This week, I’m sharing another post by Reina Grosvalet. Reina tells us about her experience being diagnosed with a chronic illness and adjusting her professional plans as a result. Fortunately, Reina was able to find the support and opportunity to stay engaged in the work that brings her enjoyment and meaning. Here is her post:
Sometimes, it may seem that when you are living with a debilitating illness your dreams can never come true, and this is especially the case if your illness interferes with your ability to have your dream job in your preferred field. The good news is there is hope, as there are numerous ways you can engage in a fulfilling career with debilitating illness. Allow me to tell my story.
My Shattered Dreams
As long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a doctor. I read stories about blind physicians, and I even met some at the National Federation of the Blind national convention one summer. I enrolled in college to prepare for medical school, and I even achieved high scores on the practice MCAT. I purchased numerous medical eBooks to get a head start on reading medical school materials. I was bound and determined to hit the ground running. Then, my life changed forever.
I always had some health challenges throughout my life due to Mitochondrial Disease. I was born blind, and I grew up contending with G.I. challenges, double incontinence, chronic pain and worsening health; however, I never felt these things were impossible to handle. I always adapted and overcame my challenges. I was even working in IT full-time as an accessibility subject matter expert while in school, and I traveled for business periodically. Then, when I was 32 years of age, Mitochondrial Disease threw me a curve ball I was not prepared to catch. After a terrible flu virus that sent my body into a prolonged metabolic crisis, I lost my ability to walk. With that came the loss of my job, as they did not allow me to work remotely or take a caregiver to work.
I went through several months of physical therapy. While I was able to get to a point where I could walk with support, such as by holding onto someone or using a walker, I never progressed further. The more I participated in physical therapy, my quality of life suffered because my body could not handle the effort, and I was eventually discharged due to lack of progress. Plus, my FMLA was up, and I lost my work insurance.
I hit rock bottom. I fell into a depression because I felt like my life had lost purpose, but I kept praying. I asked God to help me find another job and to also help me find another way to realize my dreams. God eventually came through for me.
Realizing My Dreams Differently
God delivered on his promise to me in less than two weeks. I received a call about a completely remote accessibility subject matter expert position. Feeling like it was too good to be true, I explained how I was ill and could not commit to working in the office. I explained my reliance on caregiver support and my fatigue. Surprisingly, there was no pushback. I passed both interviews and was hired in short order.
I am still gainfully employed full-time today. I work under remarkable leadership, and I have all the accommodation I need. I also work a second job that is just as awesome. Even so, I have not forgotten about becoming a doctor.
I have come to accept I am not healthy enough to attend medical school, and I especially cannot handle residency; however, I have gone a different route to fulfill my dreams. I have only one year left to obtain my bachelor’s in psychology, and I plan to go to pursue my master’s and then a PHD. I can do all of this from home through an online college that is set up for busy professionals. I am also prepared to become certified as a cat behaviorist through the Animal Behavioral College because I love helping cats with behavioral challenges. I have significant experience working with cats since I run a cat sanctuary in my home to provide a forever home for cats the shelters will not even give a chance.
I have found a way to fulfill my dreams differently. I will still work in medicine, but just not in the way I dreamed I would. I will be working with people and animals, and I will still be a doctor, but just not in the way I originally saw myself.
A debilitating illness does not have to rob you of your dreams. Even if you cannot work in the job you originally wanted, there are other things you may be able to do in your field of choice. You may have to think outside of the box to find something you can do, but it is well worth the effort.