My Story Could One Day Be Yours
My story could one day be your story, or someone you may know and love. You could take this to be an inspirational story, but don’t. Take this story from an educational point of view and understand that one day you or a loved one may someday be in this position. Nearly 133 million Americans suffer from at least one chronic illness (https://www.aha.org/system/files/content/00-10/071204_H4L_FocusonWellness.pdf). With numbers like that, you never know if you or a loved one will one day be one of those statistics.
So here’s my story as a 21 year-old college Senior who feels like she has the body of an elderly woman. Quick back story, as I was one of the most active kids you will ever meet growing up. I don’t remember a time when I was not playing sports, working out, or being one of the most energetic kids then teenagers around. Now back to the real story, I was 20 years old and I was doing great in college, as I loved my major, was acing all of my classes, and having the best social life throughout all the studying. When I wasn’t being a huge nerd at school, I was at the gym working out everyday with my friends. I had an amazing spring semester, then a super fun summer traveling with my family. Three weeks before my junior year of college started, I started to notice that I felt weak and tired at the gym easily. But I brushed it off and assumed I was just in a rut until I went on a weekend vacation with my best friend. I noticed that I had lost all feeling in my fingertips and really felt like something was off. Of course, not wanting to worry anyone, I didn’t tell my mom until my entire hands, feet, and legs went numb and I could barely walk. I’m glad she insisted that I contact my neurologist as what happened next I would have never guessed in a million years would ever be happening to ME.
After many MRI’s and a couple days of waiting as my symptoms got worse, I got THE CALL, from my neurologist. The words that came out of his mouth had me shocked, as I found out I had severe inflammation on my C2-C5 of my spinal cord and needed to have immediate infusions to help decrease the inflammation. This is also known as Transverse Myelitis and in my case can be the beginning of Multiple Sclerosis. At this point, I had no clue what my life would be like, as my parents were a wreck not knowing the damage it would cause or what my future would entail. After a very emotional week of infusion treatments at the hospital that entailed many complications that took not only a psychological toll, but a physical one as well. I was sent off into the world not knowing how my body would respond to the treatment and what damage was already done. I have to admit I am one of the lucky ones, as this damage could have had me become a quadriplegic. Though I have permanent damage to my nerves on my spinal cord, it could’ve been a lot worse if I did not speak up about my body feeling different.
Soon after this diagnosis, I was diagnosed with three other incurable chronic diseases. With many of my chronic illnesses being autoimmune diseases, it took an even bigger toll on my body. I learned that I could not walk long distances, be overheated, do some of the things I loved, be in the sun for long periods of time, eat certain foods, use certain products, or have a lot of energy anymore. This change made me feel so alone at times, but then I realized that my friends and family were going to love me no matter what. They made me think having to wear my compression garments was cool by calling them my soccer socks or teasing me about how I have to take breaks while walking around like their grandparents do. Joking about my new daily issues became the new norm, but I didn’t mind as it was more welcoming this way.
My life may never be the same. I may not have as many good days as I do bad ones. I may be 21, but feel like an elderly lady and my body may not like me. But this is my story and I am the only one that can write it, so why not accept my chronic illnesses and be an advocate for others to listen to their bodies & realize they are not alone in this scary journey.
After this diagnosis and realizing things may not go as I had planned, I reminded myself that I can still have an amazing life, even though I may need a few accommodations. For instance, imagine how cool it is that now anytime I go to Disneyland I’ll get a wheelchair, you can catch me at the front of EVERY one of the lines now!
This post was written for Healthy Young Nevada by Alyssa, an intern at Immunize Nevada.