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Chronic illness hasn’t been my barrier, it’s made me tougher than a rock

I fear nothing, not even death.

January 22, 2015 may have been by far the most tragic and miraculous day of my life. I'll spare you the details, but I was crossing the street with my cousin after playing basketball at the park and a car traveling around 60 mph hit us which resulted in head and body injuries. I eventually recovered and in my teens went on as nothing happened, however I never knew this event would change my life in many ways.

After a couple of years, I was suffering from horrible abdominal pain that felt unusual but tried my best to tough it out. It finally reached a point where I could no longer stand the cramps, fatigue, and bloating. I remember my mom (who happens to be a nurse) taking me to a specialist at the local hospital. They did a bunch of labs and procedures on me. In a blink of an eye, I was admitted. Hearing the doctors explain to my family that I had ulcerative colitis was so scary and confusing. I didn’t want to believe it. After the diagnosis, my life changed; I was constantly in the hospital, taking medication, having treatments. My new routine was making lists of what food I couldn’t eat, taking care of my PICC line, embarrassing bathroom runs, enduring the effects of chemotherapy, and daily symptoms from the disease itself. It's as if someone had turned off all the lights and my world became pitch dark. I came to terms that this would be my life from now on. The hardest part about living with an incurable illness isn’t the physical pain or symptoms, it’s the isolation. Missing out on life events, canceling plans, not feeling like I’m enough, loss of security, watching the world pass by as I’m struggling to catch up, and trying to convince everyone I’m okay. It really sucks, to be honest. I’d be lying if I said I was never depressed.

On May 5, 2016, I woke up from surgery in the recovery room and put my hands on my stomach to feel my ileostomy bag for the very first time. It was so surreal and the reality of my new journey ahead was finally settling in. But as hard as that was, I also had to remind myself about the blessings. Going through all of this has literally catapulted me into a stronger, better person, who now makes the most out of her life and lives it fearlessly. I can’t avoid life’s adversities but I can choose how to overcome them. This taught me to be my own advocate, to prepare and have a plan, to make the most of the days when I'm feeling good, to help children who have the same illness, to cherish my body, and to thank God for what I do have. I remember my counselor talking with me at the hospital and asking: “If your life was a book, how would you have it written?” That stuck with me ever since. It's such a humbling way to look at our lives and accept that we are the authors. From then on, the only obstacle I saw was me missing out on the chance to live my life to the very fullest regardless of my limitations.

“A secret to happiness is letting every situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be, and then making the best of it.” — Anonymous

The best advice I can give anyone who is experiencing any kind of hardship: get out there and make a difference for someone or something if you possibly can. There are so many needs out there and so many people who have much less than us. Visit a senior home, volunteer at a homeless shelter, go to the VA and listen to their stories and thank them, help an ostomate who needs supplies… just do it. Make it a habit. When you become invested in doing these things, you’ll set aside your own problems. You’ll stop blaming and viewing the world as a prison — because it's not. Life is literally what you make of it.

Get out there and start writing your book.

Article credit: haparae