New Challenges

I have been sick since the day I was born. My first hours of life were spent in the ICU, and after that, things just got more interesting. When people ask where I grew up, I jokingly say, “In the doctor’s office.” And it’s sort of true. I started off with chronic ear infections that left me with some hearing loss; then, I graduated to migraines and scoliosis. Now I have dysautonomia, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, Raynaud’s phenomenon, a seizure disorder, and some weird neurological thing no one has been able to diagnose.

The moral of the story: I must have been a famous baseball player in another life because fate is always throwing me curveballs. Just when I start getting comfy, some new medical condition pops up.

This month, it’s been something called Myoclonic Seizures. Basically, they’re these super short seizures that cause my body to convulse for about half a second. It kind of looks like I’m being electrocuted when it happens, and it feels bizarre. Because of this new type of seizure, I have to have another EEG done. EEGs are used to track brain waves and help diagnose exact types of seizures. Usually, EEGs only last about a half-hour, but because some of my seizures come at night, I have to do an EEG that lasts 24-hours.

So how do doctors do this? They hook me up with 25 electrodes and wires, wrap my head in a swath of bandages and medical tape, give me a back-pack thingy with an EEG monitor in it, and tell me weird instructions like, “Whatever you do, don’t chew gum!” Oh, and they also demand that I wear no make-up because this could get in the way of the electrodes. You can see the stunningly gorgeous outcome of all this below:


Hell yes. I’m ready to strut down the runway right now and show off the new Cone Head Cyborg Frankenstein look. Models, get ready to be jealous!

On a more serious note, I’m sometimes asked, “Don’t you hate being sick all the time?” And the obvious answer is, “Duh!” But, at the same time, I’m a teensy bit glad for all my medical issues. Simply put, they’ve taught me to catch all those curveballs. For example, today I have had to take the following things in stride:

  • A two-year-old shrieking and running to her mother at the sight of me.
  • A cashier mistaking me for being mentally disabled (I was tempted to play this one up and see if I could get a discount, but I resisted).
  • Lots and lots and lots of staring.

If these things had happened to me five years ago, I’d probably be a sobbing mess at the moment. But after all the medical catastrophes that have happened to me, it doesn’t bother me much. It’s not that I’m numbed out; it’s just that I’m used to bad stuff being thrown at me and having to deal with it.

Over the years, I’ve learned that crying gets me nowhere, and sometimes having a good attitude is the best medicine. I’ve learned to deal with irritating people and lazy people and people who just want to hurt me, and, most importantly, I’ve learned to take new challenges in stride. Whether they’re related to my health, job, family, or friends, I have enough trust in myself to get through them.

So do I hate being sick all the time? Of course. But, I also know that there are benefits to it and that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I was healthy.

As this new year rolls around, I’m ready for new challenges. I know there will be a lot of them, including:

  • Dealing with rejection from publishers as my agent pitches my novels.
  • My continually-declining health.
  • My parents’ divorce.
  • Juggling high school, college, and my jobs.

But I’ve already survived 17 years, and I know I can survive another. No matter what challenges I face, I know I can make it through. It might be hard and painful and time-consuming, but, in the end, I’ll survive. So bring it on 2014! Throw all the challenges you want at me – I might not catch them, but I’ll definitely make it through them.

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