After receiving a Golden Ticket at her “American Idol”, audition, Lennon met the author.
Althea Grace, Photo

It’s Round 2 of Hollywood Week on “American Idol.” We’re mid-pandemic, filming a show in lockdown. I’m paired up with my partner, Camille, whom I just met this week, and we have 24 hours to learn a song we’ve never played together. This is my first attempt at this. EverI’m away from my 2-year old child.

In the middle of rehearsals, a text comes through from my dad: “I have to take Lennon to the ER.”

As I sob in the corridor, I’m surrounded by my friends and producers, wondering if I’m a bad mom for being such a terrible mother. Consider Staying ahead of the game

Lennon had her GJ tube (the tube she eats) cut and went to the emergency department. While it is a terrible situation that requires a hospitalization, I know it isn’t an emergency I HaveTo immediately get involved to fix. The competition’s final round, I am determined to take part in it. I’m not just competing on “American Idol” for me, but for the chance at giving my daughter a better future. What can I do?

Katy Perry questions me while I’m on stage. After choking out one sentence, I finally manage to cry into the microphone. The judges hear me tell them that my last two days have been spent in deep despair at the fact that my child is in hospital. I speak to the judges and audience about Lennon’s diagnoses: tuberous sclerosis complex and her liver transplant.

The round is over and I’m through it. The judges, who are all parents themselves, offer their support and appreciation for my perseverance. But as difficult as it is, competing on “American Idol” feels like a walk in the park after my years as a medical mama.

At 10 months, my daughter Lennon was first diagnosed with TSC. The condition can result in benign tumors of organs, such as the brain or heart. It is estimated to affect between 40k and 80k people in the United States.

Lennon began having seizures at her home in October 2019. My (seemingly) healthy baby Lennon began having seizures at home in October 2019.

I’ve been a full-time touring musician for as long as I can remember. For the first 10 months of Lennon’s life, I had taken her on the road with me, and I felt blessed to be able to provide such a beautiful life for her, even as a single mother.

When the doctors gave me Lennon’s diagnosis, I was terrified. What could I do to take care of my child, including all her medical requirements? And Do you want to continue your non-conventional career in the same field?

The next two years were the most difficult of my entire life. Lennon needed a liver transplant. Lennon had to have a G-tube and central line placed. She also underwent numerous surgeries, and nearly half her life was spent in hospital.

It was amazing how much I experienced grief so quickly. My grief was for the past. Grieving the way life “should” be. I had to grieve what I thought of as the “normal” mom experience.

It was in the middle of a 90-day hospital stay with Lennon that I learned of the “American Idol” auditions. In all honesty, “Idol” was never something I thought of doing. But, in the middle of chaos I thought, “Why not?”

Lennon and the author on the rooftop of the Roosevelt Hotel after the "American Idol" auditions.
Lennon with author, on top of Roosevelt Hotel’s Roosevelt Hotel following the “American Idol” auditions.
Althea Grace, Photo

It was a dream of mine that I’d make it through auditions and make it into the Top 40. Being on “Idol” was HardIt is possible to do it. It’s a lot of work and the competition was It is fierce ― not to mention we were isolated from the world outside and I couldn’t see my daughter for weeks.

Lennon was left in my care. My During that period, he was my father. He flew in from Chicago just to be there with Lennon so I could compete on “Idol.” My dad is one of the smartest people I know and I knew he would care for Lennon as well as I would.

I spent the entire time trying to focus on the fact that I wasn’t doing this just for me, but for my daughter and her future as well.

Being at “American Idol” required an Absurd A lot of planning. I had to manage Lennon’s therapies and doctor appointments while I was gone. Each night, we only got six hours sleep. FaceTime was my favorite way to communicate with Lennon.

Although I didn’t know if I was doing right, I knew that I was showing my daughter there was no barrier that could stop her from following her dreams. I hope that one day Lennon looks back on my time on “American Idol” and feels proud of me.

When Lennon was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex, her pediatrician looked at me and said, “You won the lottery of genetic disorders!”

He wasn’t making light of this devastating diagnosis ― he proceeded to tell me all about the amazing community kids with TSC have behind them. The TSC Alliance was formed through this network. This non-profit group is dedicated to finding the cure for TSC as well as better treatment options.

While on “American Idol,” I was in touch with multiple people within the TSC Alliance, so I never felt alone.

It was a great achievement to make it into the top 40. To be honest, I felt a great relief when I got home. I achieved something huge However, I wasn’t SoReady to go home to my little girl.

After the episode aired I was notified. Numerous Other TSC family members sent emails, messages and comments. They were amazed to hear about tuberous sclerosis being discussed on national television.

I have accomplished so many incredible things since being on “Idol,” but nothing even comes close to the absolute joy it brings me to be a voice for other families going through the same hardships my family has been through. I am lucky that I can use my platform to help spread awareness about those with genetic disorders ― for instance, I get the honor of singing at the TSC Alliance event “Comedy for a Cure.”

It is hard to watch your child struggle. We choose to see the positive side of every situation. Lennon prepares for preschool. Her wonderful team of therapists helps her keep track of milestones. Every day, her speech quality is improving. She gets a majority of her feeds through her G-tube, but the hope is that someday soon she won’t need it at all.

We are so grateful to be out of the constant state of emergency we were in six months ago and are ready for any challenge that may come our family’s way. Lennon may experience some changes as she grows up, but she will remain my wild, spunky and courageous baby girl.

TSC fighters around the world are just as resilient as my Lennon and confront the world with courage we can all learn from.

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