It is such an honor to have this opportunity and I know that God will bless my time there just as he blessed my time at the juvenile arthritis conference this past summer. I said it once and I'll say it again: I never know when or where God will use me to raise awareness for this disease and if I'm being completely honest, there are a plethora of days that I complain, cry, and absolutely HATE it. The calling, the purpose, the questions, the funny looks, the pain. There are days that I plead with God to just take it all away. But sometimes, for a brief moment in the midst of wonderful opportunities such as these, I realize I am glad. Thankful even, that He chose me to do this work.
Yesterday, I submitted my official biography to them and thought it might be beneficial to share here for newer readers or people who want more of a big picture approach to my diagnosis!
At the age of 14, I was a carefree and energetic girl who had just entered into her teenage years. I worked hard in school, ran on the cross country team, and competed on the speech team. I thought I had everything figured out (until I didn't) and very quickly, my life was flipped upside down. After one of my cross country races, I suffered a heat stroke which brought on a migraine that lasted weeks. I began to lose mass amounts of weight as pain and swelling began to affect several areas of my body, more specifically my joints. I was unable to get out of bed most days and was so fatigued that doing something as simple as getting dressed resulted in the need for a half hour nap. As my parents and I sought help from the healthcare providers in our area, I was diagnosed as clinically depressed. I felt as though I was being passed off as certifiably crazy. It seemed that nobody would believe me, take me seriously, and/or get me the help I needed.
In response to the pain and emotions I was dealing with, I decided to start my blog (Life According to Kenz) in July of 2011 with the intent of writing about my struggles with chronic pain. Multiple scans and appointments filled the next month and I was finally diagnosed with juvenile enthesitis-related arthritis, cervical disc degeneration, and chronic migraines about a year after onset. My blog quickly became a place where I very openly shared my thoughts about different treatments I was undergoing and also a place where I could begin to work through the feelings associated with being diagnosed with a life altering, chronic condition.
Since then, my blog and I have come a long way. I have become extremely active in the online health community on Twitter and Facebook and I have also found a deep passion for advocacy. After 5 years, I received news that my arthritis is officially in remission, but contrary to popular belief, that does not mean my story is over. This past fall, at the age of 19, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and will be undergoing two surgeries in December 2014 to fix some of the permanent damage my original diagnosis of arthritis caused.
Every day on this journey has been a mountain to climb and a storm to weather, but I have never been more sure of my purpose or faith in this life and in something so much more magnificent following it. God has given me the ability to create a life I am more than delighted to live despite pain and that will always be my greatest joy. My sole hope is that as I connect with people in the online health community, they would feel encouraged and know that they are not alone no matter what battle, illness, or disability they may be facing. I am more than honored and beyond excited to be attending MedX as an ePatient Scholar in 2015, but more importantly, I am just so grateful for the online health community and how instrumental each and every person I've interacted with has been in getting me where I am today!One of the young women who has greatly influenced my passion for advocacy is Samantha Petersen, a 17 year old from Connecticut. Samantha was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 11 and has used her diagnosis turned passion to form SHIFT Scoliosis, an organization she created to provide screenings and support for all people with spinal conditions. Samantha has been selected by Medtronic as a 2014 Bakken Invitation Honoree. Her motto is: "Embrace what's difficult," and I could not be more excited for all that she is going to do within the health community as she continues her advocacy! People like Samantha encourage me to do more and give more in every aspect of my life + health journey.
Who/what inspires you to do more and give more? Share it with me in the comments and be entered to win a $100 Visa gift card to donate to your charity organization of choice, courtesy of Medtronic!
Full disclosure: this article is financially supported by Medtronic. All thoughts are my own.