By the time I was a year old I had endured eight major surgeries. I was born with many anatomical irregularities that left me with severe GI and respiratory issues. My doctors performed numerous procedures on me in order to correct these structural problems and minimize their impact on my everyday life, but we soon realized that I was the one in a million patient who’s surgery did not hold. I had to go through each surgery multiple times in hopes that it would fix my issues for good and the painful recovery would be worth it. Each time I had an operation, we found that slowly but surely my original symptoms would creep back in, until they were bad enough that the entire thing would be labeled a failure. This happened with my Tracheal Esophageal Fistula, my Fundo-Plication and my Tracheal Atresia, amongst others.
Complications like this left me with irritable bowel syndrome, GERD (acid reflux), asthma, a weak immune system and, over time, depression plus anxiety. I feel sick every time I eat, the common cold for me sometimes results in pneumonia, and my fluctuating happiness is hard to deal with. The medication that is often prescribed for GERD patients makes IBS symptoms worse, and vice versa. The same can be said for respiratory medication. I have seen multiple doctors, many of whom have been angels that have stuck by my side for over two decades. Others have thrown in the towel, looking me in the eye and stating, “I don’t have any more ideas, there’s nothing left I can do to help you.” Health issues like this can leave you feeling hopeless…after all, who wants to waste their time helping the one-in-a-million when they could be successful in finding a cure for the other 999,999 patients with textbook cases?
Despite all of these issues, I live a genuinely blessed life. My family is full of selfless, supportive and compassionate people. My parents are the twin pillars of strength and optimism, without whom I could not stand. And my sister’s work ethic inspires me to apply myself daily, no matter the pain. My friends are unfailingly kind, constantly yearning to understand my illnesses more, so as to provide the appropriate support. I have traveled the world, eaten off the tastiest plates and cuddled the cutest puppies. My life has been filled with millions of opportunities and never-ending love.
To end, I challenge you to fearlessly tackle every obstacle thrown your way. To find the good in your bad days and to focus on the thousands of reasons you are lucky. Whenever you are sulking or experiencing a rough period…if you count ten reasons why you are upset, I challenge you to list fifteen reasons why you're grateful. Recognize the hospital gown, the prickly IV and the eyes sealed shut with exhaustion, but cherish the grape slushy and the pure bliss it brings. Accept the one-in-a-million diagnosis, but choose to also rejoice in the one-in-a-million moments of beauty, ecstasy and love.