Maura – Refusing to Quit

Being sick has changed my life in so many ways, and I literally lost the girl I used to be. I used to be so free, without any physical or mental limitations. However, since becoming ill, I have had to relearn how to live my life. My body breaks down easily now, and my fatigue is often unimaginable. My symptoms can be extremely unpredictable, so I have had to learn to live moment-to-moment.

Although I have had random and unexplained health issues all my life, it wasn’t until high school when things began to get bad. Muscle and joint pain, fatigue, extreme weight loss- at an alarming rate, and many other symptoms hit me all at once. Life became so hard and exhausting. I remember spending countless times crying in the bathroom at school due to unbearable pain, fatigue, and or urinary and bowel incontinence. Other times, I would literally melt on the art room floor, uncontrollably crying, while my schoolmates just stared at me unsure of what to do or how to help me. Everything was so overwhelming. I couldn’t seem to get control of my health. I felt like my life and body were spiraling out of control when I should have been enjoying my high school life.

There were days that I literally collapsed the second I walked in the door of our house, barely making it over the threshold. Sometimes I would barely make it into the car from the pick-up line at school. So many times, my mom had to hold my head in her lap, while I lay on the ground, unable to move. She had to listen to me cry, and sometimes scream, “I can’t live like this anymore”, “I just want to die”, and “please make this stop.” I would lay there for up to an hour before my mom could get me to the couch or my bed.

Being an athlete with a chronic illness often made life complicated. I was constantly afflicted with pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues. Riding in my small-town rodeo was one of my favorite things. I got to ride performance drills with my equestrian team as well as compete in the various events. It was extremely difficult to keep my stamina up and I often needed to find random places to sleep and/or recoup between events. My mom has pictures of me sleeping in the truck, under the announcer’s stand, and even sleeping on top of my horse.

When I ran cross country in high school, the pain was so bad it literally stopped me in my tracks and often doubled me over on the ground. I refused to quit doing what I loved so much, but it was a challenge. Most people my age would quit and say it’s not worth the pain. But I refused to allow this disease to control my life. I progressively got sicker and weaker my sophomore year and was struggling to keep up my strength and speed. My ability to run lessened dramatically. I was forced to drop out of track that Spring by doctor’s orders and it broke my heart.

I was officially diagnosed with late-stage Lyme Disease, CIRS, and Babesia during my sophomore year and began treatment. Over the next couple of years, I was also diagnosed with Bartonella, Raynaud’s, and Lyme-induced endometriosis. Even though my health dramatically declined in early high school, doctors think I may have contracted Lyme congenitally, but we are not certain.  

Junior year I was given approval to run cross country again, but I struggled with my stamina and speed. I kept training and trying my best but some days it literally took everything I had just to get through practice. I was often completely drained for the rest of the day. After races, my mom would have to take me home because I could barely hold my head up any longer or could hardly walk. However, each month of treatment I grew a little stronger, which allowed me to train a little harder.

At the beginning of my senior year, my cross country coach asked me about my goals and I said, “Number one, I want to put my Lyme into remission, and number two, I want our team to make it to State”. After a long and often painful season, my team finally qualified for the state championship! Although my Lyme was not in remission, I was so grateful my team and I made it so far. This is one of my highest accomplishments, although it was filled with so many obstacles, tears, and pain.

Without the friendship, support, and grant from LymeLight, I would not be where I am today. I am very grateful to report the past couple of years have been full of improvements! I know I still have a long way to get to remission, but I absolutely believe it is possible. I still struggle with pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues, but I am in a way better place than before.

I am now almost a sophomore in college and getting closer to living a “normal” teen life. I still am cautious how I spend my energy and stay focused on my schoolwork and keep things simple. I started rock climbing at the college gym, attend weekly youth groups, and visit home as much as I can. Until now, there was no way that I could physically or mentally manage school AND a job. I feel like my health is in a better place and am thinking about applying for a part time job this semester.

My goal in college is to study equine science so that I can start an animal assistant therapy program to aid other children with chronic illness, special needs, and those with PTSD. I want to share the love of God and be a light to those who need it. Deuteronomy 15:11 says, “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore, I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” I believe that helping others is a part of my purpose. When God speaks of the poor he doesn’t just mean those who don’t have a lot of money. He wants us to take care of one another and help fulfill each other’s needs. I can help others through using horses to assist people in healing.

Thank you LymeLight for being such an important part of my life! You are an incredible group of people and I hope we stay in touch forever!

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