More Than Just Two Front Teeth

The two front teeth had to go. At the age of seven, Marcus’ set of teeth had been all strong, almost perfect, with no sign of degrading until one day my wife found one new tooth coming out behind his upper front teeth. So yesterday, the two front milk teeth finally got extracted to let the new one take its normal place.

Just like his first trip to the same dentist, no tear whatsoever was shed on his first teeth extraction. Props to the pediatric dentist who took time to explain to Marcus on what to expect during the whole process—that’s on top of our similar discussion while on our way to the dentist’s clinic inside the SM mall. It would have been a better if his cashier gave us PWD discount.

Missing teeth, yes. Charm, no.

The experience was more awkward than painful for Marcus as he wouldn’t want to be seen toothless in school. The good news, or bad news, he won’t be inside a classroom together with his classmates anymore.

It was Monday, last week of October, when he asked us if he could stop going to school. We saw it coming as we observed lately that he finds it more difficult to wake up, let alone rise on his own but we decided to wait until he tells us about it because we can see back then that he still likes being in school despite his condition. While his request made it official that there will be no more sleepy trips to school, for both of us, his teacher and the school’s principal were kind enough to allow him continue studying at home if he wants to. Last week he took his last exam and said goodbye to his classmates. Most of them cried, yes, including the boys and his teachers.

Look ma, no hands! (He was Batman last Halloween but unfortunately we arrived late and did not catch the villains, I mean, his classmates.)

With the absence of worries about grades, something easily took over his study period. Minecraft. Other than his XBox, Marcus now has his Minecraft PC. This PC version of the sandbox game is actually a whole lot better than its XBox 360 counterpart as there are free maps and mods that can be downloaded and installed. Surprisingly, in a matter of weeks since I purchased this game as a reward for his good grades in school, he can already install the mods and maps by himself. He was quick to learn to remember and type the path AppData.minecraftsaves (and mods where he can extract his mods) to install his maps. Well, it lasted until he broke the HP laptop keyboard’s S key, and X, and A, and a couple of other frequently used game keys. So just like his two front teeth, he lost his HP laptop. The latter should teach him a lesson to control his emotions, to take good care of his prized–in this case, pricey–possessions.

To be honest, parenting Marcus is now tougher. A whole lot tougher, trust me. We figured that ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ approach is now out of the question. Disciplining him has to be done the other way and sometimes it gets frustrating. The heart and muscles of kids with DMD are sensitive and are degrading faster over time. This means that we are doing our best not to upset Marcus. We do our very best not to make him trip or fall, we don’t want him to stress nor hurt his muscles and even his heart and especially his emotions. So how do you parent a child with such condition, one whose body is frail but with a personality so strong? Sometimes I wish it’s the other way around.

If the tooth extraction went well, as if nothing happened, the recent blood extraction result was the complete opposite. While he seem able to take the pain of the pierce of a needle, we soon found out that Marcus’ dystrophin is leaking wildly relative to normal level, and it is worse than before. In April this year we were looking at 15,000 U/L and in October it has elevated to 30,000 U/L. The normal level is 150-150 units per liter (U/L). It’s that bad and the current dosage of CoQ10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid supplements seem to be of no help. If only there’s a way to patch up this one. This Christmas we all want more than just his two front teeth.

***

We just learned that our version of Mrs. Wilson is sick and in the hospital. Get well soon, from Marcus a.k.a your Dennis The Menace.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I don’t know if I should be happy to once again skip the opportunity to watch this Everyday I love You movie with wifey.)

Do you believe in monsters?

The charm of a movie does not always have to be based on hype but sometimes it is on how an audience relates to it. Sometimes it is both and when that happens it becomes one worthy movie to watch. This is the case for the movie Goosebumps  which we first learned from Marcus, thanks to YouTube.

Goosebumps is a movie based on a popular book and TV series back in the days when its present young fans like our son weren’t around yet and when TV were showing more entertaining and intelligent shows. Fortunately for us there is the trusty Hollywood that allows us to reminisce the good old days while seated beside our ever curious children and as we blindly dig our hands into same cheesy popcorn bucket.

What I personally like about Goosebumps is its appeal to people who like to read and write regardless of skill. As a so-called blogger, it never ceases to amaze me how an author’s imagination could be translated into words, into sentences, into paragraphs, into pages, and finally into a book with a plot that is entertaining, interesting and more importantly, one that millions of readers could very well relate to.

We believe in monsters.

For moviegoers as young as Marcus, the idea of monsters becoming real may be something new. Goosebumps, however, surely isn’t the first to show monsters coming out of books. Do not ask me to cite examples as I am bad in recalling movie titles but I just know that there have been others ahead of Goosebumps yet it does not mean that all is lost.

For one, it is worth noting the presence of the actor Jack Black as one of the main casts. Like his previous roles in movies like School of Rock and Nacho Libre, Jack Black continues to prove that he is among the top actors not just for comic relief but also when there is a need to inject the element of mystery. In the movie Jack Black plays the role of R.L. Stine who is the original author of the Goosebumps series that became popular in the 90s. The movie’s story goes that R.L. Stine was once outcast—could be true in real life—who isolated himself from the bullies of society and, eventually, in the confines of his room wrote stories that have monsters in it. He wrote so much stories of the same genre that he has lost count how many monsters he has created which later on became too much to handle when everything got out of his books and terrorized a sleepy village in Madison, Delaware.

Goosebumps should also remind us that there were times when authors spend endless nights on their typewriters—or others still do?—to create that one story that would soon make it into the bookshelves and bed sides around the world. Yes, the typewriter, the machine, that makes weird mechanical noise that could be very well mistaken as monsters by kids of the touchscreen age.

What fascinates me about people like R.L. Stine and even Stephen King is their influence. They create stories to escape reality, their readers read to escape the same reality—and others would even be so inspired that they become good writers in their own right. Let us not forget, however, whether we like it or not, that reality bites—literally and figuratively. That there aren’t really monsters, that fantasy has its end, and that the last page exists.

The good news, as R.L Stine said in the movie, “there are three elements in my stories, the start, the end, and the twist.” True enough just when everything seems to be cliché, good guys beat bad guys, Goosebumps makes its audience look forward to something until its next installment returns, until we see the invisible boy. We now crave for more.

***

In hindsight, there are real monsters in our midst. Some in the form of bad politicians, bad traffic, bad boss, and even bad afternoon shows.  Each one of us are battling our own monsters and there is one that lives inside Marcus which he continues to fight head on. It is one that’s cannot be seen by the naked eye but is much scarier than those of R.L. Stein’s.

No tears shed on this second blood extraction for this year.
We got him a fitting cap for his bravery after the extraction. One that Super Mario wears and one that could very well mean Super Marcus.
For the second time this weekend, we were back in the mall, this time for his first visit to the dentist to check his shark tooth. No tears here as well.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I will get the blood extraction result today. Fingers crossed.)

Our First DMD Awareness Day

As America observes Labor Day some people all over the world celebrate Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) Awareness Day and I, my wife, and Marcus were among those who participated in our own simple way. Kudos to wifey, she had a perfect plan on how we should go about it which is by celebrating the day together with people whom Marcus stay with five days a week.  So today, we surprised his classmates during their lunch break.

Wifey and I went to the school with our car and bag packed. We stopped by to meet up with the one who baked the cupcakes, dropped by Greenwich for the pizza, and  we filled our backseat with red and white helium balloons from a small party needs store. In the trunk were our presentation materials—a YouTube video saved on a laptop and a wheelchair.

Questions were all over when we entered the classroom as everyone seems to wonder when they saw me pushing the wheelchair in—the sight of it entering the school gate made waiting parents’, yayas’, and guardians’ heads turn as well. But with most of his classmates already familiar with how Marcus behaves, I soon heard ahhs and ohs as a sign of their realization of  whom the attractive red and blue wheelchair belongs to. Curiosity heightened when I made a short introduction of why we are there. Then I played BrainPOP’s animation about Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Everyone was all ears.

The attentive audience.

Reactions differ as the 4-minute video played. Some smiled—after recognizing the similarities of the animated character’s traits with that of Marcus—and some tried to absorb what they have just seen. Marcus’ adviser and the school’s principal were also present and even if they are the only two adults who now begin to understand more about Marcus’ condition made our efforts to spread the word about DMD all worth it.

We capped the celebration by letting the grade one class release the red and white balloons. Everyone enjoyed the celebration so we declare our first DMD awareness day as one mission accomplished.

Saying goodbye to the red and white balloons.

***

My wife and I also took the opportunity to give everyone a heads up that sooner or later Marcus will be leaving their school and most of them cannot believe it. Other kids who are also fond of Marcus were surprised about the news. Sigh.

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Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Marcus’ 2nd time to shower in the rain.)

Life And Death And Marcus

At some point of their growing up years kids will have so much range of ideas running inside their heads. During this time their questions would reveal their developing perspective of life…and even death.

Like two weeks ago I had weird and unexpected questions from Marcus. Passing by this one establishment along our usual route to school he asked, “Daddy, what are those boxes for?” He was pointing at the funeral parlor’s caskets on display. “That’s where the dead bodies are placed,” I said plainly with the hope to dismiss the topic once and for all.

But obviously he is not done yet as another day came and this time his queries were more deduced. “Daddy, when am I going to die…will everyone die?” Trying to be subtle I answered, “Yes, when people get old, we will eventually die.” Then he followed up, “So why is lolo ‘hel still alive?”

For some strange and creepy coincidence my 80-year old father had a close call about a week after that discussion when he slipped and fell hard one rainy afternoon. Thankfully his tubes have been removed just recently and at this moment is recovering in a hospital.

Then the other night wifey told me a story. She said that while preparing to go to sleep, out of nowhere, Marcus told her, “Mommy, when I’m old and gone, please name your new baby Marcus. That way, he will still be me. I would still sleep beside you, I would still be able to check my toys.” It was something that gave me mixed emotions. For one, I find it funny as it shows his innocence, his current lack of grasp of life’s timeline. The freaky part is that it made me recall Robert De Niro’s Godsend. The sad thing is that it could be imminent and when that happens there will be no new Marcus. Probably just me and wifey and his toys.

I wouldn’t wonder though if Marcus still does not fully understand life and death because even adults do not. Life is so complex that we won’t know all about it until we have lived it to the fullest. Death will remain a mystery until have experienced or got closed to it. That’s life, that’s death.

***

He now has a PWD card. The bright side, he gets to watch free movies every week among other benefits.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (God has been testing us and so far has not failed us.)

The Wheelchair Didn’t Stop Them

On my way home this morning I saw a mother pushing her kid on a wheelchair along the side of the road and it’s one of those instances where for a couple of seconds–while behind the wheel–I would ponder how life it’s going to be for Marcus.

Man and kid on a wheelchair.  The side mirror is the same as mine but  this is a photo from Top Gear Philippines’ FB page.

Since the day we found out about his condition the sight of wheelchairs has made me feel sentimental. Anywhere I see it, I would remember Marcus. Gladly, there are days when it’s not always that bad and sad–like today, a news inspired me.

DMD did not stop this guy from achieving his goal. (Photo from abs-cbnnews.com)

The article from abs-cbnnews.com features a guy named Carl Adrian P. Castueras who recently graduated cum laude in UP Los Banos. He was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was eight years old. Shown behind him is his proud mom who according to this same article had to stop working as a marketing executive from the time she learned about her son’s condition to spend more time with him. Well, obviously her efforts and Adrian’s dedication did pay off. Good job to you brave mother and more power to you Adrian. (I read this news while waiting for wifey to finish helping Marcus prepare for school.)

Another story that had me realize that there is still indeed life after DMD–that is after learning about it–is a video I saw on YouTube.com just a couple of weeks ago.

Aaron 'Wheelz' Fotheringham
Yes, that is a wheelchair flying. (Photo from YouTube.com)

Aaron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham is a guy who despite his spinal injury–not due to DMD though–was able to successfully pull off a a back flip on his wheelchair. Here’s the video here.

I now begin to see a brighter perspective and hope that life ahead won’t be that miserable after all just by looking at these inspiring news of people being able to overcome their own disability. While I do not expect anymore for Marcus to graduate as the top of his class or become another person who can back flip his wheelchair, I do expect that he will be able to live his life to the fullest by accepting his limitations and making use of whatever capacity his mind and body will allow him to do.

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Mood: 4/10 Honks! (We tried Call of Duty: Black Ops but it’s really not for him yet. Game’s too graphic.)

Back to School 2015

Today Marcus goes back to school. Back to where he used to be instead of the one in Batangas. This time it was us who are more anxious about him going back to school after learning about his condition this year.

The thought of him mingling with active school kids gives me and my wife that uneasy feeling. We fear that he might fall while playing or even just going in front of the class. We fear that he might get depressed if he sees other kids running around without effort while he just sit and watch them. We thought that he will have new sets of classmates as we heard that none from his previous class enrolled.

Well I was wrong. I accompanied him to school this morning and I have never been more happy to see old faces and to see them excited to see Marcus. So excited that they all transferred seats to be with him.

It is also nice to discover that the school was able to complete the construction of the new rooms. Marcus now goes to an entirely different room as a grade one pupil. So far this organization have been doing a great job. I think I could now say that this is a good start to a new school year.

New classroom, old happy faces.

 

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Can’t wait to see how this day will end.)

Saturdays with Needles

It has been a week since I got inked for the very first time and as most people who do it, there is an inspiration behind each tattoo. Mine comes from Marcus and one of his favorite games, Minecraft.

That’s Minecraft’s Steve on my left chest.

The tattoo shop’s size and ambiance were not close to those of Miami Ink–a show that wifey and I used to watch back when we still have cable TV. However, I know that the experience I felt that day was the same as anyone who had their tattoo for the first time. It was a mixture of pain, excitement, and the dilemma if I could still back out and say “forget it.”

Same cannot be told of Marcus’ day with a different needle. Today, we finally accomplished his first test–among several ordered by his doctor–that requires blood extraction for CKMM which is a procedure that will determine the extent of damage to his muscles. Watching him cry was painful but what breaks my heart more was his question after the extraction, “Daddy, would I be able to jump soon?” Result comes out this Monday.

Marcus with Yaya (known to others as Frankenbob) thru good times and bad times. There’s my next tattoo idea.

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Mood: 5/10 Honks! (Still wondering why him.)