Saturday, February 8, 2014

Honesty Corner: Let's Talk About Inspiration

I want to get a bit of honesty in. Get a little heavy. Dig deep.

Currently I am an undergraduate student majoring in Health Sciences with a double minor in Biology and Holistic Health. From here, my goal is graduate school - two of them to be precise: naturopathic medical school and then allopathic medical school. I'll be a double doctor when I come out: ND/MD. It's a long road ahead of me, but I'm super excited. There is nothing else I could see myself doing - not even my beloved art and writing. Don't get me wrong, I still plan on doing both! I plan to publish. I plan to sell and give away my art. I plan to share these talents with as many people who can enjoy them and get happiness from them. But as my lifepath, helping people reach their best potential, to live their best life, is a passion of mine. One important piece of living your best life is having good health.

One of my high school teachers once told me that to the best way to make it through college and all of it's rigors was to find a passion for it. Have a goal.

I'm a biology nerd and a health nut.

Giving the gift of good-health is my way of giving back to people. And I like to help people. Humanity is a collective effort. I've always felt we're all here to help each other and everything, in small ways and big ways. If I'm not in service to others  in some way - whether it be people, animals, nature, the world -  I feel lost. But I've got to be honest: my passion runs even deeper than that.

If you've seen my fashion posts then you've seen what looks to be a vibrant, happy, healthy young woman. The truth is...well, that isn't always so. I do tend to be happy and vibrant. I love life! But even with that happiness, most of the time my days are riddled with debilitating pain and fatigue, overcome with waves of anxiety, and plagued with migraines that come on at random and stay longer than they're welcome. There's no defined trigger. It all just comes on out of no where, without warning. Most days I barely have the energy to make it through a school day. In high school, the only reason I graduated was because of a 504 plan. I had no idea how I'd make it through college. There's been a few times I've worried I'd have to drop out. But it's three years in and four semesters of Dean's List grades later and I haven't thrown in the towel yet!

The doctors don't know what's wrong with me. They've run a bunch of tests. They're trying to figure things out. Some of them admit they know I have something, they just don't know what. And most of them? Well, most of the doctors have just given up on me. They say I look normal. I've had doctors tell me I have no right to be in their office, when they have cancer patients waiting to see them. As if my health doesn't matter because they aren't scraping me off the floor yet. (To be clear: many members of my family have had cancer, I am incredibly aware of the struggles and pain that comes along with that illness - the last thing I would ever do is take away from their treatment) I have sat in a chair, facing a doctor, and had them tell me that a). I am not ill, that maybe it is psychological or b). they have no idea how to help me, they've given up, they just don't know where to go anymore and then politely shown me the door. They tell me this will be the rest of my life. I'm 20 years old. They've sentenced me to the prison of my own body for the rest of my life.

I can't run, bike, hike, swim, horseback ride, stay up late, spend hours out with friends, make my own bed, or drive beyond 30 minutes on a good day, 5 on a bad day. There are days I cannot even walk or stand. There are many days I cannot write by hand because of arthritic symptoms. Some days I am so tired I cannot make it out of bed. Some days it is a minute-by-minute struggle to keep my eyes open. Some days I am so riddled with pain that the only thing I can do is lie on a heating pack. After having a good day, where I am a bit more active and have some energy, whatever I do that day becomes repercussions for the next. Whatever groceries I lifted become my source of pain tomorrow. The fatigue has always been part of my life at some level - I never had the sustained energy that most of my peers had. But the muscular pain and arthritic symptoms? They just came on one day. Between the years of 11 and 13, my life progressively stopped.

Most people don't know this.

The majority of my friends who do know, don't really know the severity of it.

To say my health has impact my life is, by far, an understatement. Passions I have - small things like drama (the acting kind), swimming, horseback riding, getting a job - are impossible right now. My friendships have suffered. I don't make friends too frequently. All because I do not always have the energy to pour into them. The weirdest thing for me to admit is this: this has become my normal. It's not a normal I want to accept. But I have lived with it so long that some days I forget that other people's lives aren't like mine. Sometimes I forget there is another normal.

It isn't all singing the blues, though! We're wackadoodles, remember? Through and through! Part of that is taking the curve-balls life throws at you and making them sparkle like diamonds.

I have two amazing parents. They raised me with three things: an inclination for optimism, undying determination and a wicked sense of humor. So for every bought of depression I do face, there is a light. While some of my passions are unattainable at current, other ones such as my art, my writing, scrapbooking, photography, reading, knitting, gardening have all grown over the years due to my inability to attain the others. Being ill taught me creativity. It taught me to be comfortable in being with myself. And while I couldn't always meet friends out-and-about, I have made a few good friends and become closer to friends I already had, thanks to social media (facebook, blogger, twitter, role play websites). I have learned, practiced and fallen in love with meditation. I have grown stronger and deeper in my spirituality. Because of my experiences, and my parents, I also have an incredible capability to laugh at myself and at my hardships. It is the best resilience tool I have in my "Getting Through" toolbox.  

(My parents and I have always been determined to say that I have an illness, it does not have me.)

The biggest thing that my illness has given to me, though, is my passion. My inspiration. Every day it just gets stronger.

Being ill downright sucks pond water. Not going to lie there. I never stop hunting for the ability to not be sick. But I am grateful for it, in some strange way, because it has taught me compassion for those who are suffering. I've been there, in those shoes, I know what it's like. Being ill gave me a passion to want to help stop suffering. It's taught me how I don't want to treat my patients as much as it has taught me how I do want to treat them. (I will never give up on a patient, that's for sure!) I've progressively learned how to be my own advocate - baby step by baby step.  I've gone down an endless path of healthful eating, filled with delicious vegetables, creative meals and organic, locally grown foods. I've learned there is a place for both allopathic and naturopathic medicine, and that the two can live in harmony.

I do have a few doctors who are still working hard with me, not giving up. The main ones are a naturopath and allopathic doctor duo who work as a team. They treated me for Lyme Disease, Bartonella, Babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis, both with allopathic means (pharmaceuticals) and herbals. With each treatment, I improved a small bit. But I am still no where near better. (If this is how well I am now, you can imagine what I was before. I was well on my way to being wheel-chair bound and a forced couch potato.) Right now, though, they're putting together pieces of a puzzle that are promising. Good health appears to be on the horizon!

That gift of excitement, promise, and hope - that's what inspires me. To be able to look at a patient who has been suffering and tell them how we as a team can improve their life, perhaps even cure it. That is priceless.

Being a doctor is being a private investigator. There are clues to be sniffed out, pieces of the puzzle to find and lock in place. Solving the case means giving someone their life back. For me, that's the ultimate reward.

I've always enjoyed a good mystery.

What inspires you?


  1. Katie... I do not know you personally nor was I aware of your personal struggles, but I do know a bit about you by having followed what you do and have shared over the last 2-3 years, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you, as an individual, are an inspired and inspiring person with a first-class mind, a most sincere compliment.

    I look forward to following your journey and consider myself lucky to have befriended you in heart and spirit.

    Your friend,

    1. Sophy...I look forward to the day when my travels may provide an opportunity to meet you and your amazing family. You are incredibly kind - and funny! - and I appreciate your friendship. Thank you sincerely for your compliment. It was incredibly touching. <3

      You inspire me daily!
      Take care, keep spreading laughter!
      Your friend,