Tales from the Girl Crying in the Bathroom

Arthritis is a funny thing.  Some days, it's actually a blessing. Others, you feel suffocated. Like you're buried... In over your head...

At the appointment with my rheumatologist last week, we discussed my seemingly "normal" MRI results and decided to forward it on to a pediatric neurosurgeon. My doctor said it was highly unlikely that anything would be found, however - I received just the opposite of nothing... I finally received answers.

Monday was a day from... Uh... Let's just go ahead and say... The gutter. I had a job interview, babysitting, an eye doctor appointment, and then a coffee date. Not too shabby, so I thought.

The roller-coaster began after I got home from my interview. My mom told me that she talked to the neurosurgeon who has officially diagnosed me with moderate degenerative disc disease on top of juvenile arthritis. *Cue the pre-break down here.*

The job interview went well, the little boy I pick up afterschool had a fabulous day, I got a few sweet surprises in the mail, and my eye doctor appointment was quick and easy. After a busy night, I was reunited with one of my good friends when we met up for a coffee date. 

So, it's all okay, right? Funny how things change so quickly...

We hardly sat down and started talking when my nightly nausea kicked in full swing... And I mean hardcore swing.

I ran to the bathroom on two different occasions. And, without sharing too much unnecessary info, it was disgusting. It was puke. And it was pure acid every time. EVERY TIME. I was shaking like a leaf, so I decided I needed to leave early. My bed, a bucket, and a cold washcloth were calling my name...

The night continued like that and I woke up Tuesday morning in so much excruciating pain because my stomach was completely empty. There was nothing left. I slept in, showered, attempted to eat, and headed off to class.

If there's one thing that's stressing me out right now, it's school. The people. The exams. The homework. I'm good at handling stress... I'm good at staying motivated. But, I'm also human. And there are days when my body simply cannot pretend it's all okay anymore.

To put it simply, I was a hot, HOT mess on Tuesday. I ran out of my English class bawling. I stood inside a bathroom stall bawling for 10 minutes. I didn't finish my homework. I stayed after class and had a heart to heart with my teacher... Complete with LOTS more tears... 

But, I finally feel better. It felt so good to get it all out.

And even though I'm in the same predicament as I was on Monday and Tuesday night... I'm experiencing and I'm learning... I'm toughing it out. I'm holding on. I'm fighting.

I'm not saying I won't be the girl crying in the bathroom stall ever again. 

I'm saying that God is still bigger... And I'm saying that I refuse to be reduced and/or defined by these debilitating diseases.


Homecoming & World Arthritis Day

I LOVE Saturday's. I do! Up until today though, I hadn't "slept in" (without setting any type of alarm) since August. WHAT. Where is the time going?!

This week was homecoming week at my school and of course we did all kinds of fun things like participate in powderpuff football, dress up crazy, get prettied up for the dance, and infamously TP people's houses. Kidding, kidding. I totally didn't do that last one. ;-)

{The people who keep me going... <3}
It was a really fun week... But my entire class just can't believe we're already juniors. Time is flying and amazing memories are being made, but it's scary to think that we're almost done with high school. 

On Monday, for my english class, I gave a speech on juvenile arthritis and encouraged my classmates to help raise awareness. Not only did I get a perfect score, but I also felt like I did really well and my teacher and classmates were extremely supportive.

My biggest accomplishment this week, though, was participating in powderpuff football on what just so happened to be World Arthritis Day. Coincidence, or God's way of helping me show my arthritis who's boss? Definitely God's way. 

Every second of that game was so much fun and I actually played quite a bit. Even long enough to get completely plowed over by one of the foreign exchange girls that I absolutely love! ;-) It was an amazing feeling to be out there running around with some of my best friends all decked out in our class colors and I adore the fact that everyone treated me as Kenzie - another player - rather than the girl with arthritis. 

After the girls' big game (Ha!) We attended the boys' big game. It was a hard fought game, but our team ended up losing by one point. It was a great night, though. Our school raised a lot of money for breast cancer research and the dance afterwards was a lot of fun! Of course, I attended while sporting a heating/pain relieving patch... The game earlier in the day was pretty rough on me. I'm doing alright, though, and the fun I had is worth every ache and pain!

I think this quote perfectly defines me and this week's adventures...

Someone once asked me how I hold my head up so high after all I’ve been through... I said, "it’s because no matter what, I am a survivor, not a victim." 

As for my plans for today? Two words: Lazy. Saturday. I'm gonna lounge around in yogas and my robe and turn on some Netflix. :)


A Dream Come True

Last week, I shared that I was going to a Britt Nicole concert this past Sunday with my sister and best friend... I don't want to ruin all that I'm about to share but I need to say... It was the most amazing concert I have ever been to. SHE is amazing!

My sister actually attends college in the town that the concert was being held, so it was the perfect opportunity to go see my biggest role model in person. {Thank you so much for telling me, Megan, and for making it happen! You have no idea how much you mean to me, big sis!}

We got there a little late {about 6:35} and the show started at 7. We were planning on purchasing our tickets there, and it never, ever crossed our minds that they would be sold out... But, when we arrived, they most certainly were. I was just about in tears when a woman told me to go inside and put my name on the waiting list for extra tickets. {That lady has NO idea what a blessing she is!} I went inside to do so and within 20 minutes... We had seats. Front row seats. God is clearly written ALL over this ENTIRE situation!

We got into the auditorium about half and hour before Britt came on. It was perfect timing and the three of us were excited as all heck! To sum it up, the entire concert was more of a worship service than anything... It. Was. AMAZING.

{Sorry for picture quality in advance... I forgot my camera, so used my phone!}

She is absolutely gorgeous and truly has a heart of gold. If y'all ever get the chance to see her in concert... GO. Her story is so stinkin' inspiring and what God is doing through her is beyond incredible.

After the show, my sister and I stopped to snap a picture with the opening act, Manic Drive... Who were also extremely talented and blessed everyone with their testimonies!

Britt announced that after the concert, she would be signing autographs and hanging out with her "friends." {Not once did she refer to us as "fans." So cool!} I had her sign a cross keychain that I always carry with me, which was exiciting! But, she didn't stop blessing me there. I asked her to pray with me because of the impact her music has had on my life and of course because prayer is power. Always. She asked me to come sit by her and took a good 5 minutes to pray her heart out for me right then and there.

THIS is what a role model, inspiration, and woman of God looks like. She literally has a heart of gold. The entire night was a dream come true for me. 


Our God Wins

Lately, I've been doing really well. My body has been cooperating with my hopes of starting an exercise program and my goals are slowly but surely being reached. The past two weeks have been incredible. I was finally feeling like I was getting back to being "me."

But, all too soon, my excruciating neck pain came back for a visit. It's come back so badly this time that I had to spend all of Saturday afternoon and evening lying down. Aspirin wasn't working. My heating pad wasn't working. Even my tactic of icing it in order to numb the pain... Wasn't. Working.

I was feeling utterly helpless that night, but my best friend Amy knew just the fix...Pinterest. Princess Diaries. Relaxing. Girl talk. :) On Sunday, I woke up and my neck was feeling much better, but throughout the day, while we were shopping, it started to bother me once again. Aspirin wouldn't help and rest just wasn't an option because I needed to finish my school shopping.

I got to bed relatively early Sunday evening, and decided to wake up early yesterday morning to spend time with God before doing anything else. I prayed and opened my Bible to an awesome, awesome verse...

John 16:33 ~ "I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have troubles, but take heart! I have overcome the world."

I held onto that verse yesterday evening when my neck pain spiked again just around supper time, and I'm still holding onto it this morning. And on top of that lovely reminder from God, my dear friend Rachel also reminded me of something very important...

Our God wins.

I'm going to continue to take it easy...to take breaks when I need them...to rest when I have to...and I'm going to remember to smile through it all. Because, I must say it again...

Our God wins.

And that's all the reassurance I need to keep fighting.


Being Proud of the NEW Me

About a year ago I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. No matter how hard I've tried to erase it or keep it out of my life... It always comes back and somehow contributes to the person that I am today.

I'm just now realizing... (After two rounds of physical therapy, over six months of occupational therapy, about 20 visits to the rhematologist, three "x-ray days," one MRI, a kidney ultrasound, a biopsy, close to twenty "labwork days," literally passing out countless times, and hundreds of follow ups/med checks...) that this is NOT a bad thing.

In fact, I am now willing to accept and be okay with my diagnosis. I look at how much I've grown in faith, I look at how much I've grown as a person... And I realize...

It's a huge blessing.

Who would have ever thought a year ago that those words would be coming out in this blog post?

"How can you say that?" "You really believe God planned for you to be sick?"

Those are probably the two most common questions I get asked. And so today, I'm answering both of them once and for all.

1.) I can say that my diagnosis is a huge blessing because I've met incredible people throughout my journey! Some of my doctor's are my best friends and the blog/Twitter friends I've found who deal with the same things encourage me on a daily basis to get up, get moving, and do something that matters. Because of my health journey, I have a more determined spirit. I'm more thankful for the little things in life. I realize just how blessed I am and realize that things could be so much worse.

2.) John 9:1-3 says this:
As he went along, He saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." Jesus said it right there... He created me with a plan in mind. He bought me with a price. I truly believe that in Heaven, I will be healed. But because I am here on earth to help build His Kingdom, there will be struggles... And because I will overcome those struggles with the help of my Savior, He will use me to speak to and help others along the way and through their own journey. That's not called punishment, that's called purpose!

A year ago, this wasn't my attitude at all. But, it feels so good to say that I've finally accepted my purpose, answered my calling, and am in the midst of working hard to become the best me I can be. My realization... I can be changed by the obstacles I face... But I REFUSE to be reduced by them.

I'm making HUGE strides in my physical fitness right now! Last summer/fall I wasn't allowed to run... THIS summer/fall, however...

I realize that to some, this isn't a big deal... But to me, it's incredible progress and I'm learning how to be proud of the new me. The changed me. I'm learning to be comfortable in my own skin, and finally, I'm learning how to push the limits just the right amount. Little by little, one day at a time.


"See you later," Grandpa

I've been back from camp since last Friday and it was AMAZING. God showed up in some incredibly cool ways and I am so thankful that I got the opportunity to go! However, life has just been "happening" this week and I haven't gotten around to blogging. MIA again so soon, I know... But I promise, I'm alive!

My Grandpa who has struggled with his health over the past 5 years passed away last Friday. Therefore, this week shaped up to be a pretty tough one. However, I truly believe that it was his time to go and that God has a wonderful plan in mind for us all. I will miss him dearly here on earth but know that today was a "see you later," rather than a "goodbye."

On Monday evening, my Grandma asked if I'd give a eulogy at the wake since she was so stressed with other planning. I was thrilled! God has truly given me the gifts of writing and speaking and I was thrilled to get to use them both in my sweet Grandpa's honor.

It was difficult to find the "right" words, but after a pep talk from one of my best friends, Brooke, it came naturally. I wholeheartedly stayed up til 1:30 a.m. working hard until it seemed perfect. It was tough to roll out of bed Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. (of course, I was going to babysit!) but it was worth it! Again, I just feel so honored to have gotten the oppotunity to speak at such an amazing man's memorial service and know I made him proud!

They say that one of the hardest things about losing someone dear to you is simply the feeling that you could have done something more. The feeling of regret, in a sense. The thought “if I just had one more day…” I think it’s something we all toss around and struggle with. And up until today, I’d even argue that it was part of the so-called “grieving process.” But when I woke up this morning, my entire perspective was radically changed.

The best memories with my Grandpa have always been ones that included baby calves. I realize that makes us seem like total hicks, but hey, I’m just being honest. Anytime I’d go to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm, my Grandpa would set me up with a calf and a bottle of milk replacer… And some days, the special days as I remember them, he’d put a rope halter on one of them and take it out into the yard and let me run around with it as he watched nearby. I never had to ask and to this day, I still don’t know how he managed to read my mind the way he did. Because for real, even with the stiff competition Grandma’s tasty cookies brought, Grandpa knew deep down just what he had to do to keep me down in that barn. That’s talent.

Since our family is so large, I’ve always felt like it was hard to have a special relationship with any one person… But as I said before, this morning, my perspective was radically changed. I now look back on those simple memories of Grandpa, me, and those little calves and I realize that no one, absolutely no one, got to share those moments with him besides me. Those moments and memories will never change. In fact, they were what formed the relationship that only I got the chance to have with him. They are truly what brought me up here today to share with you all. And so, I challenge you! I challenge you each to change your perspective on the memories you’ve shared with my Grandpa and I challenge you to search your memory for the one that makes you cherish the unique and special relationship that only you shared with him. I challenge you to hold onto that memory and last but not least, I challenge and pray that you would never get tired of doing the tiniest of things for others, because my Grandpa has taught me that those things are truly the ones that take up the most room in our hearts.

Now, if you look past my mop of hair and crazed look in my eyes, you'll be able to see just how special those moments with my Grandpa really were. I am so beyond grateful for all he has taught me and I truly cannot wait to see him again someday.

Grandpa, I hope that Heaven is SO good to you! I'm sure there'll be lots of good fishing up there. :) Thank you for being YOU and touching my life in such an incredible way. I love you!

Until we meet again...