Humans share approximately 80 percent of their DNA with cows. 61 percent can also be found in fruit flies, and 92 percent in mice. Possibly even more crazy than that, you and I, along with every other human on planet earth, share 99.9 percent of our DNA. That .1 percent that’s left accounts for all of your uniqueness. .1 percent! Occasionally when I’m feeling particularly pessimistic, I see posts or signs or memes telling people how special they are, and I cringe. “Yeah, I’m special, just like everyone else!”
2020 was a strange year for all of us. When we rang in 2021, I’m sure most of us cheered, “good riddance!” Like a guest that had over-stayed his welcome, ate all of the Cinnamon Life cereal and left stinky socks on the stairs, it was high time he skidaddled. But after such an eventful year, for us it seemed ’21 just couldn’t bear the thought of being outdone. In January, one of our boys came to my husband and me complaining of his tail bone hurting. Thinking it was from falling while ice skating, we patted him on the back and sent him on his way. When he complained of pain in his thighs after basketball practice a few days later, we chalked it up as a pulled muscle and gave him an ice pack. “He’s a really active kid!” we reasoned, just as any good parent denying the obvious would do. Finally, when he woke up one day looking like a geriatric patient barely managing to shuffle his way across the kitchen, we decided to take him to the doctor and find out what the heck was going on.
I’ve always hated February. All the chocolate and roses in the world couldn’t redeem it of it’s horrible qualities. Its only saving grace is that it’s a manageable 28 days long (29 in a particularly bad year). This year, however, I’m pretty sure February lasted 3,528 days. We took our son to the doctor at the beginning of what was soon to be one of the longest months of my life thinking, slipped disk? Broken tail bone? Nothing a few stretches and time can’t fix! After numerous doctor appointments, xrays, labs, an MRI, a few trips to Children’s Hospital, CT scan, a bone biopsy, and several misdiagnosis, we found out our son has a rare autoimmune disease called Chronic Recurrent Multifocal Osteomyelitis (say that 5 times fast! Or just call it CRMO) that attacks his bones. Despite sharing 99.9 percent of his DNA with every other kid on the planet, our son is officially one-in-a-million. One in six million if you consider he’s a boy.
Because CRMO presents in similar ways to a few different cancers, some particularly difficult and sleepless weeks were spent speculating, worrying, and waiting for test results. I had spent many nights praying and pleading, reminding myself over and over that prayers are often answered differently than we are wanting, but always how we need. One night our son was sick with what I hoped was a stomach bug and not another symptom of something more serious. Overwhelmed with lack of sleep and worry, I prayed yet another prayer asking that I would get sick (no one else!) so we could just attribute it to a bug and move on. Sometimes the answers to our prayers come later, sometimes in ways different than we had anticipated. This time, however, my answer was swift and exact. That stomach bug hit me like a freight train and lasted days. And, just as I had asked, no one else got it (which, as anyone with more than a couple kids can attest, is, without question, a miracle!). Each time I rushed to the bathroom that week, I was beyond grateful for a violent bout of stomach flu, three children that managed to miraculously avoid it, and a prompt, clear-cut answer to a prayer just when I needed to know He was listening. I never thought I would pray for a stomach bug, then cry tears of gratitude while kneeling over the toilet seat puking my guts out. Despite the billions of other prayers He had heard that day, He answered mine. Maybe we are all special after all.
February might forever be my least favorite month, and having a child with an autoimmune disease is not what I would have ever asked for. But this winter brought so many blessings. Modern medicine, amazing doctors, a kid that won’t even let a life-changing diagnosis dampen his mischievous and easy-going spirit, friends and family that texted and listened and loved us, a difficult decision months earlier to home school making it easier to get to all the appointments, and answers to so many prayers. Even if we do share 80 percent of our DNA with cows, even if we are all 99.9 percent alike, there’s that .1 percent that makes us something unique, something important, and something different than every other person. And that .1 percent is what makes us all one-in-a-million in the eyes of the One who listens and answers our prayers, no matter how or when that might be.
And for anyone wondering, our son was able to get on a treatment plan and is no longer shuffling around the house. He’s actually chasing and diving (diving!) for baseballs again. Improvement has been slow, but truly miraculous. We’re optimistic and looking forward to lots of adventures this summer!