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Tag: Neurofibromatosis Type 2


Neurofibromatosis Type 2

Destination: Central Coast of California

Travel Year: 2023

My Story

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“My name is Rhianon, I’m 45 and living in Seattle. I come from a small family in California that had NF2. I was diagnosed when I was around 4 or 5 (my right eye started turning), then everyone else was diagnosed soon after. “Everyone” being my mother, uncle, aunt, and grandmother (who died before I was born). My great-grandmother had married a man with NF2. As for my dad? I never knew him, mom left him when I was 2. I heard he was abusive and denied I was his.

I received my first hearing aid in first grade (but I was too much of a rebel to wear it). Except for my right eye being closed (ever since I could remember), I was in pretty good shape. But looking so different, in a small town, still wasn’t easy. People have stared at me my whole life, especially kids. I hated it. I thought I was pretty cool, but I never really felt like I “fit in”. That’s still relevant today, a misfit, but a proud one! Took me several decades to realize I’m awesome, it doesn’t matter if everyone can’t see that.

I spent the last 20 years living in Seattle… AND LOVING IT! So much to do in a city, and so much diversity. Worked as a web designer, got into photography, learned ASL, met friends from around the world… but my favorite part? My team of doctors aren’t far away, and they know NF2 very well. My mom used to have to drive long distances for that kind of attention.

“I had to quit working 10 years ago, and now live on disability (with HUD housing). Headaches and brain fatigue made focusing on a project for long hours impossible. My vision is getting worse, my hearing is gone (but I have a cochlear implant), my balance is poor, my spine has tumors, and so does my brain….but I ain’t done living yet! I’m a big believer in appreciating everything you can still do, no use of crying over what you lost. Enjoy what’s left while you can.”

This disease is beyond scary, and I do my best to not allow myself to crawl into that black hole of fear. I have to remind myself that I’m not alone, daily. I got a tattoo on my wrist to remind myself of that. ‘Someone’s looking out for you.’ (No, I’m not always successful at fighting the fear, but I have a great group of friends to help on those days as well.)”

My Health

Daily Challenges

  • Fully deaf; cochlear implant on left side (still don’t understand speech)
  • Right eye closed + no depth perception or control of eye
  • Severe dry eyes
  • Severe brain fatigue

Ongoing Health Issues

  • Slight facial nerve damage on right side
  • Deteriorating vision in left eye

Major Procedures

  • 3 brain surgeries + shunt and cochlear implant placed
  • Optic nerve tumor removed
  • Spinal tumors + loss of balance
  • Proton therapy for brain tumor + skin cancer removal twice (caused by proton therapy)

    Total Surgeries: 8

    Making Travel Plans

    “I don’t know if my ‘top dream’ fits your criteria, but my gut keeps telling me to try…”

    Rhianon’s application letter immediately captured our hearts. A few months earlier, she had shockingly discovered who her biological dad was and that she had two half-sisters and three nieces. And it turns out they live in the area she grew up in – the Central Coast of California. Rhianon moved to Seattle 20 years ago and had always longed to make a trip home again, but it was too expensive. With a deep desire to meet her family (after being alone since the age of 17) and an eagerness to revisit her old stomping grounds, she took a chance and applied for a journey.

    Rhianon is deaf because of NF2, but thanks to Facetime’s new caption feature, she had already spoken to her family multiple times. After texting with her sister and niece daily, she said it’s clear they’re not “afraid of me being deaf or having NF2”. Obviously, there was an emotional risk for Rhianon going on this trip, but we all believed the payoff would be more than worth it!

    When it came to planning her itinerary, we took a slightly hands-off approach compared to our typical process. Rhianon and her family worked together to create a list of fun activities and set their schedule for the week. We wanted to do everything in our power to create a memorable and safe experience, but to respect the unique nature of the situation and let them sort out the details themselves.

    Seeing her family and hometown were Rhianon’s top priorities for the trip, but she also wanted to spend a little time at the end relaxing on the beach with her partner. She also shared that she’s never stayed in a fancy hotel or ordered room service. We knew that a little dose of luxury was the perfect way to end her vacation, and what better place than Santa Barbara! 

    Half of my excitement for this trip is to finally get to meet the family I never knew I had. The other half is just seeing “home” again, and sharing it with my long-time partner. Very excited to see my old “stomping grounds”, and what has changed. I know I have. I’m no longer the awkward girl that was ashamed of who they were. I’ve grown a lot since then, and want to prove it to myself. My positive attitude will outshine my physical flaws.

    Travel Docs

    Being Positioned created a 6-day itinerary for Rhianon to eat, explore, and sightsee in sunny California.

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    Destination Central Coast of California

    First off, I have so much gratitude for Being Positioned, and how much they helped me to have such an amazing adventure. Finding out you have family is pretty amazing. But being able to fly to CA to meet them and see “home” again (after 20 years) was over the top!

    Not only did we meet, but they welcomed me with open arms. Physical challenges didn’t matter, they accommodated and helped however they could. Was a good reminder that you really aren’t “alone” in the world, nor need to be isolated.

    “It was a very full schedule, seeing Hearst Castle, beaches, small towns, enjoying my favorite restaurant again, lounging in a hot tub… but totally worth it. Having family along for most of it made it even better. The BBQ and playing Mini Golf with them were probably my favorite moments.”

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    Completed Activities

    Meeting Biological Family for the First Time • Hearst Castle • Mini Golf • Eating Lots of Mexican Food + BBQ • San Luis Obispo + Pismo Beach • Santa Barbara • Massages • Beach Day

    What was my favorite moment?? The fact that the adventure isn’t over yet! I’m still in touch with them, and we are already making plans to hang out again. :)”

    Getting to do all this stuff, without having to worry about money or doctor visits was definitely a highlight. Being free to enjoy the moment with no worries, is pretty priceless.

    Normally I’m shy in groups, but that wasn’t the case here. There was no time for that! So I brought some mics to help my phone captions and did my best to stay in the conversations in the car or while eating. That helped my confidence a lot! I looked at getting to know them as a challenge, a good one. 🙂

    Dad’s friend was with us a few times and knew ASL. That helped bridge the gap as well while she interpreted and helped me tease him a little lol. 

    Each person diagnosed with NF2 experiences different symptoms throughout their lifetime. Some cases are considered relatively minor, while others are more severe. Despite the variation among cases – every story is hard and full of loss.

    To learn more about Rare Genetic Disorders, click below.

    Learn More

    Continue reading



    Destination: Tennessee

    Travel Year: 2022

    My Story

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    I was diagnosed in 1992, when I was 25. A biological relative contacted me and informed me of a hereditary genetic disorder that I may have inherited. That was the first time I had ever heard of Neurofibromatosis Type 2 aka NF2. I was not raised with my biological family. I am a third generation NF2’er. It started with my grandfather, then my mother, and both my siblings. I was tested and VOILA! The rest is history.

    Fast Forward to 2022. I am 55 years old, I have had 4 brain surgeries. I am deaf. I am legally blind. My mobility is impaired. I have numerous spine tumors. I have had my face reconstructed, my eyelids and my vocal cords “corrected” with implants. Also, random skin tumors at random places all over my body.

    The emotional part is exhausting. Constantly adapting. Repeatedly adjusting to a new normal. By definition, NF2 is a progressive disorder. So, it is going to get worse. Or it wont. Or it will. That is an enormous burden to carry. Always another test, another scan,  always hoping for “stable” test results, but waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    “The heirloom of NF2 is bilateral Acoustic Neuroma / Vestibular Schwannoma tumors, which almost always result in deafness. I remember a time when the thought of someday being deaf seemed like the end of the world, and I just could not wrap my brain around it. In the big picture, and the long list, of losses that you can suffer with NF2, losing your hearing seems minor now.”

    The finances are no joke either. All the specialized equipment, both for communication and mobility: not cheap! All the dry eye maintenance supplies, none of that is covered by insurance either.
    The pandemic has been horrible. The whole mask issue is a nightmare to most late deafened people. Forget lip reading. I don’t even know you are talking to me unless I can see your lips. Since 2020, I have been in one store. Only one. I have been to numerous doctors appointments though! Being “high risk” is not a joke. Isolation. It’s hard. It has changed me a lot.

    My Health

    Daily Challenges

    • Fully deaf + legally blind
    • Dizziness, headaches
    • Swallowing problems
    • Severe dry eyes

    Ongoing Health Issues

    • Atrophy, impaired mobility, loss of balance
    • Numerous spine tumors
    • Skin tumors

    Major Procedures

    • 4 brain surgeries
    • Eyelids + vocal cords “corrected” with implants
    • Facial reconstruction surgery + throat surgery

    Total Surgeries: 8

    Making Travel Plans

    When KC applied for a Being Positioned journey, she was unsure if she could fully participate since she is deaf, legally blind, and has numerous mobility issues due to her NF2. Her first request was that we provide a local travel companion to guide and support her. With those challenges in mind, we focused on a fun-filled destination that was mobility friendly without compromising her safety. KC mentioned that she used to love going on road trips but hasn’t been on one in years because of her health. During our conversations, we discovered she is a big fan of fall foliage. Because we knew KC has a birthday in October, it became clear we needed to send her and the love of her life, George, on an unforgettable trip near her special day.

    Since there is nothing more magical than a road trip through the Smoky Mountains during peak leaf season, we suggested Tennessee. Once KC read about all the exciting activities found in the Blue Ridge Parkway, we all agreed that Tennessee was the perfect place to visit.

    As we began planning her trip, we could tell KC’s confidence grew when she sent us a surprising email.

    “I don’t want a host [local travel companion] anymore. If we have your guidance and know in advance where we are going….no problem. We can do this – it will be the trip of a lifetime!”

    It was so special for our team to witness KC’s long forgotten sense of adventure awaken even during the planning of her trip.

    “Never in a million years did I really think I’d be chosen for a Being Positioned journey, but here we are, and life is good! I think about my journey all the time! We’re going on a road trip through the Blue Ridge Parkway and ending in Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge.”

    Travel Docs

    Being Positioned created a 6-day itinerary for KC to eat, explore, and sightsee in beautiful Tennessee.

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    Destination Tennessee

    My journey has already given me a huge blast of self-esteem, and I haven’t even gone anywhere yet! Also, I’m just happy and excited and looking sooo forward to my journey. I can’t remember the last time I was looking forward to something. I’m hoping my journey gives me a new blast of energy. I feel burned out and jaded. I have medical tests coming up. Sigh. Normally, I would be dwelling on those tests and what the results may show. But this time I have the nice distraction of my Being Positioned journey!

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    Completed Activities

    Blue Ridge Parkway Road Trip • Virginia Safari Park • Mabry Mill • Ober Aerial Tramway • Jayell Ranch: Zip Lining + Horseback Riding • Couple’s Massage + Facial • Parrot Mountain Garden of Eden • Moonshine Mountain Coaster

    “In my past, road trips were my thing. Just one more thing I figured I would never do again. But I was wrong. With the proper support, planning, and embracing the adaptations available to me, nothing is impossible! Everything about my Journey, was stepping out of my comfort zone. And I’m so glad I did! I feel recharged and ready to face whatever the future brings. Empowered, Confident, Independent, ABLE.”

    Last night my neighbor’s had their annual Halloween bash/potluck. George was sick in bed, but I already said I was bringing chili. So, I went without him and it was fine! I never do stuff like that anymore. Ever. Before I went, George kept asking me: ‘Are you sure you want to go alone?’ I told him yes! I am embracing my newly found self-confidence. You can blame Christina! Haha.

    Some of my peers couldn’t understand why anyone would donate to a “Journey” when we need a cure. Valid concern. However, what good would a cure be to the body, if the soul is broken? Being Positioned is a worthy cause. I am excited for the next BP’er. Who will it be? Where will they go? I hope they find their adventure. Never give up. Ride or Die!”

    Each person diagnosed with NF2 experiences different symptoms throughout their lifetime. Some cases are considered relatively minor, while others are more severe. Despite the variation among cases – every story is hard and full of loss.

    To learn more about Rare Genetic Disorders, click below.

    Learn More

    Continue reading