I have always kept going. I think it's something that has been ingrained in me since I was a child, but I really didn’t know how it would be tested in my teens.
I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in 2020 – what a year it was for me. There was a global pandemic, I received a severe diagnosis and experienced bad bullying. Despite the lockdowns, I had been training very hard as a competitive dancer and cheerleader, and when we finally got to the week of an online competition, I was not going to let a little sprained wrist get in my way. I often get asked if I regret not treating that injury, as it most likely led to my chronic pain, but my answer is no. For if it weren’t for that, then I wouldn’t have made the friends I have nor would I have gotten my cute little toy cavoodle (dog breed), Chloe.
The day I was diagnosed, I remember being at school prior to first period without being able to move my hand or fingers. At the time, I was a very strong-minded individual and didn’t want to ask for help, so I suffered through the entire school day; I was in more pain than I could have ever imagined. It didn’t take long for me to get a diagnosis – something I will forever be grateful for – but I far from comprehended what it meant.
My sporting teams meant more to me than anything and there was no way that I was going to let them down. I felt that to get back on the mat, all I needed to do was to be able to make a fist with my hand – something so simple, yet challenging for me. It may have taken a few weeks, but I got there. Although I was struggling to write, I was insistent on going back to dance and cheerleading. In my head, I always thought that I could walk at the least, not knowing that that too would be tested shortly.
On the last routine of the night, the week of another virtual competition, I slightly burned my foot on the floorboards in the lyrical session. The next day I felt that something was off; it was a weird feeling, as they say, the calm before the storm. I thought that if I ignored it, I could get through the weekend, and then I would deal with it on Monday. However, my body had other plans. By Saturday I couldn’t move my foot, put weight on it, or even let it touch anything. I remember my mum talking to my couch saying I wouldn’t be able to compete as the tears streamed down my face.
I couldn’t let this be my fate so I made it a point to reuse my leg as soon as possible. I know that this isn’t possible for everyone and most people take a substantially longer period before they can begin reusing the site, but that was not going to happen to me. In my head, I thought well at least I can still eat. By now I should have realized that this type of thinking was unlucky, but that too became a new reality.
For about 4 years, I had experienced nausea, stomach pain and bloating. Whenever I got it checked out, I was told that it was just anxiety and I believed them. It was not until after my CRPS diagnosis and worsening of symptoms that I truly advocated for myself. I was sure that I had gastroparesis, a condition affecting the muscles in one’s stomach. It had been something progressing, but undiagnosed for 3 years at that point. After months of testing and waiting for results, my diagnosis was correct.
Despite all the hardships I went through that year, I went on to win two awards: the 2020 Dancer of the Year at my studio, and the 2020 Overall Athlete of the Year at my cheer gym. For me, the bright side of things was and is dance and cheerleading. To those struggling, I want to say that progress is possible. It may not be linear, and it certainly won’t be easy.
Getting a diagnosis doesn’t mean that your life is over at 15, 16, or 17. Your dreams are still valid and achievable.