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I Am Thankful for My Illness

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November may be one of my favorite months; it could be due to the fall foliage and fashion that I adore, but I know there is more to it than that. November is a time that reminds us to be grateful. A time to take a step back and reflect on precious memories and potential future ahead. Today I was reminded of the past that brought me to where I am today.

I am at a stage in my illness where it has been made possible to quickly forget the physical pain I went through, the psychological torture that greatly affected me in my adolescence. Don’t get me wrong, there is not a day that goes by that I am not aware of my illness. However, as the years continue to gain and I become stronger, the impression of those symptoms that I once felt are now just faded recollections.

Sometimes I dream that my symptoms will revert back to how they used to be, haunting my thoughts with slurred speech and weighted legs. But for the most part, I live a pretty wonderful life. I am in graduate school, participating in academia and research that I am tremendously passionate about. I have been blessed with a solid support system comprised of family and close friends. And I am at my healthiest since I was diagnosed, and that is something I will never take for granted.

But today was different. I took the day off from my rigorous schedule, something I have not done much of in my graduate school career. Previously, my body forced me to miss important obligations and my heart broke a little every time I felt as if I let someone down. These last two years I have been able to “keep
up” and feel “normal,” compared to the previous 12 years where I was barely keeping my head above water. I still nap every day and have to rest in between my activities. I still take medicine every three hours and avoid committing to too much. But that is my new normal and I get to choose to live that way. For years I did not have that choice and I know what it is like to have that freedom taken away from you, and I never want to feel it to that degree again.

I knew I needed to let my body rest today, so I decided to listen to its needs and put a halt to the hustle and bustle of my busy life. After I slept for a solid four hours, I checked my social media account. A young woman had commented on a photo I had posted a couple of months ago that was dedicated toward my gratitude for “The Mighty.” She stated her personal gratitude for my advocacy efforts and appeared to be overwhelmed with emotion as she too is fighting myasthenia gravis. In an instant, I was taken back to the days in where I could not walk, talk, chew, or smile.  She reminded me of my suffering and the nightmare I thought would never end.

But what she also stated was that she no longer feels alone in her fight against this debilitating disease. Because of my experience, I have given her a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a reason to hope.

I have dedicated my career towards helping people such as the young woman who commented on my post. Again, it is easy to forget why you do the things you do because life goes on and the monotony of
your routine can cloud your “why.” But this is why I do what I do. This is why I am genuinely grateful for my life with myasthenia gravis. I know that may sound silly, it feels weird to even write that. But I am truly and tremendously thankful for my suffering because without it, I know I would only be making a small difference in comparison to the positive change I have made in the lives of others. Ironic as it may sound, the miserable days spent fighting to get out of bed each morning and the nights spent fading into a slumber, while holding on to the hope of my physical abilities returning back to me, are the gifts that can never be replaced.

So let this be a thank you note to the people in my life that have stood by me since day one and continue to support me.

To the people who are going through a hard time and finding it difficult to be grateful for things when life feels utterly hopeless:

Thank you for allowing me to share my experience with each and every one of you. My goals through all of this are to provide love, support, and hope and to continue educating and advocating for a population that is so near and dear to my heart. Thank you for allowing me to see that my suffering has a purpose and I will use it to the best of my ability to engage and empower those near and far.

And lastly, I thank you, myasthenia gravis. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever say that, but without you, none of this would be possible. Even though your intent was to hurt me and destroy the beautiful life I have been given, your purpose has given me purpose and I am looking forward to giving back to the world what you attempted to take away from me.

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Thinkstock Image By: ASashka

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