Afflicting from Chronic Illness?Tracey R
I always knew what I wanted to do with my life and who I wanted to be. Growing up in Hollywood, my parents were involved in the film and television industry. I wanted to follow them in what seemed like the family business and become a film and television producer.
When I was 22 years old, I was on my way. After several internships for big networks, I got my first production position with a TV show and it was the culmination of a great dream. Growing up with parents in the entertainment industry, being able to establish myself and make a name for myself felt really important, as if claiming my own identity.
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It was not about having my own chair or being someone’s boss, or even the glamor of making movies. It was the idea that I could wake up every day and earn a living doing something I loved with the people I loved. He was part of a community and worked with people he had admired for years. Finally I had a seat at the table, and it was all for me.
Then, one day on the set, I leaned on a cameraman and collapsed.
It was a moment that had been in manufacturing for years. She had been feeling symptoms since college: sudden weight loss, fatigue, dizziness, stomachaches, bloody stools, an urgency when she had to go to the bathroom, but she had always blamed them for the stress. Even after the symptoms got so bad that I had to drop out of school, I ignored them. I was too focused on my goals to pay attention to my health.
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But when I collapsed on the set, I knew that my symptoms could no longer be ignored. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract.
The moment could not have been worse. My career was just beginning. I had just started a great job on a television show, and the future looked bright. I was becoming the person I had always wanted to be, and it was wonderful. I was determined not to let my diagnosis hold me back, and I certainly did not want to tell anyone. So I kept the information mainly for me. I started taking medications to control the symptoms, but I did not take them regularly. And although my doctors recommended me to minimize stress, I did not make any changes to my busy lifestyle.
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In fact, my life accelerated. I took work after work and went to work for shows like Desperate Housewives and many others. I fell in love, I got pregnant and I had a son. I was putting my attention and energy into many things, but my health was not one of them. I was so busy trying to look like I was in control, happy and strong that I did not allow myself to notice my feelings or the physical and emotional manifestations of what was happening to me.
And in 2011, everything finally reached me.
By then, many other symptoms had begun to accumulate. I developed arthritis, hair loss, cysts and chronic fatigue, and I could not breastfeed my baby. The cost in my career and my relationships was immense. I lost everything. My life partner could not take it anymore, and we finished. So at the age of 28, my son and I moved in with my mother.
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That’s when I finally took my health seriously. I looked for a great doctor, but it was too late. The next time I got sick, I was rushed to the hospital and almost died. There were puncture points in my colon that no longer responded to the medication. My weight was reduced to 90 pounds. He was malnourished and dehydrated, even in an intravenous line. The doctors had no choice but to perform a colectomy and remove my diseased colon.
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That process actually involved three surgeries for 6 months and, frankly, it took me a while to understand what was happening to me. Suddenly, I was a single mother, not yet 30 years old, without a job or university degree. I lived in my mother’s house with a small child and a piece of my intestine protruding from a stoma, a hole that doctors had to create in my stomach so that the feces could drain from my body in a bag. Now I live with a bag J (an ileoanal bag that is internal).
I felt that I was not the person I had been. The life I had worked so hard for had gone and I had no idea how to process everything. My grief felt endless. I tried to move forward but I could not. He was surrounded by confusion, anger, resentment and despair.
Then, one day, my mother suggested that I start telling people my story. “Maybe it will help you find a way to deal with that and make sense of everything,” I remember she said. I felt really hard to get out of the cloud of chaos I was in, but deciding to share my story was the first step to get out of that fog. I started to be honest about what was happening, first with myself and then with my son, my family, my friends and the world.
I started a blog, and it became a point of connection, introducing me to other moms whose stories sounded like mine. I found a new sense of belonging, and over time it helped me find my place in the world and a new way forward.
But the penalty stays with you. I think there’s always a certain level of regret and sadness for the life that you thought you were going to have and the things you can not do anymore, and that can stay with you forever. My son is an actor, and when I go in with him now and see a producer doing the work that I once dreamed, it definitely hurts. It is a painful reminder of what could have been, and there is a void in that unfulfilled dream. I also feel that pain when I can not be the kind of mother I see mothers are.
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I just let them wash me. But I no longer feel trapped by them because I refuse to remain in a place of pain. I realize that a much larger part of me is alive and that is the part where I choose to focus.
There are things that this disease has shown me about me, like the strength I did not know I could have. I have brought many incredible opportunities and people to my life for which I am incredibly grateful. Over time, I think part of my pain has also turned into motivation: advocating for others like me, pushing the Capitol and going back to school, things I’m so proud of and would never have done if all this had not happened. happened. it happened to me
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Sometimes life forces you to take a detour, abandon your old dreams and find new ones. I’m not the person I once imagined it would be. But this is who I am now, and I love my life. I have discovered my new normality and there is a great sense of happiness, peace and satisfaction that you find when you refocus in this way. I just can not imagine having this second chance in life and not doing something useful with it.