Laura Ruffino and Elizabeth Diamond, from Buffalo, New York, were best friends since the fifth grade.

When Diamond was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer in August of 2014, she asked Ruffino to look after her children if something ever happened to her, ABC News reported. Ruffino didn’t hesitate to answer.

I instantly said ‘OK,‘” Ruffino told the outlet.

After Diamond passed away in April, Ruffino, her husband Rico and their two daughters, immediately welcomed Diamond’s four daughters and adopted them. Lily, Ella, Samona and Tara, ages five to 12, are now part of the family.

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Via the Ruffino family’s YouCaring page

The Ruffinos are working to rapidly accommodate the new additions to their family as best they can but would like to make some changes in order to make the girls more comfortable, according to their YouCaring page. They are hoping to get a van that can seat all six children and would like to convert their garage into additional bedrooms for the girls.

Get more on the story from the video below: 

Visit here to donate to the Ruffino family. 

h/t BuzzFeed


I dedicate this blog to my dad’s snoring.

I tease my dad endlessly about his nightly habit — it’s truly something out of “Looney Tune”s or an old Disney short (imagine a blanket rising up and down over the bed). But in reality, the sound of my dad snoring and the fact that he’s actually sleeping is music to my ears. Here’s why:

My first seizure was in the fall of my sophomore year of high school. I was on a high — I was in the middle of an extraordinary tennis season I worked hard for, my grades were great and I had an amazing group of friends.

Then one night, I woke up, and my parents heard me slam up against the bathroom door and engage in a 4.5-minute full-body seizure. That’s it. There were no signs, no symptoms, no stressors. My folks were blindsided.

To hear them recount this tale then — “We heard a thud, we tried to push open the door, there was nothing you could do, you just want to hold them and know you can’t” — was horrible. But to hear them recount it now that I’m a parent is just devastating. I can’t even imagine what my parents were going through, but I try, and it makes us closer.

Up to 10 percent of the world’s population experiences one seizure in their lifetime, but epilepsy is defined as having two or more unprovoked seizures, so after my first seizure and appointments with neurologists, I was told to just wait it out and see.

Dad never really slept again.

I remember coming home at night, going to the bathroom at night, waking up earlier than him in the morning — in high school, during summer breaks in college, even as an adult when my husband and I briefly lived with my folks while our house was being worked on — and my dad saying, “Brig, is that you? Everything OK?” I remember me saying, “Go back to sleep” with a smile.

I did continue having seizures until my senior year in college, but now I’m 14 years seizure-free and a parent. I finally hear my dad snoring, and sometimes I think, “Yep, I get it. And, I love you too.”

Follow this journey on Step Up for Epilepsy Awareness.

Do you have a story about your experience with epilepsy? Please send it to [email protected] and include a photo for the story, a photo of yourself and a 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

When Melanie Williams noticed a dark spot forming beneath her thumbnail, she assumed it was a fungal infection. After all, the mark was small and didn’t seem to be any real cause for alarm.

Still, Williams, who lives in Leeds, England, decided to get the mark checked out. Turns out, the seemingly harmless spot beneath her nail is melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

On July 8, Williams decided to post the photo below on Facebook to remind everyone to get any mysterious lumps, marks and changes checked out.

Melanie Williams

The post reads:

See that on my thumb? Do you know what it is? It’s skin cancer. This grew from nothing in a matter of weeks. I thought it was just a fungal infection or a wart. Sadly not. I’ve been lucky; the cancer hasn’t spread and it’s being removed next week along with half of my thumb. This may have not been the case if I’d left it and not gotten it checked out. I don’t want your sympathy, I want more awareness. Therefore, please go and get any changes or growths on your skin checked out; please tell people around you to get checked as well. Don’t leave it to chance or make excuses! I will be fighting fit in no time, but if I’d left it, I may have been losing more than a thumb. So please, don’t leave comments about how brave I am or how sorry you are, instead take that time to share this or tell someone they need to get checked or make that phone call to the doctors for yourself… P.S. If anyone knows where I can get a mini hook attachment for my stubby thumb, give me a shout!

Since Williams posted the photo two weeks ago, it’s been shared nearly 115,000 times and received numerous positive responses and well wishes, many from people who said they never would have guessed the mark on her thumb was skin cancer.

Williams added in a comment update on July 16 that she’s scheduled for most tests this week, at which point doctors will decide how much of her thumb will have to be removed.

Thank you to everyone who shared this post. Totally lost for words (for those who know me, this is rare) on the response it has received,” she wrote. “I feel proud of everyone who’s shared and taken note because of the awareness it’s raised! You lot rock!!!”

Related: The Important Reason This Woman Posted Her Graphic Selfie

h/t The Glow

There’s so much to say to you. You grow up in the same house as one they call “special,” and that carries more weight than we understand. It means your parents’ eyes sometimes look past you. That we take it for granted you’re whole even when you’re not. It means you give and give and give. Every big sister shares with her siblings, but most of them don’t give away their entire portion. You do it. Often.

You watched your brother grow bigger. We had that talk, introducing you to that mysterious word — autism” — but you already knew something was different. When did you figure it out? Was it when you saw other boys trying to play with him? Or when he threw himself on the floor and screamed in the lobby of the bank? I hope it was something like that and not something we, your parents, did. Because I’m sure you saw the change in us, too. We traded in our laughter for moments of dark clouds and chronic busyness — not just from the doctors’ appointments, but from the other appointments, too. The ones that sometimes took our joy and concentration even when we sat next to you on the sofa.

Since those days, you have forgiven much. The family’s attention has been fixed on your brother. He absorbs so many resources: concern, affection and especially time. You’ve had to settle for out-loud readings in the living room and the occasional daddy date at the movies. But you treat those consolation prizes like championship trophies. The way you act, the dollar theater might as well be Disneyland.

You’re not perfect, I know. You struggle with all of this, even though you hide it. If there’s one thing I fear, it’s that you bury it too well. Many in your situation might grow up to resent their childhood and their parents for not seeing them. And while I wish there was some way to ensure that this won’t happen, I can at least tell you this:

We do see you. We see how you buckle your brother’s seatbelt on the way to school. We see you tickle him and chase him and laugh with him. We watch you lead him by the hand through the noisy crowds of kids and grown-ups. When he pulls away from you, you call him back with care and patience in your voice. You read to him, you cuddle him and every day, you teach him.

You teach us, too.

While we struggle to understand and accept your brother’s condition, you prove again and again that love is infinitely richer than tolerance. For unlike tolerance, love chooses to engage, even when there might be no positive response. Love enters into the uncomfortable, the mysterious, messy places, and says “I love you. Even here.”

This is what you do so well. You teach the people around you how to love their brothers. We see that. Our friends see that. I believe God sees that. And all of our hearts are bursting with pride.

Follow this journey on Jason Hague’s blog.

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve decided I want my son, Wade, to try mainstream activities first before we try disability-specific ones. This is not a judgment about other parents’ choices. Different kids need different things. I have Plan A for Wade and then I’m prepared to go to Plan B if needed. I think it’s important to ask, “Why not?” before I ask, “Can he?” when I’m choosing an activity.

When I thought about swimming classes, I had thought about one-on-one hydrotherapy. And then I thought, just stick him in a class and see what happens.

When we first started, I was really apprehensive. I wasn’t worried about how he’d compare with other kids. I know he has developmental delay, and he didn’t need to be better than all the rest. But I do need him to have the space and time to hear the instructions and complete the movement in a way that doesn’t hold up the whole class. At the same time, I need to give him the idea of what we’re trying to do without rushing him.

I went down to the local swim school for a tour and a chat and launched into how Wade has Down syndrome and asked how much space would there be for him to learn at his own pace.

It dawned on me quickly that I was the only one worried about Down syndrome here. It just wasn’t a problem. He was 18 months old, but we would try him in the youngest class and just see how he went.

His teacher, Alex, was an absolute dream. We went at our own pace, and I took my time with each element of the class and made sure he was at least watching while I gave him a visual sign for each instruction. Each new milestone was met with huge celebrations and lots of cheering — mainly from me!

When we first started, we were given a big poster of all the levels he had to reach before he could graduate to the kinder class. It seemed like a lot. Every time he learned a new skill, we went home with a sticker to mark the occasion on the poster. I looked at the giant space that read, “You have graduated to kinder class,” and wondered if he would ever get there.

Some days were easier than others, and some days he loved more than others. But slowly and surely, he started getting better. He started getting more and more stickers, and I realized that with constant reinforcement and a bit more willingness for me to let go, he was learning really well. I’ll admit to letting go a few happy tears the day I took my hands away from his body and realized he was swimming on his own (with floaties and a belt) and loving it.

When we started back this year after the break, the center manager told me Wade was old enough for the kinder class.

The class without the parents in the pool?

“Do you think he is ready?”

“His skills are certainly there. I don’t see why not.”

We then had a discussion about learning how best to communicate with him, how to get and keep his attention and how to work toward making it happen.

We agreed Alex would take him one-on-one outside of class times to help learn how to communicate with him and see how he goes, then we would plan to move him up when we were ready.

Just like that.

No begging.

No fighting.

No applications for funding.

No special treatment.

No pretending he can swim and giving him a plastic encouragement trophy.

No forms.

No extra staff.

No medical clearances.

No sideways glances.

No rolling eyes.

No hesitation.

No problem.

It was just, “He’s eligible. How can we help make this happen?”

I was so stunned at how easy inclusion can be when people just get it! I didn’t even have to ask for it.

After a couple of weeks, he achieved everything he needed to move up and he graduated to kinder class. As we said goodbye to our old class, I lost it, sitting on the edge of the pool ugly-crying. This is what real inclusion feels like. It’s not a big deal; it’s just people recognizing what he needs and asking how they can help us get there.

I felt so grateful to get to an experience like this, especially when I think about how hard parents have to fight to get understanding and support for their kids in some mainstream activities.

This is what real inclusion feels like, and for all those unsuspecting teachers and coaches ahead of us in the years to come, this will be the benchmark I’ll be using from now on.

Leticia Keighley the mighty.2-001

Follow this journey on Embracing Wade.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us about a time someone went out of his or her way to make you and/or your child feel included or not included. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

Today I watched a movie full of young people doing active, energetic and daring things. They leapt, climbed, jumped and challenged themselves physically. I paused the movie at times to do my laundry, hauling it up and down the stairs. Sometimes it can be difficult or outright impossible. Today it wasn’t. Today was a good day. As I was heading up and down the stairs, it occurred to me there was a spring in my step and a surge of energy I normally don’t have. And then all of a sudden, it hit me.

That used to be me.

Before lupus touched my life, I was very active and energetic. I was bouncy. I would skip down the grocery aisle with a cart full of stuff. I went hiking. I climbed rocks. I would jump and skip steps, up or down the stairs. I would take the path less traveled because it was more fun and challenging. I loved to run, to feel my muscles flex and the air expand my lungs. I did all of this for fun. Because I felt like it. Because it was just me.

But things have changed since my diagnosis. Stairs are a challenge most days now. I almost never skip under any circumstances. I can’t run and chase and race my son like I’d always imagined I would. I can’t go hiking, horseback riding or rock climbing. I can’t even get to the rocks in order to climb them these days. It was difficult to accept the new me.

But today I realized something. The energetic me is still there. It’s inside of me, waiting and lurking. The person who loved to do Tae Bo, the person who laughed and danced with my son, the person who would step off the sidewalk just to step up on a rock and jump off onto the sidewalk again, is still there.

There are drawbacks to this discovery. Part of me is thrilled I haven’t lost that aspect of myself entirely. It’s simply buried beneath pain, tiredness and illness. But the flip side of the coin is that it’s a part of me I can only glimpse on rare occasions. It’s hidden and buried deep. It’s buried so deep my own son doesn’t even know the energetic me. If I suddenly were lupus-free, he would be baffled by my energy level, my bounciness and my goofy antics.

So there’s the inner me and the outer me. How do I keep myself intact, whole and sane under these conditions? I’m not sure I have the answer just yet, but it’s has to be here somewhere because I feel an amazing surge of joy when I realize I’m still my energetic self deep inside. That can’t be a bad thing, right? 

I refuse to lose what I now know is still a part of me even if I can’t access it. I may not be able to use these aspects of myself right now, but they’re still there. They’re still part of my identity, and I will hold onto them tightly as the treasures they are.

Julie Pruitt the mighty.2-001

Follow this journey on Lupus Rhythms.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s the hardest thing you deal with as someone with a chronic illness, and how do you face this? What advice and words of support would you offer someone facing the same thing? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our “Share Your Story” page for more about our submission guidelines.

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