“When I was about six years old, my NF doctor told my parents that I would have a difficult time in school and would probably not get past elementary school level math or succeed in advanced classes”
I graduated last weekend with my Master’s degree in Nutrition and Human Performance. This milestone brings me tremendous joy because my younger self would not have dreamed of getting a Master’s degree. When I was born, I was diagnosed with a genetic neurological disorder called Neurofibromatosis (NF) type 1. This disorder causes tumors to grow on the body and on nerves and can cause numerous complications ranging from learning disabilities, neurological problems, vision loss, and body deformations depending on the severity of the disease. NF manifests differently in everyone affected by it and when I consider what could have happened to me I feel blessed and can appreciate myself even better (More about this in later posts but the disease caused hydrocephalus, which I had surgery for when I was 9, and severe scoliosis, which I had surgery for when I was 11). When I was about six years old, my NF doctor told my parents that I would have a difficult time in school and would probably not get past elementary school level math or succeed in advanced classes. The doctor also said that I would need accommodations in school and I remember working with an occupational therapist to work on coordination. I also worked with a speech language therapist for several years. I never liked talking about the disorder because of how vulnerable all of my differences made me feel. But I recently gained more confidence with opening up and I believe it is important to share my story.
To make a long story short, fast forward to high school. Yes, I had accommodations and tried hard to hide the fact that I needed more help but I was in classes with all of my “normal” peers. I maintained an honor role GPA, took advanced English classes during my senior year in high school, was great at writing, and was better at math than my sisters!! I loved learning and still do but needed extra support to understand and reinforce what I was learning. (More about this and it’s toll on my self-confidence in another post). I graduated high school, got accepted to three colleges, and continued to blow the minds of my doctors, teachers, and others who know me well and who support me in this journey. If someone would have told me in high school that I would be getting a master’s degree in a science heavy major, I would not have believed that person. I didn’t give up on myself and let my disease define what my future looks like. I have been reflecting a lot over the last several weeks about how far I have come and I surprise myself every time I think about all of the accomplishments I have made. A health condition can either be empowering or it can hold us back, but only if we let it take control. Take the reigns and use every challenge as an opportunity to grow and knock down barriers even harder.