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  • Writer's pictureKelly Marks


You always hope your kids only inherit your good genes: strong teeth, good hair, athletic abilities. Madi did pretty well until we realized she had my propensity for headaches. They started when she was small. One day she was in her car seat in Paul’s mom’s car.  She told her grandma she had a headache and didn’t feel well.  Paul’s mom informed her that children didn’t get headaches.  This proclamation was followed by Madi throwing up all over the interior of her car.  One of them learned a lesson!

When she was in fourth grade, I noticed that the pattern in her headaches had changed. Her doctor referred her to a neurologist. Trying to be practical, I decided to take her to the optometrist prior just so we could rule out bad eyesight, which also would be inherited from me.

Dr. Hamp immediately told us what the problem was : Madi had something called a pseudo tumor. It’s when your body produces too much fluid in your spinal column, which in turn puts pressure on your optic nerve. It manifests itself with persistent headaches, and left untreated, it causes blindness. The eye doctor told us the official diagnosis would have to come from the neurologist, and it was a diagnosis of exclusion. The bloodwork showed nothing, neither did the CT scan, the spinal tap was what confirmed it. A very simple medication took care of it, but we were informed it could recur.

Twelve years have passed with no trouble. Still having headaches, but nothing major – until recently, and I noticed the patterns had changed once again.

The optometrist seemed the right place to start, and sure enough he saw inflamed optic nerves. She would need to see a neurological ophthalmologist. I know millennials get teased about everything really, but especially about their use of being “triggered." It’s a real thing. It happened to me. Even though we are 90% sure it’s the same thing again, and it can be easily fixed – I worry.

This time she’s not nearby. I can’t keep an eye on her or make it better. She’s back at school navigating the healthcare system with different doctors and needing different insurance, and you know how much I love insurance companies.

For a few weeks I have lived with worry, a tightness in my chest, and an inability to sleep. Until I thought of something.

If you know me at all, you know I am a huge proponent of gratitude including both the act of keeping a gratitude journal and the science behind gratitude itself.  So much so that it is even a part of the speeches I give, and yet I had completely forgotten that in my “triggered state.“

I braced myself, and the first time I said thank you, I also included the line “you know I don’t mean this.” The second time, I didn’t mean it either, but the tightness in my chest shifted a little. In not too long of a time I recognized this whole thing as a chance to grow.  I will never be thankful for anything that makes my loved ones hurt, but one of my favorite authors, Fr. Richard Rohr explains that we are always eager to take a pill or do whatever it takes to “fix it immediately” but growth happens in the suffering.  As I wait (impatiently) and calmly (trying to be) for answers, I will say Thank You and maybe eventually I’ll mean it!

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