Without being able to identify it medically for most of my life, I always knew my immune system and my body’s natural response to illness were atypical. They left me feeling weak, abnormal, and misunderstood in so many ways. In 2013, something occurred that would change my life. It took over a year (and several tests, imaging, and a few biopsy procedures – one that nearly ended my life) to rule out lymphoma and, instead, received a diagnosis of a rare, multi-systemic inflammatory disease called Sarcoidosis.
I was relieved that I didn’t have cancer, but quickly realized that this disease was attacking my lymph nodes and major organs in my body. There was no cure or reprieve from it – or so I thought. Feeling helpless, I found comfort in taking control of what I could, which was focusing on a commitment to positivity, diet, and exercise.
By delving into an anti-inflammatory diet and regular exercise as my daily routine over the past four years, I have been able to elude the typical oral chemotherapies and other pharmaceutical medications. As of 2017, my routine PET scan was devoid of abnormal activity and I am in a remission of sorts. By focusing on diet and exercise, I have been able to control how I heal. Being able to do so in a natural way has empowered me to fight harder in this battle with my body.
Chronic illness doesn’t have to be a life sentence that is painful. The illness is unavoidable. However, I have learned that Sarcoidosis is something I live with but it does not define me. Because of this disease, I have discovered a strength and perseverance I never knew existed. I have become fully aware of the fragility of life and have redefined what takes priority in it. I have found a deep sense of gratitude in having the opportunities to make the most of every moment with those I care about, to have meaningful connection with others, and to be present, mindful, and supportive.
I believe we have the ability to heal ourselves on our terms. As a result, we can coexist and find beauty in the challenges of living with chronic illness.