We had a visit with the rheumatologist a few weeks ago. We hadn’t seen him for more than two months. Just like with every doctor visit, it began with the taking of the vitals – height, weight, blood pressure.
Caitlin is now 63 inches tall. She weighs 105 lbs. According to the CDC chart for normal growth in girls ages 2 to 20, this makes her in the 50th percentile. It means that if she were in a room with an average sampling of 100 14 year old girls, it’s likely that 49-50 would be shorter, and 49-50 would be taller. It means that she is absolutely average. It’s hard to describe what a victory that is!
As for her weight, she is slightly underweight for her height – in the 25-30%. But given that her activity level is not always that high, and given that she still has lots of physical changes to come in the next few years… I am very happy. It’s a huge, huge milestone.
Before Caitlin got sick, she was in the 90% for height and about 75% for weight. At her two year old visit, the doctor predicted that she would be 5’10”. (My husband is 6’2″ and I am 5’6″ ).
Within two years of her diagnosis, she no longer registered on the growth chart. Her little charted dot was below zero percentile. And it was like that for years, as her constant inflammation and side effects from meds kept her from growing. During those years, I hoped and prayed that someday, she would be back on that chart again.
I think overall, this is a much easier battle for girls with JA than boys. I mean, if Caitlin is small, it makes her “petite” and to many degrees – that is an admirable, desirable quality for a girl. For young boys who have fallen below zero on the scale, I imagine the worry is that much greater that they will somehow be labeled as weak, or be bullied. I know several moms with boys who are looking into growth hormones, trying to push what little growth is coming that much further – squeezing out every possible inch. Of course, we have always reinforced that it’s not the size of a person, but the content of their character that matters…. but it doesn’t seem to be the way the world works.
Size is intimidating, especially to children. And when we attended our first JA conference in 2004, one of the most comforting things for Caitlin was that all of the kids seemed to be about the same size as her. It bothered her, though she had never really talked about it, that all of the kids in kindergarten were bigger than she was, and they somehow assumed that made her younger and more of a “baby”. As she got older, and she remained one of the smallest in her class, she grew accustomed to being the first one in line when the teacher arranged the students by height, or in the front row of performance risers or photos because she was small enough not to block the person behind her. On the occasions that somebody did call her “shrimp” or “peewee”, I was quick to point out that they also called Mary “giraffe” or “amazon lady” because she’d had the misfortune of growing a foot taller than everybody years before the boys would catch up. “There is always something” I would tell her….and unfortunately, kids can be pretty mean sometimes.
I know there will always be something because of the JA. Even in remission, she still deals with the aftermath of the damage the years of inflammation wrought. But I am so thrilled about this one thing…. At 5’3″, she’s already taller than a couple of my girlfriends (sorry Michelle!) and will likely never be mistaken for a child when she’s an adult. Even three years ago, we honestly did not think that would be possible.
The doctor asked if we wanted to do some x-rays to see if she is done growing. Typically, doctors can examine a wrist x-ray, and see if the growth plates are closed yet. That’s a pretty good indication of whether a child is still growing. We said No Thanks. We’re just gonna assume that she’s still growing and we’ll be happy for every little millimeter that comes her way. And though, as a rule, we have learned to embrace all that is “not normal” in our lives, preferring to view things as “extraordinary”- for this, we will revel in a moment of being absolutely average.