“My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” – Psalm 73:26, NLT
Before I got sick, many adjectives could be used to describe me. I was fun. Whether watching the latest flick at the movie theater, skating around the roller rink every Friday night, or going to slumber parties, I was always up for the next spontaneous adventure. I was loyal. Others were confident of my support during any number of melodramatic teenage crises. I was a loving, responsible daughter—studious, dependable, and growing into an independent young woman who had recently given her life to Christ. I was an athlete. I spent the humid summer days crouched behind home plate, prepared to hurl the softball towards second base as the opposing team attempted to steal. More importantly, I was healthy…or so we thought.
My name is Cheyanne. Although I am 22 now, I was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome at 13 years old. Such a diagnosis contraindicated everything I had previously known about myself. My body could no longer handle rigorous, spontaneous activities, especially while trying to abide by a strict medication regimen and hospital admissions. Friends ceased to notice my existence. They stopped inviting me to hang out. Why would they? I would likely cancel last minute anyway. My parents undoubtedly still loved me, but homebound school courses and the fact that I was more independent when I was a child had to have been a disappointment. Even my faith suffered.
Identity is already a precarious subject as a teenager. As my illness progressed, I had to continually reestablish mine. I did not know who I was, nor the new role I had in my loved ones’ lives. Coming to terms with the ways in which my fragile body has shaped my person has been a process that has followed me well into adulthood. I learned to partake in what I can when I can because I cannot predict my abilities later. I finally grasped that I could be a good friend regardless of my limitations. I replaced my softball career with the hobbies of reading classic novels, knitting, and sharing my story on my blog, HospitalPrincess.com, which I created in the midst of an eight-month hospital admission. These trials have strengthened my relationships with my family and my fiancé, as well as afforded me the opportunity to form friendships with girls diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome too. I realized that the earthly vessels of man are prone to illness—mine just happened to come sooner than I expected. However, He provides the resources to endure. While I am physically weak, I have gained spiritual strength.
That is not to say my diagnosis journey has been easy. There are moments I look in the mirror and my appearance reflects everything Mast Cell Activation Syndrome has taken from me. It has claimed my ability to eat, to go out in public without anaphylaxis to perfumes, and to possess an abdomen free of feeding tubes or the Frankenstein-like scar marking the surgical removal of my intestine. This condition has seized the mental conception of who I once thought I’d be. I see my reflection, homebound and connected to tubes and drains for survival, but I smile because, despite it all, I know who I am now. I am worthy. I am His.