Hey everyone! This week I decided I wanted to take a different take on a guest writer, so I asked my best friend Carlene to write a post for me! We've been through a lot together, and I'm touched by the beautiful post she wrote! Show Carlene your support and like, comment, and share this post! :)
About 16 years ago, I was in Grade 1. As many people know, this can be a challenging transition for many children as they begin school for the first time. In my class, our teacher had something she called, “Carpet Time.” This was where she would read from a book for the entire class to enjoy, and luckily for me, this is where Courtney and I met. To say we were inseparable would be an understatement! We instantly became friends and did everything together. We would have playdates at one another’s houses, sing and dance in our made up band. We’d go puddle jumping and get soaked from head to toe. We spent lots time at the park and in the winter, we went tobogganing on the huge hill (which no longer looks that big!) at our school. The two of us were friends with many others, but throughout elementary school we vowed to remain best friends.
As we entered middle school, we were both very nervous yet excited to start a new chapter. Grade six had its new perks like getting lockers and meeting new people. The school dances were always a highlight for us, and we always attended them together if neither of us got asked by a boy! It wasn’t until Grade 7 that Courtney started to have numerous doctors’ appointments. I remember her having a large plexiform neurofibroma on her lower back (which I thought was just an abnormal birthmark) that she had removed that year. Coincidentally, I had a mole removed from my back close to the same time so I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until she started missing school for appointments that she had out of town that I started to realize that perhaps there was more going on than I had first thought. She had me tell people that she was sick or had a family emergency on days that she had to miss school, and I never questioned it because that’s what friends do, they cover for one another.
The summer after Grade 8 had ended was one of the scariest times in my life. I started to notice that Courtney had significantly started to decrease the amount of food that she was eating. I noticed that she was becoming very skinny, very fast, and I remember to this day when it dawned on me that Courtney was not eating healthily. I was so scared, and in a way I tried to mask the truth by telling myself excuses like, “She must have eaten a big breakfast and just isn’t that hungry.” I was scared that if I asked her about it or talked to her about it, it would become a reality and I wanted to believe that my friend wasn’t suffering.
It was shortly after Courtney started getting help for her anorexia that she told me what was going on. She told me all about Neurofibromatosis and how it had been affecting her. I distinctly remember her telling me, “I owe you an explanation….,” and on that day I feel like our friendship became even stronger. There was so much raw emotion and honesty that came of that moment, and it was one that I will never forget.
After that, Courtney was straightforward with me about all her appointments and follow-ups. She told me all about her lumbar puncture, and how excruciating the pain was after she woke up from the procedure. I remember going to visit her at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton when she was receiving IV infusions, and I was so happy just to be there and talk to her, even if it was just for a little while. I watched her when she had to inject herself with growth hormone. One time she even let me push the button to inject it. She fake cried when it punctured her skin, which then of course freaked me out and she started cackling away, and said I wasn’t the first person she had scared! What a turkey! She told me all about her MRI appointments, ultrasounds, x-rays, and her Botox injections for her headaches.
I remember Courtney meeting Reggie Bibbs in 2011, and how it changed her life. She decided that she didn’t want to hide who she was anymore. She went to the Mayo Clinic during that summer and when we went back to high school for our Grade 12 year, she started to open up to people about her condition. She became an advocate for finding a cure for NF, and I could see this was something she was very passionate about! Most of our friends stuck by and supported her, and would ask how her appointments went. Courtney even organized 2 fundraisers that were hugely successful in raising funds for the Friedman Lab in B.C., which is actively working on finding the cure for NF.
Courtney has continued to experience medical problems since high school, such as a suspected ruptured ovarian cyst and an increase in blood pressure resulting in having to wear a Holter monitor temporarily (the increased blood pressure ended up being a complication from one of her medications). Ultimately though, throughout this rollercoaster of emotions she has constantly been on for all these years, her contagious smile and positive attitude still manages to shine through and spreads to those around her. She truly is one of my role models in life, and I am so proud of what she has accomplished, and I’m honored to call her my best friend.
By having the passion to help others, the two of us have braved the struggles of nursing school together, and have added another best friend to our twosome. Her name is Casey, and she too has been touched by Courtney’s attitude and efforts for the NF cause. Together, I know the three of us will continue to help each other through the difficult times of life, and we’ll come out smiling because we’ll know that we have each other’s support, no matter what comes our way.