Part of me feels strange when I tell people I have a chronic illness — it doesn’t feel real that I am very different in a big, foreign way — but the other part can’t really remember what it’s like to be normal. It almost seems like the rest of my life was a dream, and it’s mind-blowing that I used to be able to jump out of bed quickly without blacking out or that I could carry my own backpack from class to class. I can remember what it’s like to run, but I can’t recall the feeling of independence that should have gone along with this privilege. Needless to say, I have had to swallow my pride a lot the past four years, and ask people for help.
I remember feeling incredibly uncomfortable when my Master’s class went to the university library and we were told to bring our bags because we wouldn’t be going back to that classroom. I panicked a little on the inside, as my dad always walked me to class early and picked me up late so that I could be discreet about getting help carrying my stuff, but I knew I would be in pain for a week if I didn’t ask someone to take my bag for me.
My face got warm as I approached one of the only guys in the class. “This is going to sound really weird,” I started, “but would you mind carrying my backpack to the library for me?”
I could feel my body turning the bright shade of red it seems to love so much when I am uncomfortable. I tried to think of something else — anything else — that would make my autonomic nervous system cooperate, but I ended up just coming to terms with the fact that I looked like I suddenly got a terribly bad sunburn under the florescent lights.
“Sure, no problem,” he interrupted before I could go into my spiel about why I need help taking a fairly light bag from one part of campus to another. I explained my situation quickly as he picked my bag off the floor, and was relieved when we shifted topics to chatting about English-related topics instead of my personal problems.
Since that day I’ve gotten [a little] better at asking for help. I still have trouble vocalizing when something hurts unless it’s an unbearable pain, and I try to be as independent as possible, which sometimes results in injuring my muscles and joints further. I try to remember that everyone has something they need help with, even if it’s not the same thing I am struggling with.
Many of my friends have even become so great at automatically helping without me even having to ask; this blog has been an amazing platform for raising awareness for twentysomethings with chronic pain, and I think people understand a lot more than they would without reading about the experiences I have on here. Thank you to each and every one of you for reading and caring about the stories I have to tell. It means the world to me to have support from friends, both in person and for this little space on the internet.
Today’s Lesson: I always joke to my friends to “channel Krista” when they want to avoid a guy making a move on them on a first date since I was kind of a pro at that back in the day. Today, I want to encourage you to pull a Krista and ask for help when you need it, even if you’re afraid to. Whether you have a broken heart and need a friend to talk to or need assistance with a physical task, people are always a lot more willing to pitch in and help out than you initially expect. We all have different things to offer the world and ways we love to serve, and I’ve often found that when people can help another human being it makes them feel good as well.
I’ve been a little MIA on this blog lately for a few reasons. First, because we have a new puppy in the family, and Jax has kept us all incredibly busy… Which also means I’m trying to spend more quality time with my sweet little Macy so she feels included!
Second, I’ve been working on a few little projects that I’ll be ready to announce on here this fall. Nothing too crazy, but you’ll see why my time has been occupied and a bit away from blogging. I’ve also still been dealing with my arm pain, so physical therapy and my exercises take up a lot of energy.
Third, I’ve been focusing on building a team of other young women for my Rodan + Fields business. It’s been a blast getting coffee and lunch with friends and discussing how they fit in to my new small business. I’ve been so thrilled with all the support friends and family have shown already, and am so excited to keep adding to my team.
Lastly, I’ve still been catching up on spending time with Robert. Ten months was a really long time to be gone, and even though he’s only been home for five months it’s felt like we’ve packed a lot of quality time in together. We’ve gone to a few weddings together, watched a bunch of summer movies, and enjoy cooking out and relaxing at his new home. Time is the most valuable thing I have on this earth, and I’m so happy to be able to spend it on him and my loved ones. Life is such a beautiful thing, and I’m blessed to have so many great people in mine.
I’ve been incredibly busy the past couple of weeks because I’ve had to save all of my energy for weddings! It’s crazy how I had only been to a couple of weddings before this year — now I’ll have been to four this year alone.
26 is a funny age because half of your friends are engaged or married, the other half are super-single. I wanted to write a little note of encouragement to each type of person, as I know there are highs and lows associated with each.
To my married friends: I am so happy that you found your person! I always hear that the first year of marriage is the hardest. I’m no expert on this, but I would assume it’s a huge adjustment suddenly sharing everything with your significant other. Having to re-budget finances and learn how to save together, sharing living quarters with someone new, and fighting for the last cookie in the pantry are a few that come to mind. Be kind and patient with one another — and to yourself — and always remember why you choose to love each other first every day. It takes time to adjust to big changes, so it’s normal that you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed after the excitement wears off. You’ll get the hang of it soon enough, but in the meantime make sure you still have the time to go out on dates and continue to speak your spouse’s love language to them.
To my engaged friends: Congratulations! I’m sure you’re incredibly excited and overwhelmed with planning a wedding, but remember that your wedding is just one day out of forever. My hope is that you are incredibly excited to celebrate with your friends and family because you just cannot wait to spend the rest of your life with the most special person you’ve ever met. Try to enjoy your time being engaged and don’t stress too much over the little details for your big day. Remind yourself that this time is such an exciting one to bond and continue to learn about your fiancee, and make time to enjoy one another amidst all of the chaos wedding planning ensues.
Remember, though, that marriage doesn’t fix things. Signing your name on a piece of paper with another human being and moving in with them or having children won’t make you closer or communicate better. If you feel in your gut that the decision you’re about to make isn’t right, please take a minute to reevaluate. Seek counseling if you need to get an outsider’s opinion on your relationship. Breakups are tough, but it’s so much better to have a few months of grieving the loss of a relationship than spending your life with the wrong person — or going through an incredibly painful divorce in the future.
To my single friends: You are not alone. I know sometimes it feels like everyone around you is having a really easy time navigating the dating/relationship world, but always try to keep in mind that although you may see a million and one social media posts about great relationships, the other singles out there are just quieter. People don’t typically post things like, “I’m currently not in a relationship!” or “Doing nothing in my PJs by myself this weekend!” If you want to get married one day, your time will come. Celebrate healthy relationships with your friends now, and one day they’ll be excited to celebrate with you!
Today’s lesson: We are all on different schedules in life and you can’t always plan when people come into your life. Try to enjoy each stage to it’s fullest. One thing I’ve learned is that time is something you can never get back, so try to look at the positive things about today so you can feel like you fully appreciated each stage in life.
I think it’s because I haven’t always felt secure in my life or relationships. In the past I have been with people who make all the big life decisions without me, and I feel an overwhelming lack of control over my life with my illness. Helplessness is a familiar feeling, and it’s one that I despise more than anything else in this world.
Last night I prayed for the first time in awhile. I felt shaky and scared; there are so many different moving parts in my life, and I am a notorious worrier. Giving my concerns to God doesn’t give me as much peace as it should, and I think too much about the future and “what if” scenarios. I think this is something a lot of people from our generation struggle with. I’m not sure if it’s just because our twenties are so uncertain and there are a lot of big changes taking place or because it’s still the beginning of really being adults in the world, but either way I have so many friends who deal with the same exact concerns as me.
I think God sometimes speaks to us in the smallest of ways. I believe in signs, so when I woke up and saw this photo on Proverbs 31 Ministries‘ Facebook page, my heart felt warm and full. I think this was God talking back to me to remind me to trust Him with every detail of my life.
After all, God hasn’t made any mistakes with my life yet. In fact, He has always known what is best for me, even when I think my life is going in one direction. My favorite examples to use are always ones from dating, so I’ll share the glimpse I got into God working in my life.
A few years back, I was worried about my first-ever relationship ending. It was scary because I had never gone through a breakup before, and I was paralyzed with fear of how it would affect me, how I would get through it, and whether or not I would ever find someone to love me again. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I think most of us have a harder time with heartbreak the first time around.
As you all know, I made it through the breakup, and came out even stronger after the fact. I found plenty of guys who wanted to take me on a date, and I eventually fell in love again. This is where my “God moment” begins. The love I have found with Robert is incomparable to any other relationship I have had in my life. I am with someone who knows what compromise looks like, wants to know the desires of my heart, and makes me laugh on a regular basis. He cares about quality time the same way I do, and views relationships as the number one priority in life.
To this day I strongly believe the end of my old relationship is the biggest blessing I have ever received. I got to meet Robert — someone I now can’t imagine my life without. One of my biggest fears ended up materializing, but God knew so much better than I did that there was someone else out there who would be a much better fit for me. I think back to the day Robert and I first met in front of a little Italian restaurant and can’t believe how far we’ve come from that. I imagine it must have been fun for angels and God to gather to watch our love story unfold that day. To us, it was just another online date (Granted, it was the best first date I’ve ever had), but to the one Guy who knows everything, it was the beginning of a really beautiful love story. He knew what He was doing when He jumped through hoops to make us meet, and my heart should feel at ease that God will continue to work in my life and take care of me the way He always has before. I have absolutely no proof that God has ever left me behind or let me fall without Him, but I have such a special story of God taking care of my heart and knowing what was best for me before I even knew it myself.
I don’t have the right words to end my blog post today, so I’ll leave you with words that are much more beautiful than any I could come up with.
“Do not be anxious in anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7
If you look this up in the dictionary you won’t find a definition, but a minimizer is someone who diminishes their feelings in order to make others comfortable or happy.
Something I minimize just about every single day is how I am feeling. In PT I sometimes feel dizzy, but I don’t say anything unless I am worried that I’m close to fainting. I don’t like to complain or for people to be worried about me — even if it’s a totally normal thing for them. When people ask how I am doing, I always reply with, “I’m doing well, thanks! How are you?” even when it’s not true. I’m often stiff and in pain, but I rarely call attention to my it even in my closest relationships because I don’t want to feel like a broken record. It’s annoying enough having the pain every day, but not dealing with it and having to hear about it all the time would really be a nuisance.
When I say I’m in pain I feel like most people can’t understand what that means because although they may have been in pain for a short time, they haven’t had to deal with chronic pain. Chronic pain is such a draining cycle and isn’t like just breaking a bone or stubbing your toe. An injury typically has an end date to the pain. Even if it hurts intensely at the time, you know your life is going to go back to normal at some point. Chronic pain doesn’t typically look bad either, since people can’t see the way my body is malfunctioning. With a broken bone you can sometimes see the disturbing crack in the body and imagine how terrible the person must feel, but with an illness there usually isn’t much the average person can see that indicates anything is wrong with you.
Chronic pain doesn’t have the hope of getting significantly better in any certain time period. When you’ve spent years spent hurting — ranging anywhere from mild to intense — it’s disheartening. You are trapped in a viscous cycle that starts with pain which moves to the inability to get a good night’s sleep that makes healing tough, and the inability to do normal activities or do little things for yourself. I get on and off frustrated with some of the independence I’ve lost, and some days are harder than others. I’m trapped in a 6 mile radius near my home unless I can get a ride further out, but I miss being able to explore the world on my own.
I don’t always ask for help when I need it because I want to be independent and I want everyone I love to be able to enjoy their day without focusing on me. I hate being the center of attention, so I try to wait until something hurts or I am moderately concerned about my well-being to say anything.
Writing is the only place I feel like I can be completely honest, because it’s an easy outlet. My brain knows exactly what to tell my hands, and it goes on autopilot until the page is filled with words that I feel. Overall I’m actually really happy with my life. I’m blessed to be an optimist, and I won’t ever lose hope that one day I’ll be better. I can find the best in most situations, and I’ve already been able to see some about how my own pain can be used for good to help others. I have an incredible family, the best boyfriend I could choose for myself, sweet friends who are more than willing to be accommodating to my new high maintenance life (Even after 4 years it still feels new), and more adorable puppies and dogs than I know what to do with. What I lack in health is easily made up with in the abundance of love I have in my life.
Here is something written by my lovely mother about getting diagnosed with skin cancer. I wanted to share her post because I think it’s really important for people to know more about the dangers of the sun. I hear so many of my friends say they are going to the pool to “tan,” and I understand wanting to have nice color, but it can come at a very high price. I’ll do another post soon about a few of my favorite products (self tanner, bronzer, vitamin D tablets, clothing items, and a few other things) that keep you healthy and make you feel like you have a nice, summery glow. Without further ado, though, here is my mom’s message about skin cancer.
One of the biggest fears most people have when getting a diagnosis from the doctor is hearing the “C” word, and in March that’s exactly what my dermatologist told me I had.
As a child I spent most of my summer days in our backyard pool or at the beach. My mother always insisted I wear a t-shirt over my swimsuit since I was fair-skinned, and thankfully she always kept me in a sun hat. As I got older I admired my sister and friends who could get a deep, golden tan, which is when I started using concoctions like baby oil mixed with iodine to attract as much sun as possible. My best friend and I would sit out in the midday sun when the rays were their brightest in hopes of looking like the model on the Coppertone ad.
As a young adult, I discovered that nearly anyone could get a “healthy” looking tan by going to the tanning booths that were popular in the early 80’s. It seemed like they were everywhere, and everyone was doing it. Looking back I am so happy that I only purchased one package, as I hated the strange smell and the claustrophobic feeling they gave. The beach was still my favorite place, so whenever I had an opportunity to travel I chose somewhere with lots of sun and sand.
I have always been interested in health and wellness, which is why I decided to become an esthetician many years ago. By then I knew that any kind of tan is considered sun damage. I did whatever I could to avoid having sun on my face and always used a good amount of sunscreen. My kids who were avid swimmers never left the house without being slathered with sunscreen and an SPF shirt. I lovingly nagged all of my clients about the danger of too much sun exposure and my “platform” was reinforced when a sweet young man treated his mom to a relaxing facial with me. He had driven her straight from the hospital. To my horror, when she removed her hat she had a giant scar from one side of her scalp to the other and had received the diagnosis of terminal melanoma. Her sweet son was treating her to something he hoped would make her feel better. That poor lady and her son will be forever ingrained in my mind, so you can see why this has always been one of my most important platforms when educating my clients.
This leads me to my doctor’s appointment this past March. I have always been diligent at getting my annual skin cancer screenings. It’s never fun sitting in the paper gown knowing that someone will be scanning every part of you from head to toe, but the alternative of not being checked could always be worse than the embarrassment, so I bit the bullet and went into the office. “No changes, you look fine,” the doctor said. I showed him a very tiny dry patch of skin just below my throat that I had been concerned about. “Oh that’s nothing,” he assured me, so I left feeling confident and proud of myself for being able to cross the annual appointment off my “to-do” list. A couple months later I accompanied my daughter to the same dermatologist for one of her appointments. Before the doctor left the room I asked him if he would mind taking a look at that tiny patch of dry skin again that he had dismissed as normal before, and told him I had tried exfoliating it but that it kept coming back. Again, he took a look with his doppler glasses and said casually, “Nothing!” I felt relief, because in the back of my mind I kept thinking of that poor lady and her sweet son who had visited my esthetics office some years back.
About three months passed and I went to my family doctor for my annual checkup. During the exam, I showed her the tiny patch below my throat and she said she wanted me to see the dermatologist she refers to, so I went to see him that Thursday. I showed him the dry patch and he biopsied it right then and there in the office. He told me if it was positive, someone would call me within 3 business days. Tuesday rolled around and no call. Great, I thought! I’m in the clear. Another week passed, then another. Several weeks later the phone rang. “I’m calling to tell you that your biopsy was positive for cancer,” I heard on the other end of my phone. Wait, didn’t they say they would call within three days? Now my mind was racing back to months before when I had first asked my dermatologist about the cancer I now realized had taken residence in my body! When I asked the bearer of my news why she didn’t call me sooner she simply said, “Ma’am, we have a stack of calls to make every day.” I asked her what my next step was and she said the doctor would do the surgery to remove an inch around the area. My first concern was getting these rogue cells the heck out of my body, but realizing this scar was going to be significant and unable to hide above any neckline outside of a turtleneck I said I would get back to her to make the appointment — I wanted to check with a skin surgeon I knew of who was also a plastic surgeon. Then she informed me that by law I needed to let her know within a few weeks that this procedure had been completed. Why then did it take the dermatologists’ staff three weeks to let me know I had cancer in the first place?!
Due to the busy demands of the doctor, yet another three weeks passed before I was able to reluctantly go in for the surgery. The surgeon performed what they call MOHS surgery, which is a procedure in which they take as little tissue as possible and test it for cancer cells right away. They continue to take more if necessary until it is all gone. I was so thankful that it only took one “pass” until I was told they had gotten it all. They stitched me up, put dressing on the wound, and told me they expected to see me again as most people who have these types of carcinoma become “repeat customers.” That was the last thing I wanted to hear.
Shortly after the procedure I was talking with my friend and described my cancer patch to her. She grew quiet and said she had the same kind of thing just above her eyebrow. “I’m sure you are just overly-concerned because of what I just went through,” I reassured her, but knew there was always a chance, so suggested to get it checked — just in case. She phoned me a couple of weeks later to let me know that her doctor had found bad cells!
My platform for maintaining healthy skin now feels even more important and I am asking you to thoroughly check yourself. Get on the phone and make that yearly dermatological appointment to get yourself checked head to toe. A good exam includes the doctor checking your scalp, behind your ears, between your toes and even inside your mouth. If you have a strange feeling about a mole or a freckle or a dry patch of skin that just won’t go away, get to the doctor as soon as possible. If you feel that someone might not be right about your diagnoses, it never hurts to get a second opinion. Early detection is your best friend.
My scar is healing well. A couple of weeks ago I knew that my incision was healed enough to use my needling roller to smooth out the scar. I honestly can’t believe how much that has helped! I’m guessing there will always be a small scar but I will wear it proudly as a reminder for myself and others to take precautions when outdoors, and to always get your annual dermatological skin screening.
My mom was diagnosed with skin cancer in March, and she has a really powerful story I want to share with you. Today I am going to be sharing a little piece of how I’ve felt about my mom’s journey, and tomorrow I will be posting the more important story that my mom wrote about her journey with skin cancer and her health.
Ever since I was a little kid my mom has emphasized the importance of wearing sunscreen. I remember going to the neighborhood pool flaunting my long, chubby toddler legs, a polka dot bikini, and a hat that covered all the way to the bottom of my neck. We would make tents out of chairs and towels to create forts of shade, and sat under them and applied sunscreen at every break.
My mom has always taken better care of me and my family than she has herself. She consistently puts us first and wants a better life for my brother and I than she ever had for herself. I grew up hearing about how she used to go to tanning beds and put on baby oil instead of sunscreen when she went to the beach in an attempt to get a deeper color. This was a funny thing to think about because the entire time I’ve been alive my mom has been one of the most careful people in the sun that I know. She puts sunscreen on every single day and invests in enormous wide-brimmed hats and expensive SPF umbrellas to stay out of the sun. We always took family beach trips to Bethany Beach in the summer, and dad was typically the one who would play in the water and beach volleyball in the sun with my brother and I. My mom would make appearances for a half hour at a time, but you could typically find her reading a book in the shade.
As a child my mom called me her little “brown bear” because despite putting 60 SPF sunscreen on the hour at every break I spent a lot of time at the pool for swim team and playing with friends. I would take little breaks to go in the shade, and was diligent about being careful in the sun and wearing pink zinc on my face.
Even when I was high school and being called “pale” was one of the biggest insults you could bear, I told my friends they needed to be careful in the sun whenever they’d mention going to the pool to get a tan. Even though sunburns might be the worst kind of sun exposure, any change in your coloring is sun damage, which can lead to negative lasting effects.
Although I did get a little too much sun from being on the swim team in my childhood years, thanks to my mother I have never in my life had a bad sunburn. Did you know if you have 5 blistering sunburns between the ages of 15 and 20 your risk of getting melanoma is 80% greater than it would have been? Your risk of getting another kind of skin cancer is increased by 68%.
This March when my mom came back from the doctor and told me she had skin cancer I was scared. It wasn’t melanoma — thank God — but the “C” word is just terrible in general. I know I complain about myself being sick sometimes, but I don’t want my mom to have anything wrong with her. She is literally an angel on this earth and the best person I’ve ever known. I know some of you might think I just say this because I’m her daughter, but it’s true.
This is the perfect example of how not being careful in your twenties can really catch up to you. It’s why we need to wear sunscreen, be careful about what kind of things we put into our bodies, and try to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle.
I am sharing more of her story tomorrow because I want to remind everyone the very real effects sun damage can have on your body in the future. When we’re in our twenties we often feel invincible like nothing can touch us, but sadly that’s just not true. When you go out this summer, please just make sure to be careful. Tan skin fades so quickly, but skin cancer can have a very real, lasting effect. If you want to be tan for an event, use self tanner. Think about all the beautiful people like Emma Stone and Anne Hathaway who totally rock red lips and pale skin. Ultimately, no matter what you look like it’s not the color or shade of your skin that makes you beautiful — it’s the inside that really matters.