Today, I’m writing a blog post close to my heart. I’ve never been someone to be super expressive, use many words or be super emotional but this may be the most personal (and long) blog written thus far.
Before I share the story of what this blog really is about, let me start by sharing some history with you all…
I’m a lucky girl. I’ve been raised by two great parents. They have their crazy quirks and drive be BONKERS most of time, but I know I’m amazingly blessed for the help, love and upbringing they’ve given me. Along with my parents, I have a great big bro, as well as his family, that’s been more like a second father to me throughout life since we have a 12 year gap between us, but I’m lucky that the older we get, the closer friends we’ve become.
As life progresses, what once was a very large family with extended uncles, cousins, grandparents, starts to break down into smaller pieces sometimes because they marry and move on, sometimes because of arguments, sometimes because elders leave to a better place, and sometimes because life gets completed and time isn’t on your side. So, over the years, my family has lost it’s extensive touch. We all don’t keep in touch as much as we should or see each other as often. I was raised with a large family and it remained super important to me to have such a large unit and support group.
When I met and started dating my husband, family was a BIG deal (SCORE!). It was super important to get along and fit in with all of them. I’ll never forget meeting my brother-in-law’s wife and kids first and then my brother-in-law. I remember my husband, boyfriend at the time, saying he was the boss of the family. Whatever he said was the bible (Not literally, but he called the shots) LOL I was SUPER nervous to meet him and gain his approval. Thankfully (pheeewww), he approved and he wasn’t as scary as I imagined 🙂
Eight years later, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are quite special people to me. You see, sometimes people don’t realize the words and actions they have towards you can mean something so valuable and loving that can last a lifetime. They hold an extraordinary place in my heart. They may not even realize it, but they’ve shown me so much love, support and have helped my husband and I in times of need without a single question asked, without a judgement or hesitation. They became my brother and sister too and their kids my niece and nephew.
I met Priscialla (Pia) and Max when they were 13 and 11 and quickly gravitated to them. I LOVED spending time with them. We took them to outings, Disney, Horror Nights and so many other places. They are now 21 and 19 and still call me Tia and it still makes my heart pitter patter (cheesy I know).
Along with them (and my awesome in laws of course) came so many other extraordinary people that love and support each other so much and I’m so grateful to have joined such a large and great family almost 7 years ago when I became a Diaz 🙂
So without going into any more mushy details because my teary eyes can’t handle it any more, here is where Pia’s story begins, why I’m blogging today. Last September, my niece complained that she was having trouble seeing from one eye. As anyone would do, she went to see an eye doctor at her university (She attends UCF, you’ll see how this is important as you keep reading). The doctor sent her to run some tests, including some scans, and she continued waiting for her results. Even though she was still having a hard time seeing, she continued on with her studies and her passion, dancing. She’s quite the little shaker for the UCF Dance team.
On September 16, 2013, I was at a client’s house doing a newborn session. I noticed my phone kept ringing and my husband was calling me. Typically, he doesn’t call me when at work, he’ll text me if he needs something. Suspecting something was up, I answered only to hear the words “Pia has Multiple Sclerosis (MS)” with tears. WHAT!!!! She went into a doctor’s appointment for her eye and she now has what? The thing is none of use really knew what MS was. Where does it come from? Is it genetic? Is it cured? The problem is professionals and doctors don’t know that answer either.
After a month of lots of tests, second and third opinions both in Orlando and Miami, back and forth between the possibility of it being MS or a genetic eye issue, it was confirmed it was MS. No parent or family wants anything to ever happen to their baby, so it was hard, really hard, but you know what… Pia has A LOT of family. Suddenly, what seemed like the impossible, became strength. When they thought the world would crumble, they were reminded from each and every family member and close friend they had what love, support and prayer really meant.
Pia is an inspiration. She believes God is using her to tell her story and show her and others you can get through anything. She has adapted to her medication and is slowly regaining her vision. She’s continuing her lifestyle as a dancer, a little and big sister to her fraternity sisters, maintains excellent grades, managed to achieve the Dean’s List at the University despite the rough semester she had and is the best daughter, sister, niece, cousin, best friend and godmother to both her little cousin and my daughter. She’s strong, kindhearted, and quite the Disney Fan (extra points with me haha).
When her parents found out that the Bike MS event was a few months away, her father said, I’m training and I’m doing it as well as her brother. He trained with his uncle for months while his son trained at his university, FSU. After months of training, early hours and lots of sweat, the day was here. Pia’s dad, brother, uncle with two of his children and a latecomer cousin joined in the efforts of becoming “Priscilla’s Knights” (A Knight is UCF’s mascot. I’d told you the info would be useful 😉 ). Their hard work paid off and they raised more than they ever imagined in support of raising awareness for MS and finding the cure and the reason why so many are affected by it.
The race was fun, emotional, empowering, exhausting and so many other emotions rolled into one. We ran from location to location cheering on not only our team, but all of the other riders that would pass along. After our bikers left each location, we chanted… “We are family, we got all our knights with me” and they took off knowing we’d be waiting somewhere else. (Oh yeah, technology played a HUGE role since we used GPS tracking to know when they were arriving at another location).
There were two days of riding, the first day was 75 miles from the FIU main campus to Key Largo, and the second day 50 miles from Key Largo to Homestead. It wasn’t easy, but they did it. They did it for the love of Priscilla and family and I’m super proud of them for their dedication and accomplishment.
The following pictures are some of my favorite photos. They aren’t technically correct, the lighting was bad in most, the composition is off, the colors aren’t right but I don’t care because to me they are PERFECT!
Here is early morning on Day 1…
I turned around and it looked like my little guy was trying to make a run for it! LOL
Yay! I was able to jump into a photo 🙂
Then we all jumped into a car and drove to a stop to meet up with them. We tracked where they were and pulled over at a gas station.
Off they went again…
Here we are at another stop!
This was the last stop before heading to the finish line.
The finish line!
My little guy was anxious to see if Tio Papu or Max won the race LOL
I had to photograph the shirts. A lot of time and effort went into designing the biker’s uniforms and these t-shirts!
Pia anxiously awaiting!
Talk about happy to see the finish line!
Some of the family stayed over at the Keys to the following day and some weren’t able to make it to the first day because of school and work. I was able to meet up with the family at the finish line on the second day before they arrived. My princess also joined in on the fun dressed to impress with her UCF cheerleading outfit <3
Madrina was happy and proud to see her little lady supporting!
Here they come!
Look closely! I’m in another pic! YAY!
After finishing the race, we headed to FIU to collect their medals!
Pia and her family will be participating in the upcoming Walk MS on April 5th. I will posting the link to her family’s team once I receive it. Any donation is appreciated to help Priscilla along with so many others have a bright and healthy future!