Elizabette Does Tinder

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I like to be hip. I like to be cool. I like knowing the latest lingo, the ‘words on the street’— you know, like baesnatched… and I-Hope-Harvey-Weinstein-Gets-Ebola-And-Dies.

Stuff like that.

I also like to be in-the-know about technology. I want to know about the most recent apps, smartphones and those little fancy robots that run around your house to vacuum up all the Pringles crumbs you left on the floor after your latest Netflix binge. These things are important. And I must know them.

If I don’t know how something works, I feel like I’m missing out— like that one time I wanted a Polly Pocket for Christmas in 1991 and didn’t get it (even though ALL my other friends did). So, this “fear of missing out” leads me to want to try new things. But, this isn’t always a good thing.

For example, a few years ago, I tried watching Game of Thrones. Everyone had been raving about the show… It was a phenomenon unseen since Michael Jackson moonwalked across that stage in 1983 (before he got creepy). So, I borrowed a disc of the first episode of the hit HBO drama, put it in my DVD player, and hit play.

And I lasted about 17.5 minutes before I turned the damn show off.

Holy shit, I have never seen so many decapitations in such a short amount of time.

I mean, I had NO idea what was going on in the plot or who the hell those headless people were, but I had already seen too much of their blood gushing from their spinal column. It’s important to note that I have to be more invested in my characters before I’m willing to see their bodily fluids shooting into the air like the Yellowstone Geyser. And 17.5 minutes is not long enough for that to happen.

Anyway, my experience with Game of Thrones taught me that perhaps all trends aren’t always great. Not all bandwagons are worth climbing on.

The other day, was looking at the App Store on my iPhone looking for a new game to download. Near the top of the most popular list was the social/hookup/friendship/relationship app Tinder. I had heard of Tinder, but really had no idea how it actually worked. My interest was peaked. If it was at the top of the download list, it was worth learning about. I would be one of the cool kids! I would be in-the-know. It would not be like the Polly Pocket incident of 1991.

So, I downloaded the app and set up an account. A person can add a couple photos and write a really brief bio of themselves or their interests. The app then shows you the profile of folks within a 50-mile radius. You swipe to the right if the person seems interesting— you swipe to the left if the person isn’t your cup of tea. If you and another person both swipe to the right, it’s called a “match” and you’re able to type a message to that person (if you want to).

It’s a very simple premise… One quick decision. It’s like cleaning out your closet. Do you want to keep that old Green Day t-shirt, or throw it away? Dump the shirt in the trash? Swipe left. Keep it to see if you might wear it when you need to clean the shower with bleach? Swipe right.

So, I started playing the game. Err— I mean, using the app. It’s very fun and addictive. About 95% of users are trying to impress folks with their gym selfies (why must you stand in front of a mirror each time, dude?)… their sky-diving photos… and their motorcycle portraits. Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left.

As fun as it was at first, after a few hours of using the app, I very quickly found myself becoming increasingly judgmental in real life.

At a gas station, I began commenting on someone’s questionable parallel parking ability. Swipe left. Then, I criticized a guy for wearing a baseball cap with the sticker still on the bill. Swipe left. I rolled my eyes when a friend on Facebook used your instead of you’re. Swipe left. At a restaurant, I inwardly cringed at a lady for her unflattering hairstyle. Swipe left.

I was out of control.

I quickly realized that it was Tinder that had turned me into an intolerant and heartless version of myself. If I wasn’t careful, I’d turn into something really horrible. Like an Olsen Twin.

Enough was enough. So, after having the app on my phone for a grand total of 47 hours, I deleted it.

There are some trends that just aren’t worth it.

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The Magic Little Bottle

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I never imagined that one tiny glass vial could ever consume so much of my time, my thoughts… my efforts. My quest for this magic little bottle—this miracle drug— has been months in the making. But, on a recent July day— a resplendent blue-skied morning— it finally happened.

Spinraza is now real.

For those of you that haven’t been following my journey, you can read my past writings on this topic HERE. But, if you’re one of those people that used Cliff Notes or Spark Notes in school and are actually too lazy to go and read these posts, here’s a recap…

Right before Christmas, the FDA approved the very first treatment for my rare genetic condition— Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This progressive neuromuscular disease is the #1 genetic killer of children under two years of age— but there’s a small segment of us that manage to survive into adulthood. There is no cure. Due to a missing gene on my 5th chromosome, I am not able to produce a vital protein for muscle growth and maintenance. Instead, I must rely on alternate genes in my DNA to produce this protein. But, these alternate genes aren’t very reliable or productive— just like dial-up internet, a really stoned teenager, or the entire US Congress.

This revolutionary new medication tweaks my alternate genes, allowing them to produce more protein than before— like when Peter Parker was bit by that weird spider that changed his DNA and turned him into superhero. Don’t worry, though, I won’t be climbing walls or spewing webs from my wrists like Spider-Man. This is a treatment, not a cure. But, gaining just a little strength would make a big difference in my life.

In all honesty, I never thought I’d live to see the day when there was a real treatment for my disability. Just like I never thought I’d live to see an orange-tinted, reality television star become President of the United States.

So, yeah, I guess anything can happen.

Since the FDA approval in December, I’ve been laboring to get this treatment, having to surmount many obstacles. For example, there were tests of all varieties— physical and pulmonary exams, blood tests, genetic screenings, a polygraph test, and a breathalyzer.

Okay, I might have made those last two up.

I also had to contend with the insurance hurdles to get this very-expensive medication covered. At $125,000 per injection, Spinraza is an orphan drug— which means that it is so incredibly specialized that only the few of us with SMA can actually use it. Drugs like these are years in the making, so if only a small number of people can use them, each dose has to be very pricey to recuperate the costs.

Last month, the excellent team at Stanford Neuroscience called that I had been given the “green light” to begin treatment. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Just like the first time I drank a pumpkin spice latte and the day I first got an iPhone.

So, this week, we headed over to Palo Alto for my first lumbar spinal injection of Spinraza. The sky was blue with promise and there was anticipation crackling in the air. It took over an hour for two doctors to carefully maneuver the tiny needle into my spinal fluid— dodging the complexities of my scoliosis (the side effect of my SMA) as they went. But, with the help of live x-ray guidance, they did it.

When the nurse brought out the magic little bottle of Spinraza, I felt tears of joy, not pain, rush into my eyes. And when she finished injecting the vial into my spinal fluid, she said, “Elizabette— it’s in.

Even though I had gone through a lot to get to this moment, I knew in an instant that my journey was really just beginning.

So, stay tuned, folks.

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xoxo

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