Monthly Archives: January 2016

Turner Syndrome: My Story

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Those who know me may or may not know that I have Turner Syndrome.  While I am open about Turner Syndrome, it isn’t something that comes up all that often.  I’ve struggled for years to put into words just what Turner Syndrome has meant in my life.  While I certainly wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I did not have Turner Syndrome, it has not defined me.  I admit, Turners has made certain things, such as motherhood, more challenging, but for every young girl with TS reading this, I want to make this as clear as possible:  Turner Syndrome has yet to stop me from achieving anything.  As tomorrow marks the beginning of Turner Syndrome awareness month, I am sharing my story.

My name is Lindsey Russell, and I was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome at 3 years old.  At that age, I fell off the growth charts, and I was fortunate enough to have a concerned pediatrician, Dr. Wright, who had previous experience with Turner Syndrome.  The fact that I have Turner Syndrome was then confirmed by an endocrinologist at Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center.  Even though I attempted to find out if I have classic Turner Syndrome (the entire X chromosome is missing) or mosaic Turner Syndrome (only part of the X chromosome is missing) in my 20s, I never received those copies of my medical records.  Throughout my early childhood, I had yearly check-ups in Ann Abor.  Even though I didn’t know I have Turner Syndrome until I was 10 years old, I could sense that I was somehow different.

Fortunately, I do not have the more serious heart and kidney issues associated with Turner Syndrome.  I do have a large number of moles, short stature, and infertility.  I also had issues with reoccurring ear infections as young child, which resulted in several sets of tubes (I couldn’t even tell you how many) and slight hearing loss.  In fact, I hated seeing the ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, Dr. Stoddard, because I dreaded getting another set of tubes.  For the record, Dr. Stoddard was one of the nicest doctors I ever had, and I feel terrible that I hated him so much as a child.  My fear of tubes stemmed from my memory of my last set of tubes at age four (I think).  I remember throwing up due to the anesthesia, and I was terrified I was going to have to go through that again.  For the record, I have yet to meet a girl or woman with Turner Syndrome who did not have several sets of tubes as a child.

When I was ten years old, everything changed.  In the early 1990s, HGH (human growth hormone) came into use for “treatment” of Turner Syndrome.  In fact, in later years, I met girls slightly older than me who participated in the clinical trials.  At age ten, I started daily injections of HGH.  I stayed on those shots until I was 15 years old.  In fact, the development of HGH treatment for girls with Turner Syndrome is how I found out I have TS.  In order to be considered for HGH treatment, I had to spend a night in the hospital for hourly blood tests.  As I was not sick, my parents were put in a position where they had to explain that I have Turner Syndrome.  I am deeply grateful to my parents for their honesty and their insistence that I could achieve whatever I desired.

Today, I have mixed feelings about the use of HGH for the treatment of Turner Syndrome.  I don’t believe that short stature should be treated as a disease.  It is that simple and that complex.  I completely understand why my parents decided to put me on HGH.  They simply wanted the best for me.  What I do not understand is the medical profession’s singular focus on height in girls with Turner Syndrome.  During my adolescence, there was little if any discussion of infertility, possible learning issues, or anything else.  The focus was almost exclusively on HGH, the timing of puberty and hormone replacement therapy (again, related to height), and, of course, final height.  I felt like a freak of nature.

Adolescence and puberty are hard enough; now imagine it planned, measured, and discussed at length.  Like any other adolescent girl, I just wanted to fit in.  I didn’t, and I never would.  At age 14, I had the opportunity to attend a camp exclusively for girls with Turner Syndrome.  It changed my life.  For the first time in my life, I met other girls with Turner Syndrome.  I finally met others who shared similar body and social issues.  I had the opportunity to travel halfway across the country on my own.  I attended two years, and I credit camp for giving me the confidence to study abroad repeatedly during my years at Michigan State.  By having the opportunity to meet others with TS, I realized that I am not a freak, and I am certainly not alone.

Today, after having earned degrees in supply chain management and Spanish from Michigan State University, I am going back to school to teach Spanish and/or social studies at the middle school and/or high school level.  Once I am established in my new career, I hope to adopt.  Even though the pain of infertility never fully goes away, I do believe that I am meant to adopt.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.

Women and girls with Turner Syndrome face a wide variety of physical, emotional, and social challenges.  They also happen to be one of the most highly educated and determined group of women and girls I have ever met.  Never let a label define you or let anyone underestimate your ability.

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The Enemy Within

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The Trouble With Bright Girls – Psychology Today

Undoubtedly, I am my own worst enemy.  I continually underestimate my capability, and no matter what I’ve achieved, it is never enough.  I am a perfectionist, and it rears its ugly head just when I need it the least.  The sad thing is, this article left me wondering what I would have accomplished if I felt I could try new things as a child, particularly when it came to sports and anything physical.  Once I entered kindergarten, students went out of their way to never let me forget that my body was different.  Always the last chosen for teams in gym class, I soon stopped caring or trying.  It saddens me that every day, children are told that they are not enough, that they shouldn’t even try.

Right now, I need more courage than ever.  I know I have it within me to create the life I am meant to live.  The issue becomes how to get out of my own way.  I am my own worst enemy, and it needs to stop.  Now.  Those voices of those classmates, so intent on pointing out every single physical flaw, still play in a constant loop in my head from time to time.  It is the nagging little voice that tells me that I am not pretty enough, that if it involves anything physical, I will fail.  It tells me that I am unworthy of love.  It never ends.  I have to constantly prove my own worth to myself.  Enough is enough.

The High Cost of (Not) Being Yourself – Part 2

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What It Means to Just Be Yourself and 3 Ways to Do It – Tiny Buddha

All this week I’ve been thinking about what it means to be true to yourself.  It is something I’ve struggled with lately.  For example, I’ve given a lot of thought to the type of man I would want to date.  There are a few things I know.  First, he will have to love to read and at least highly value education.  The first realization I came to in the aftermath of my breakup with my ex is that I am still attracted to intellect.  I need something interesting to talk about, something that goes beyond pop culture and a glossing over of current events or sports.  Second, I also recognize the importance of being at least understanding of each other’s political views, no matter how different or similar.  Unfortunately, many people wonder why there isn’t more actual political debate, are upset by that fact, and yet shutdown anyone with an opposing viewpoint.  The reality is that it is difficult to understand my political perspective unless you understand how growing up in a small business affected my outlook on just about everything.  The thing is, I don’t fit the traditional political paradigm well, which is another blogpost entirely.  The point is that I know exactly what I want now.  It just feels impossible to find the right man given where I live.  Then I ask myself, does it really matter?

It doesn’t matter.  If I do end up alone, so be it.  I’m used to being alone.  I know what it is like to be in an awful relationship long after its expiration date.  My entire life I’ve paid an extremely high price for being myself.  Over the decades I’ve grown, but I’ve always been true to myself, even though it may have cost me everything I thought I wanted.  I hope that one day it will pay off.  I know of no other way to be.

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Schedule and Structure: Finding Time to Write

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Overwhelmed?  Here is How to Schedule Your Online Life – BlogHer

I thrive on schedule and structure.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been easy to get a set schedule when taking class at two different institutions, subbing when able, and fitting in field work for my education classes.  I am looking forward to a traditional school schedule.  The thing is, as much as I love schedule and structure, I like variety too.  That is where my business life comes in.  During the summer, my life is completely different, and I spend most of my days working in the family business, Russell Canoe Livery.  I love having a completely different set of responsibilities for part of the year.

Unfortunately, this semester is off to a strange start.  Even with my intention of finally creating a good schedule (which includes blogging and writing in general) and a more sane class schedule, it just hasn’t worked well over the last couple of weeks.  Maybe I can put those weeks behind me and actually get somewhere.  There are so many things I that need to get done.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what I want my life to look like.  I am working on balancing a teaching career with running a family business and still find time to keep writing.  The thing is:  I know I can do it.  I’ve only been training for all of it for most of my life.  That is what so frustrating at the moment.  I can’t move on just yet.  My brother and I haven’t purchased the business yet.  I still have a semester of classes left, student teaching, and a battery of tests to take.  Once I’m done with all of that, I still need to land a teaching position.  Hopefully these tips and suggestions outlined in the article above will help me find the time to write.

The Real Reason Why You Should Travel

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Why Traveling to “Find Yourself” is the Worst Idea Ever – BlogHer

As a woman with several study abroad, alternative spring break, and traditional travel experiences behind me, I couldn’t agree with Olga Mecking more.  The title itself drew me in because, personally, I can’t think of a better way to learn about yourself.  I made the mistake of thinking “finding yourself” as synonymous with “learning about yourself.”  I could not have been more wrong.  As Mecking makes clear in her blogpost, she is talking about the impulse to shut oneself off from the world in an attempt to answer the big questions.  Why am I here?  What is my purpose in life?  Etc.

The thing is that by truly immersing yourself in another culture, it forces you to question everything you know about your own.  You naturally begin to question your assumptions and beliefs.  Also, whether study abroad or another form of travel, a change in scenery and a different culture make it easy to find yourself in situations that allow you to discover new interests, talents, etc.  Sometimes, you find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would do.

Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to my own experiences abroad.  Would I do it all over again, knowing what I know now?  You bet.  If I were a traditional college student today, would I study abroad?  Probably, although the circumstances are much different today than when I studied abroad 2000-2004.  I simply think I would ask more questions and have far more concern regarding my personal safety.  That is all probably due to my age and experience.  Of course there are things I did at 20 that I would never consider doing today.  Oh, by the way, just a little tip.  If you are planning on studying abroad in the future, do not watch the movie Hostel.  Just don’t do it.

I’ve also thought about how different study abroad would be today compared to my experiences through Michigan State.  First, it would be so much easier to pack when travelling city to city.  When I traveled all over Spain during my semester in Caceres, I always had to pack my journal, books, and portable CD player/CDs.  Today, a smartphone could easily take the place of the music and books.  Also, a small laptop or netbook could take the place of the journal.  Technology is just so much better.  Back in the early 2000s, people were just beginning to blog.  I didn’t have a blog until 2005.  Blogging would make it much easier to capture experiences, rather than just photos and journals, especially with the help of a smartphone.  I can only imagine what I would and could have created studying abroad with today’s technology.  Sadly, I remember getting actual film developed during my times in Spain and Ecuador.  Blogging allows for an immediacy that was not available to me at the time.

What advice would I give to an incoming class of college freshman?  Study abroad!  You will not regret it.  Ten years from now, you will regret it if you didn’t go.  If you are concerned about the cost, there are scholarships; there are ways to make it comparable to a semester on campus.  Also, be careful:  it is addictive.  During my time at MSU, I participated in five separate study abroad programs and alternative spring break – in Merida and Puebla Mexico – three times.  I spent a semester in Quito, Ecuador and a semester in Caceres, Spain.  I also spent a summer in London and completed two separate summer study abroad programs in Merida and Monterrey, Mexico.  When I finally came back to campus to finish my undergraduate degrees, I landed one of the best jobs I’ve ever held:  peer advisor in the office of study abroad.  As a student, I worked part-time helping other students plan their own study abroad adventures.  I consider all of it the best part of my education.  My education would not be the same without all of those experiences; I would not be the same without all of those experiences.

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Quick Update

Longed_to_ReadI finally updated some of the pages I wanted to include here.  Here is a quick explanation of each page.

About Me – A quick overview of yours truly.

Anonymous – An interesting conversation I had here several years ago with an anonymous commenter.  I still have no idea who anonymous is.

Bucket List – It is extensive.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.  What is on your bucket list?

Reading List – A list of most of the books I’ve read going back to 2009.  I may yet add some of the novels I read for my classes as well.

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Essential Questions

Essential Questions by Jay McTighe and Grant Wiggins

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Sometimes distinct areas of my life overlap.  This is one of those times.  Who knew I’d find inspiration for my blog in the required reading for one of my education classes?  I love when things like this happen.  When I first read this article, I immediately saw the potential for a series of blogposts, each one exploring an essential question, of course.

For those who don’t know, I am currently working on completing a teacher certification program that will allow me to teach Spanish and social studies at the secondary level (grades 6-12).  Add in my interest in all things relating to language, and it isn’t surprising that I will be focusing on the essential questions in those subject areas:  world languages, history and social studies, along with language arts.  I may add in a few from art as well.  Here are a few questions that left me inspired to write.  Please keep in mind that I did not come up with these questions as they are taken verbatim from the article above.  I’m not exactly sure how I will use these questions here on my blog, but they are worth noting.

Essential Questions in History and Social Studies

  • Whose “story” is this?
  • How can we know what really happened in the past?
  • How should governments balance the rights of individuals with the common good?
  • Should _______ (e.g., immigration, media expression) be restricted or regulated? When? Who decides?
  • Why do people move?
  • What is worth fighting for?

Essential Questions in Language Arts

  • What do good readers do, especially when they don’t comprehend a text?
  • How does what I am reading influence how I should read it?
  • Why am I writing? For whom?
  • How do effective writers hook and hold their readers?
  • What is the relationship between fiction and truth?
  • How are stories from other places and times about me?

Essential Questions in World Languages

  • What should I do in my head when trying to learn a language?
  • How can I express myself when I don’t know all the words (of a target language)?
  • What am I afraid of in hesitating to speak this language? How can I overcome my hesitancy?
  • How do native speakers differ, if at all, from fluent foreigners? How can I sound more like a native speaker?
  • How much cultural understanding is required to become competent in using a language?
  • How can I explore and describe cultures without stereotyping them?

Essential Questions in the Arts

  • What can artworks tell us about a culture or society?
  • What influences creative expression?
  • To what extent do artists have a responsibility to their audiences?
  • Do audiences have any responsibility to artists?
  • What’s the difference between a thoughtful and a thoughtless critique?
  • If practice makes perfect, what makes perfect practice?

Meta and Reflective Questions

  • What do I know and what do I need to know?
  • Where should I start? When should I change course? How will I know when I am done?
  • What’s working? What’s not? What adjustments should I make?
  • Is there a more efficient way to do this? Is there a more effective way to do this? How should I balance efficiency and effectiveness?
  • How will I know when I am done?
  • What should I do when I get stuck?
  • How can I overcome my fear of making mistakes?
  • What have I learned? What insights have I gained?
  • How can I improve my performance?
  • What will I do differently next time?

(McTighe & Wiggins, 2013)