At 25, I’m not exactly where I would’ve imagined five or ten years ago. If things had gone my way, I’d be working as a Physician Assistant in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, getting credentialed to perform injections and nerve blocks under fluoroscopy and diagnosing all sorts of interesting injuries and conditions. But, as I’ve had to learn, God often has something in mind that differs from our own silly little plan.
In reality, I’m living an hour from home with one of my best friends, nannying a spunky 2.5-year-old with Cerebral Palsy and working as a personal trainer at an amazing facility with a growing list of clients. In May 2017 I will marry the man of my dreams and begin the most wonderful of adventures that is doing life with him.
My life today isn’t what I had planned or expected, but it is more beautiful and wonderful than I could’ve possibly imagined. Along the way I’ve seen God’s grace and His perfect timing manifested in so many ways, and I am so grateful to know and serve Him.
When I was 15 I suffered a spinal injury during a cheerleading stunt. I jumped right back up after my chin met the ground with incredible, spine-crushing force and walked away unaware of the painful path that lay ahead. A year and a half after the accident, just months after my first shoulder surgery, spinal surgeons reviewed the video of my accident and told me that I should’ve have been left quadriplegic at best.
Up until that point, I had been praying for some miracle. The last year and a half had been riddled with pain that just wouldn’t go away. I remember the doctors’ words echoing as they told me my abnormal flexibility had likely saved my life. Statistically, I was the only person at that football game who could’ve survived the impact my spine sustained. My miracle had come and gone without my having the faintest idea.
Fast forward three years. Dozens of spinal procedures, months of physical therapy, and extensive testing had come and gone and we still didn’t know why I was experiencing such intense, ubiquitous pain. My ankles sprained almost constantly. My sacroiliac joints subluxated regularly. I had pain in most of my joints, especially along the entire length of my spine. I was having vision problems, heart problems…so many things that didn’t appear to connect. So, when on one of my hours-long internet searches for a miracle cure, I found the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation (now the Ehlers-Danlos Society) webpage titled “So You Think You Might Have EDS,” I felt like everything was beginning to make sense.
The moment of my official diagnosis brought vindication. I had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility Type (EDS). It delivered justice for the years I spent defending my symptoms and sanity before those who judged and disbelieved me. It rewarded me for believing myself and listening to my body, and it made me immeasurably grateful to my parents, friends, doctors and physical therapists who believed in and fought for me. I wasn’t crazy. My pain was real, and it had a real, tangible cause. It had a name.
Thanks to taking my health into my own hands, with the help of my physical therapists and my PM&R doctor, I succeeded in graduating from college and assimilating into the adult world. I worked as a phlebotomist after college, and eventually took a position in research at a nearby laboratory, working in Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology. I loved my job, but between 60-hour weeks and working an extremely labor-intensive job, I eventually left to pursue a career in personal training. I specialize in corrective exercise, thanks to my own background as a patient of physical therapy and studying kinesiology during college. I’ve been able to use my knowledge to train clients with histories including shoulder surgeries, catastrophic knee injuries, chronic migraines, and even extreme weight loss.
So no, I am not where I expected to be at 25. But I’m exactly where God wants me to be, and I am happier today than I ever knew possible. EDS? It doesn’t define me. It doesn’t confine me. But it has taught me patience, compassion, perseverance…and it has led me to the beautiful life I am living now, because of it.
As Paul tells us so in Romans 12:12, I strive to
“rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”