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When people are faced with great challenges in life and overcome those challenges, many will say “You’re so strong.” Others will say, “I don’t know I could have done that.”

I have been through so much in life when I had no choice but to fold and let my circumstances consume me or try to find a solution. Since being diagnosed with neuromyelitis optical spectrum disorder (NMOSD), finding the strength to move forward is what defines my life.

I remember when I began getting sick, I knew something was not right. I was very nauseous and then would have uncontrollable vomiting. Every time I went to the emergency room (ER), I experienced the disappointment of the physician not knowing the cause and sending me home still sick.

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What choice did I have except to take the meds they gave me to treat the symptoms and pray that they work, or return to the same ER or a different one to get help? This went on for a couple of years. What other choice did I have? I prayed all the time for that one doctor to say I know what is causing you to be sick, and this is how to treat you. I prayed that if I did get a correct diagnosis that it could be treated.

In September 2013, after visiting my third ER and advocating to be kept even though the physician tried to turn me away. I was admitted and woke up paralyzed. Now, in a wheelchair at 29, what am I to do? I was depressed and in shock, every emotion you can think of I had. But still no correct diagnosis.

Sitting in a hospital bed, my world was flipped upside down. I was diagnosed with NMOSD in February 2015. In 2009, my daughter passed away 13 days shy of her second birthday from a rare disease called Pompe. I held my baby girl, Amariyah, as she took her last breath. All I wanted was for my baby to be OK. After her passing, I thought I mentally would not have been able to survive. My heart was shattered. However, instead of not doing anything with my life, and staying depressed, I decided to go back to school. As hard as it was, I kept going. I did not choose any of what I have been through in life.

I would never want anyone to go through what I’ve been through. So, when someone tells me I’m strong, I tell them that I am surviving. I pray every day for the strength to keep going on. I have days when I am deeply sad, but I try my best not to stay in that space. I give myself that time to cry or simply reflect on my feelings.

I take one moment at a time and push through. I would not say that I am strong because I did not choose to go through what I have been through; being strong is more like the only option. My strength comes from my God.  I would have not been able to do it alone. I always tell people in any circumstance in life, that you never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have.