Hey there, I'm Kenzie...and this, right here, is my little space on the interwebs!
I can be described as a semi-outdoorsy, social introvert with a serious love for laughter, travel, and a good memoir. I am currently a nanny and college junior studying to become a social worker. I am also a self-proclaimed scarf hoarder who lives for long chats over hot beverages. :)
Patient advocacy has become my livelihood and I am grateful for every opportunity I have to speak on behalf of this community. When I'm not running around *pretending* to have it all together (fake it 'til ya make it!), I spend a lot of time online connecting with other patients.
I, myself, have been a patient for over 7+ years now with a primary diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disease has wreaked havoc on my weakened body + immune system, but somehow my spirit and passion have only gotten stronger. That said, the journey to diagnosis was a long one and still to this day, I am fighting for answers.
I started Life According to Kenz in July of 2011 (under a different URL + blog platform) with the intent of writing about my struggles with chronic pain and questions about faith. About a month after my very first post, I was loosely diagnosed with juvenile enthesitis-related arthritis and degenerative disc disease. I struggled intensely with depression and anxiety as I grieved the loss of a healthy life and began to adjust to a new normal.
During this time, my blog quickly became a place where I very openly shared my thoughts and began to work through the feelings of being diagnosed with a life altering condition. There were not a lot of definite answers and the options available for treatment were incredibly broad. I used this space to connect with others diagnosed with similar conditions, discuss medications, therapies, etc. and through doing so, I found a tribe of people who understood what I was going through. In fact, many of them were walking a very similar path.
Finally, in early 2015, I secured an appointment with a new rheumatologist in my area as well as a specialist at Mayo Clinic. After a 6 month wait period, I was finally seen. There, I was officially diagnosed with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and unspecified inflammatory bowel disease. That summer, I was also diagnosed with cervical dystonia and endometriosis.
As 2015 came to a close, the unspecified inflammatory bowel disease diagnosis really seemed to surface. Over the course of 4 months, I lost over 50 pounds due to nausea, vomiting, and the inability to eat and/or digest much of anything at all. After seeking help from several different local gastroenterologists, medications, therapies, etc. my care finally fell into the hands of a young colorectal surgeon who agreed that I could no longer live the way I was.
Without many choices left, this surgeon ruled out other possible causes and ordered further testing. A colonic transit study confirmed something called colonic inertia and because of its severity, I was a candidate for colon removal. I had all but 1 inch of my colon removed in April 2016 and have been maintaining my weight, eating real food, and very simply LIVING since then. However, that certainly doesn't mean my health problems have been resolved.
My diet has changed significantly since April's surgery and I have since become lactose intolerant. Shortly thereafter, I also became severely hypoglycemic. I am currently following a treatment regimen that includes psychotherapy, general pain management, ten different oral medications, and three injectable medications -- all of which work together to suppress my immune system and control pain and swelling while keeping me somewhat active and able to cope with my feelings about this pain in a healthy manner.
Often, I still struggle to fully communicate feelings regarding my health with my family and friends through face-to-face conversation. However, I have found that I can do it through written words quite well. I am 110% aware of how vulnerable and open I am within this space and though that has caused some awkwardness/disagreement with people in my life, I do not have any intention(s) of stopping any time soon. If these posts help even one person realize that they are not alone, it is reason enough to keep going, growing, and sharing.
Raising awareness for rheumatoid arthritis and other invisible illnesses has helped me to find a purpose in/through the pain and healthcare experiences that I have endured up to this point in my life. The sharing of these experiences has graced me with some incredible opportunities to work with other groups who have a very similar drive + passion. I was asked to join the #JointDecisions team in early 2016. As I begin my work with these wonderful folks, I am reminded of what a "team effort" the fight against RA really is. Additionally, I was named a Cure Arthritis Ambassador in June of 2014 and am honored to work with the Arthritis National Research Foundation to further connect the newly diagnosed with a community of people who understand them and dispel myths about autoimmune disease.
Since 2011, this blog and I have come a long way. There have been mountains to climb and storms 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. My sole hope is that as you read, you would feel encouraged and know that you are not alone no matter what battle you are facing.
Comment! E-mail me! (firstname.lastname@example.org) Connect on social media! I would love to get to know you + hear your story. Thanks for stopping by...I certainly hope you'll stay awhile! :)