importance of it...or they don't understand the importance of the person it's affecting. So, this is my attempt. I wanted you to know about this person named Katie. My best friend and "sister," who deserves so much more than what she's asking for. I wanted to put a face behind the cause. 

I hope you'll consider supporting her. I've enclosed some links on Turner Syndrome and the Fundraising page. Any little bit helps.

Thank you, friends!


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