Resilience and Patience Can Ease Stress, Despite Huntington’s

Carlos Briceño avatar

by Carlos Briceño |

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In a previous column, I wrote about my wife, Jill, applying for the TSA PreCheck with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA). As someone who was diagnosed as gene-positive for Huntington’s disease (HD) in 2018, she wanted to apply to ease her stress when she traveled to see our daughter, Alexus, in Boston. (Alexus is also gene-positive for HD.)

Because stress can worsen HD symptoms, we try to minimize anxiety in stressful situations. We figured that getting a pass to go through security a little easier would help make her travel experience more peaceful.

Boy, were we dead wrong.

The application process, so far, has caused her a lot of stress. But the good news is that her handling of that stress reminded me how resilient she is and how much we patiently support each other, two vital components for a family battling a rare disease.

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The PreCheck process started out relatively simply. Jill went to the government website to fill out some basic information. They asked for her name, date of birth, and current address. The next section asked if her birth certificate and her driver’s license had the same name listed. She answered “no” because she’d changed her name when we got married 13 years ago.

When she finished, she discovered she would need to bring some paperwork to an in-person interview to prove her identity and explain her name change. Simple, right?

Jill made the appointment and started searching for the required documents. That’s when she encountered her first obstacle. All our important paperwork is stored in a utility room that has boxes and totes from our cross-country move last summer, most of which are piled almost to the ceiling. None of them have been unpacked.

It took her several hours of climbing over boxes and totes, moving them around, and looking through several of them before she found the correct paperwork.

She then put the papers in a manila envelope so she wouldn’t lose them, as she was scheduled to fly to Boston the next day to visit Alexus. She had scheduled an appointment with the TSA during the day, when our daughter and her husband were working. The in-person interview, along with the background check, is designed to make sure travelers aren’t a threat.

When she arrived at her appointment — after taking public transportation, which she is not fond of — the official there told her he couldn’t accept her birth certificate. It had to be certified with the state seal on it.

So Jill left, and on her way home, she ordered what she needed. She then called me on her way back to our daughter’s home and said she was disappointed by the visit, but was happy she was able to walk around Boston on a beautiful day.

She rescheduled her appointment for when she was back home, for a day soon after she figured her birth certificate would arrive. It finally came the day before her scheduled appointment, which prompted her to look for the envelope with the other paperwork in it.

Plot twist: She looked five separate times, but couldn’t find it.

Frustrated and upset with herself, she said she wasn’t used to losing things. She ordered our marriage certificate and rescheduled her appointment again.

Jill told me she wasn’t sure if all of this was worth the few minutes she would save at the airport. I told her it was.

I also gave her advice she usually gives me. For the record, I’m the one who usually misplaces items at home, which has caused me to be frustrated on many occasions, which then leads her to calmly help me find that which I’ve lost.

When I get frustrated, I get upset. And when I get upset, Jill tells me to take a deep breath and go to a happy place I picture in my mind. This calms me down and has made the process of finding a misplaced item go more serenely.

This was the exact advice I gave her. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and said she felt better.

As time goes by, Jill knows that HD may make those moments of frustration more frequent and make her less able to be positive about them. I hope that never happens, but if it does, I’ll show her all of the patience and kindness she’s shown me when I get frustrated and upset.

As for the application saga, as I write this, Jill’s rescheduled appointment will occur in several days. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it will go as smoothly as we hope that her airport security check will be one day, assuming her application gets approved.

Note: Huntington’s Disease 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 Huntington’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Huntington’s disease.


Dr. Herwig Lange avatar

Dr. Herwig Lange

Thank You for bringing up the importance to cope with stress. Too much stress damages brain and DNA. Nobody wants thatt - especially not, when the brain and DNA already have a problem, like in HD.
So find a way to reduce stress to a level that is good for Your health and You will healthy longer.


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