If You've Had to Give Up a Dream Due to Illness, Remember This

A few days ago, I had a conversation with someone about how I had to change my dream career because of my illness, and it made me realize what my illness has taken away from me. Many people say, “You can do it if you just put your mind to it.” Well, that’s not entirely the case.

When I was 14 I started my freshman year of high school and had a great opportunity to tour University of South Florida’s campus; at that moment, I knew I wanted to go there and get my degree in nursing. I was a bright student, I had good grades, I had heart disease and during that year… I got bilateral hereditary lymphedema in my legs. The next four years of high school were tough. I had to wear “old people” stockings, never wore anything but Converse and always wore jeans.

Adapting to this new way of “life” was challenging because I was already small for my age, I was always out of school because of my heart disease, but the worst thing was the thought that crept to the back of my mind: “Will I still be able to be a nurse?”

I knew what it meant to be a nurse, I’d watched them my entire life and I was inspired to be like them. The 12-hour shifts, the uncanny ability to be everywhere all at once and to always be on the move. I had reservations about being a nurse because of my heart disease, but I believed my doctors when they said, “If you just put your mind to it you can do it, there’s nothing stopping you.”

The reality was… my health was stopping me. I tried so hard to carry that dream as long as I could; I graduated high school and went to the local community college to start my nursing preparation. It hit like a cannonball – the pain, the discomfort, the redness and the sickness.

During my freshman year of college, I contracted cellulitis in my right ankle; it was unbearable. This would be the start of missing school due to hospitalizations every semester of college… for my entire college career.

It took me a lot of time, a lot of self-realization and a lot of strength to realize I had to give up on my dream; yes, the acute cellulitis went away, but the understanding of what could go wrong didn’t.

My love for USF didn’t fade, even if my dream had. I ended up going there and getting my BA in Psychology… which I found out my last semester is pretty pointless unless you get a Master’s… oops. I left school and moved back home, and within the first year realized that I had nothing to show for the last 24 years of my life where my education was concerned. I knew I couldn’t do nursing, but I wanted to do something in the medical field, and I wanted to help kids. During the next five years I struggled with figuring out what I wanted to be “when I grew up,” and after leaving my hometown I realized I still had a passion for helping kids, so I’m studying to get my certification in teaching and going back to school to become a school psychologist.

I wanted to write this because there are many people out there like myself who had to stop following their dream because of something that is completely out of their control. I want you to know though that you can still take that passion and drive and put it into something else; please never lose that fire in your soul. Even if you feel defeated and deflated there is always the other side of the coin. You can achieve great things, even if they seem small at the time.

Image Credits: Nicole McDowell

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