Our family priorities changed when LEMS became a fixture

How an idyllic life on an Italian island gave way to new values and perspectives

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by Lori Dunham |

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Our family has had the opportunity to live in some pretty incredible places, thanks to the U.S. Navy. One of our favorite places to live was La Maddalena, a town in the Sardinian islands west of Italy’s mainland.

La Maddalena holds a special place in our hearts for many reasons. Most impressive is its location near the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Every window of our apartment overlooked those emerald waters.

Our island was considered a remote duty station with extremely limited medical care. At the time, we never gave that a second thought. In our minds, it just added to the adventure.

The island’s pace was idyllic; the lifestyle there consisted of hard work followed by an afternoon siesta and evening walks through the piazza. We indulged in plates of homemade pasta and gelato daily.

If there was ever a time we didn’t have a care in the world, it was then.

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Soon after our time in La Maddalena, however, our priorities drastically changed because of the rare disease Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS).

Before LEMS, our worries differed significantly from our worries today. We had the normal stressors of a young family: providing well for our children and offering them good schools and the best opportunities possible. When our daughter Grace was diagnosed with LEMS, however, those worries fell away and were replaced with much bigger concerns.

Sure, the things we worried about before LEMS mattered. But Grace’s diagnosis magnified the truly important things in life.

Priorities change

Any trauma or health crisis tends to realign priorities. In our case, what seemed so important before LEMS was now put in its correct place.

In the face of adversity, we realized how valuable time is. We all have a finite amount of time on Earth, and we’ve learned to cherish each moment. Our family became more intentional and generous with our words. We learned how to let go of grudges and offer forgiveness quickly.

I no longer had the bandwidth to worry needlessly about trivial things. Suddenly, I didn’t have time for unhealthy relationships. I couldn’t continue to entertain other people’s unrealistic expectations of me, and I refused to accept the guilt. Any attempt I’d made to keep up with the Joneses immediately stopped. Those things no longer mattered.

Today, we live with a sense of urgency. Our lives are richer and days fuller because LEMS has taught us what’s more essential to value.

I’m grateful for the days we lived in La Maddalena. We had precious time together and strengthened our family ties. Because of those idyllic early days, in fact, we were strong enough to weather the storms of life with LEMS.

How have your priorities changed since LEMS came into your life? Please let me know in the comments below.

Note: Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lambert-Eaton News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Lambert-Eaton myasthenia syndrome.


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