You Are A MIracle and You Can Get Through Anything! - by Erica Melman
Hi, my name is Erica Melman, and I am an adult woman with Turner syndrome (TS). I live in Chicago, Illinois with my husband Mitch and my twin daughters Lizzie and Sara. I was diagnosed at birth in 1973. The doctors noticed my very puffy hands and feet and decided to check on that and came back with the TS diagnosis.
I was a very happy young girl despite my constant ear infections. When I was 5 years old, I had surgery on my neck to help with the extra skin and reduce the webbing so that it might look like a normal neck. The surgery was called bilateral neck bands. I continued to develop and grow throughout my childhood and was still a petite and little girl.
When I was about 8 or so I entered a study out of the University of Chicago that introduced me to growth hormone. I ended up taking that for a few years and reach the height of just over 5 feet tall. I attended Chicago public schools and did pretty well with my classes. I did the best I could with all the social challenges involved in making friends. I was always a happy girl! I love dressing up and being a girly girl. I was a Girl Scout and did all the fun things that came along with that like selling cookies.
I never let my TS diagnosis keep me from being a kid and a teenager. Speaking of being a teenager, I enjoyed high school, despite having moved to the suburbs from the city of Chicago. It was in high school that I had my first boyfriend and enjoyed all the fun football game, proms, and dances. I had the loving support of my family and friends.
During my sophomore year of high school, I still was not showing any signs of having a menstruation cycle, so I went to the doctor to find out what was going on. I ended up having to be put on hormones to help start my period and get the regular female stuff started. I did not let that get me down! I felt like I was always in tune of my body throughout my childhood, and I was learning along with my family.
After graduating high school, went to college at National Lewis University in Evanston, Illinois where I studied early childhood education and meet my husband. How do you like this field of education? It’s very common for girls and women with Turner syndrome to become teachers. We are very nurturing and loving.
We are commonly called TS Butterflies. Let’s talk about butterflies I know it’s the symbol of TSSUS it is just so fitting because I have always loved butterflies and the color purple. Butterflies have a significant meaning to me because to me it means miracles. It’s like watching the transformation, and of course, spreading her wings and flying and never giving up.
I digress; back to meeting my husband, Mitch. He was one of the very few males at the school I was attending. I was showing him and a group of students for a tour around the school and we became fast friends first. To this day, he remembers what I was wearing on that tour! We went on a date before my 21st birthday in May 1994. It was shortly after that that I shared my TS medical diagnosis and history with him. He was so supportive, and it did not matter to him at all. He was glad to be on this journey with me, no matter what. We dated for about two years and got married in June 1997.
I did not know about the Turner Syndrome Society of the United States (TSSUS) until about 2019 when I got a pamphlet about the TUSSS National Turner Syndrome Conferences. I had attended a few local TSSUS events in Illinois and met a lot of wonderful people. It was in 2010 when I finally signed up and decided to go to the Buffalo, New York conference. I am so glad that I did because I met so many wonderful people. It was such a great and positive experience! I learned about TSSUS and decided I had to be a part of this organization and meet more women and families affected by TS and just help spread the mission. I knew that I was not alone. I attended every conference and have even brought my husband to a few. He has made lifelong friends with the spouses of TS butterflies, and it is one of our things we love to do together. I have always loved being an active supporter and advocate for Turner syndrome and TSSUS.
Mitch knew that it could be a journey having a family. He was so supportive and did not care; he was willing to go on this journey with me, no matter what it looked like. We didn’t know what help, if any, I needed to be a mom. We saw a fertility doctor and had tests done to see what our options were. We were open to IVF and adoption if we couldn’t have a family the traditional way, which we knew was very unlikely. We were told that egg donation would be an option and IVF. We started the process using a few companies in Illinois. We completed all the testing and picked our donor. We were very excited for any opportunity to become parents.
Well, in October 2002 we had our first cycle and, unfortunately, it did not take. We didn’t give up and tried again with a frozen cycle. We were very excited to get a positive pregnancy result and a few weeks later found out it was twins!
Lizzie and Sara were born in July 2003. I was monitored for my heart, because while I was going through all the testing to have the girls, they discovered a slight heart murmur. I know cardiac issues are common for those of us with TS. I am so blessed that I pursued this opportunity and have enjoyed being a mom to 2 beautiful girls. I love talking about my journey to have the girls. I even brought them to a few conferences so they could learn about Turner syndrome and appreciate what a miracle they are and how special it is to have them in my life.
Because I love the Turner Syndrome Society and been an active member since 2010, I have always loved participating and planning and hosting events. About 4 years ago, I decided to become a board member, and it has been a wonderful learning experience. I am so thankful to be a part of this wonderful organization.
To this day, I am very in tune and aware of my Turner syndrome diagnosis. I make sure that I keep all my doctors’ appointments and do the best I can. Throughout my life, I have always struggled with my weight. I know that’s another thing that is very common with TS. I have not let that bother me. I have continued to work out and to try to live the best possible healthy lifestyle for me. I am nearing the half century age next year and I will enjoy my life, despite the world we’re living in now. I am just trying to be as positive and spread Turner syndrome awareness, and be a support for other girls, women with TS and their families.
My message to end my story is that if you are diagnosed with Turner syndrome, it does not define you. You are a miracle, and you can get through whatever struggles, disappointments, and obstacles that are thrown your way. Just know you are not alone and that there are many people you can reach out to talk to. We are Turner strong! All my love, Erica.