By Nicole Cater
I’m 26 and all is right with the world. I just got married. I love my job at a local bank. I’ve grown from teller to lead teller, to receptionist to commercial loan assistant. I have a hand in making multi-million dollar deals happen and at the same time, making small-time dreams come true for basic consumers. I’ve won a Service Person of the Year award. Well, co-won, the other winner was my best friend. No one in the company doubted we deserved it. I was an up and comer, a Jill of all Trades. Any questions that needed to be answered, just ask Nicole.
Eight years in, I knew this business and my place in it like a well-oiled machine. And that machine was about to get an upgrade. I was in training for project analyst, one step below loan officer. I was doing all this, enjoying my honeymoon, and putting myself through college. The one and only complaint I had was an ever-present pain in my back that would sometimes hinder my movements or shoot burning pains down my leg. I was in physical therapy for what doctors guessed to be arthritis, but it didn’t help much. I was put through so many blood tests, I felt like a pincushion.
And so it was another ordinary day when I went to the doctor to get and update and a refill of the medication that was giving me an ulcer. Instead of those routine issues, lightning struck. I learned that one of the many blood tests finally told the doctors something. They found HLA-B27 and antigen on chromosome 6 that causes your immune system to attack your spine, causing vast amounts of arthritis that can never be cured. My new friend had a name - Ankylosing Spondylitis.
I grieved. I grieved for the life that would never be. I grieved for the person I was that I would never be again. I fell into a deep depression.
Doctors, not knowing what to do, and lacking a Bi-Polar Disorder diagnosis, put me on anti-depressants. They didn’t work. I snapped. I lost my job. I lost my husband. I lost my house. I even lost my dog. Another two jobs, another two freak outs. It turns out, lightning struck again. Not that it is ever pleasant; but this time I was prepared. There would be doctors. There would be pills. I would suffer and adjustment period. But I also knew I would survive.
After all, the first strike didn’t kill me; change the course of my life...absolutely. But I’m still here, and I'm still fighting.
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