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 just 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 bilaterally 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 worse 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 watch them my entire life and I 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 that 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 that it’s pretty pointless unless you get a masters….opps. 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 is concerned. I knew I couldn’t do nursing, but I wanted to do something in the medical field, and I wanted to help kids. While talking to a friend I mentioned that I would love to work for a nonprofit that helped kids who were ill and she asked if I’d ever thought about getting a degree in nonprofit management. Until that moment I didn’t even know that was a thing; six months later I was accepted into the nonprofit masters program online through The University of Central Florida. I still end up in the hospital every semester and I am finally seeing the correlation (took me long enough) but I love learning and being with like minded individuals. I will be taking this current semester off to focus on my health in order to be the me that wants to take the (CHD) world by storm.
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.
“Courage takes faith in the knowledge that things will get better even if you don’t know when or how” – Katrina Mayer
Life, Love, Laugh…..Always,
PS: I took this picture during my summer vacation in Oregon