I was sick the majority of 2019-2020, and I couldn't figure out why. I would get colds more often than the average person, my body would completely shut down on me, and my life consisted of frequent doctors visits and different exams.

In May of 2019, I had a cyst develop in my mouth under my tongue. A ranula had developed and I ended up having to get surgery to have my entire right salivary gland removed. It took a little over a month to fully get my speech back to the way it was, and you can imagine how hard that was given the fact that I speak for a living.

Starting in March of 2020, I noticed that my voice wasn't functioning as properly as it usually does. I started sounding hoarse and there were days where I couldn't speak above a whisper. It hurt so much just to say a few sentences let alone try to project my voice to talk to my listeners every single night. I drank all the tea in the world, sucked on a bunch of throat lozenges, and even stopped hanging out with my friends to try to preserve my voice. After 6 months of dealing with vocal problems, I finally saw an ENT and found out I had damaged my vocal cords and needed to go on complete vocal rest for two weeks. Again, you can imagine how hard that was given the fact that I speak for a living.

I had been on anti-depressants since January of 2020. My world came crashing down when my best friend/college roommate got killed in a car accident on July 4th 2019. After that I became hollow. I became mean. I became an entirely different person. As a result I lost all of my college best friends and was left with no one. I moved back home to quarantine with my family during the coronavirus pandemic because I was scared to be by myself during such uncertain times. I already hated life, hated myself and everyone around me. I didn't want to start hating my job. So I packed my things, moved back to Maryland for two months, and broadcasted my show out of my childhood bedroom closet. October of 2020, I felt like I was okay enough to get off the medicine. I quit the pills and had the worst side effects of my entire life. For an entire month and a half I suffered severe withdrawals that landed me in the ER twice. Throwing up, brain zaps, passing out, everything you hear about in the movies...I experienced it all. There were days I couldn't even speak without throwing up. Once again, you can imagine how hard that was given the fact that I speak for a living.

A month prior to that I had went to see my doctor because I was rapidly losing weight and couldn't gain any no matter how hard I tried. She did routine blood work and found that my white blood cell count was extremely low. She sent me to a hematologist  to see if I had some type of blood disorder like hemophilia, leukemia, lymphoma and sickle-cell anemia. Negative. My hematologist told me that I had the antibodies for potential Lupus and sent me to a rheumatologist. After so many test and exams, I was officially diagnosed with Lupus at the end of October 2020. And most of the sickness I had been experiencing up until that point was most likely a result of it.

I often ask God why all this is happening to me. I'm still at the beginning of my career and all these sickness are attacking the very skills I need to do my job efficiently. It's been a lot to process and I'm still trying to find my way around my new "normal." But I'll tell you what, I'm determined to not let this take me out.

Yes I have to take hydroxychloroquine every single day. Yes I have to limit the amount of hours I'm in the sun or I'll break out in rashes all over my body that will send me to urgent care. Yes I may have fertility issues when trying to get pregnant one day. Yes, I can't hang out with my friends as much because my doctor says I'll have vocal issues the rest of my career and I need to keep my talking to a minimum. Yes my life is going to look a lot different. But I'm not going to die. And just that simple fact is enough to keep me going.

I have so much I want to do. There are so many places I want to see. I want to get married, have kids and grow old. So I'm not going to let this disease define me. I used to say "Why me?" I used to cry in bed every single night begging god to take my pain away. But I've since changed my perspective and now say "Why not me?"

Maybe my experience can be used to help the next girl who has such big dreams but is being burdened by the weight of the world and a sickness that is beyond her control. Maybe if she sees that I did, it'll show her she can.

May is Lupus Awareness Month and I hope you'll take the time  to educate yourself on this disease. It could save a life.


LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.


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