Patient, student, wife, mother, caregiver, and advocate. I am a woman who has many different roles in life. While all these roles came to me at different times, they have made a significant impact in shaping me into the woman I am today.
Growing up in a small town in Brazil, I always knew I had a passion to help others. Although I wasn’t sure how, I knew that I could…and I would. In 2000, I experienced one of the most pivotal changes in my life, and looking back at it, one that has led me to where I am today; I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system involving the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.
Prior to my diagnosis, I had never heard of MS. And in Brazil, the word ‘sclerosis’ is often used in a negative connotation. After doing my own research and talking to doctors, I was devastated; I was told that I may only have 10 years to live. I wanted to give up, I wanted to quit life, and everything else in between. Thankfully, my mom was a therapist, and while she has always been my biggest cheerleader, her unwavering support continued to help me through one of my most difficult times.
As if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough, I was also going through the initial emotions and challenges of being diagnosed with a chronic disease, but I found the courage to keep fighting. Little did I know that years later I would go on to get my Ph.D. in education, my master’s in social communication, both in the line of cultural studies, with research related to education, chronic conditions and sharing my own personal rare disease journey.
As I crossed patient and student off my list, I unknowingly ventured into my next roles as a wife, mother, caregiver, and advocate. While these new set of roles would bring many hardships, its also rewarded me with feelings of gratitude and appreciation.