I haven't written anything in about 15 months. Pre-COVID. Pre-SATs, pre-college classes and postponed on-campus visits. Today is the first day of Heart Month, and per usual, it makes me think.
Josh is just more than halfway through his junior year of high school. Can you believe that? I started this blog in October 2014 - right around his 10th birthday.
Since that time, his interests have changed -- from Fort Nite and baseball to curfews, colleges and class rankings.
My relationship with Josh has changed too -- we are close in our own, newer ways. He confides in me about school and the pressures he's feeling. I try to help guide him through the difficulties that most teens face: making good choices, the ups and downs of relationships and the school stress he puts on himself.
It's hard. As a mom, I so very badly want to squeeze him and fix his problems, but I know I can't. So now I show him affection with guidance, the time we spend together and anything else I can grab onto.
It's been eerily quiet on the CHD front, too. I'm not used to it. Last summer, Josh's cardiologist -- for the first time ever -- told us we could go a year in between visits. It's great news, but I don't know how to handle it.
We go back in June for our regular visit, plus a stress test and CT scan. All protocol, I'm told. We'll see. I'm still hopeful that we get to summer 2022 before we have any decisions to make.
That said, these visits and conversations have changed as well. Now his talks with his doctor are more educated. More sophisticated. Josh knows his body so well. He speaks about his heart, the structure and how it works as if he's already a doctor.
They discuss college and medical schools, and shadowing opportunities (post-COVID). Josh asks him about research and how to get the right experience. He's so focused. There's never a point when I'm not in awe because as much as he and I talk about his future, this conversation is different - and he doesn't have it with us. He doesn't remember a time in his life when his cardiologist wasn't in it. He trusts him, literally, with his life.
And then there's the part that brings me back to reality. The part where he tells us that once Josh decides on a college, that he'll find us a local cardiologist "just in case." And there it is again. The reminder that he's saddled with this forever. That he'll never know a life that doesn't include cardiologist visits and possible procedures and even surgeries.
I know I should be grateful for everything. And I am. Despite all he's been through, he's healthy right now. Others have not been as fortunate. I know that. Still, there's always a small, sad spot in the back of my mind.
And that's why I don't know how to handle today's quiet - because you know it's not forever; just dormant enough to lull you into forgetting. But we know better; there's no cure.
As we walk through Heart Month, Josh continues to fight and advocate. In fact, tomorrow, he's speaking to several hundred high school students about his experience. He gave a similar talk at the start of the school year to close to 1,000 students throughout our county.
Despite my sometimes-somber tone, I am so incredibly grateful for everything each and every day with him. There's not a day that goes by that I'm not bursting with pride at the man he's becoming. It won't be long now.
About Josh's Mom
By day, Stephanie is in marketing; by night and all other times in between, she's a mom and wife, and highly passionate voice for CHD fundraising and research.