Michaela Shelley is a remarkable young teenager who is battling a few chronic illnesses. These illnesses does not enable her to live her life as a regular teenager. She is facing her illnesses head on and fighting them. She is not allowing her illnesses to defeat her and stop her from enjoying her teenage years. Michaela took time to answer some of our questions regarding her illnesses and how she does not allow her illnesses define who she is.
Please share with our readers the chronic illnesses you are battling. What are they and how do they affect your life?
Well I have several chronic illnesses I am battling the main three being: Mitochondrial Disease Gastroparesis, and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).Mitochondrial Disease is the umbrella of all my diagnoses it’s the reason why I have POTS and Gastroparesis. Most everyone learned in school the mitochondria in your body make the energy your body needs to live. Well in Mitochondrial Disease the mitochondria don’t function properly. This can cause a multitude of different symptoms depending on which portion of your body is most affected. For me it has presented itself in autonomic dysfunction, digestive tract paralysis, fatigue, migraines, etc. Gastroparesis literally translates to “paralyzed stomach” My stomach doesn’t function properly so it doesn’t move well or digest food well. Sadly I have a more advanced version and this affects my entire gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines, and colon). Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS a form of Dysautonomia. This specific form causes orthostatic intolerance. When I stand up my heart rate jumps. My autonomic system doesn’t properly control my orthostatics.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with Gastroparesis? What was your initial reaction? How did your family handle it?
I was 15 when I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis even though I had been having symptoms since age 12. I knew it was coming sadly. My younger brother also has Mitochondrial Disease and Gastroparesis. He was diagnosed before I was and we all had seen the decline in how my body progressed over the summer before diagnosis. I expected it however I hoped it wasn’t nearly as severe as my brother’s sadly it was also very severe like his. Obviously no one in my family wanted me to also be diagnosed but we accepted it and were in ready with a game plan to fight hard.
How has it changed you as a young woman?
The diagnoses have definitely changed my life. I learned that life changes very quickly! This disease might be an ugly monster but it has matured me greatly and been a great blessing in my life because I have gone through hardships others haven’t that have matured me and made me value life for what it is!
What are some of the challenges you face daily with your illnesses?
Every day I wake up and take all my medications, and hook up to my feeding tube, then I struggle throughout the day with fatigue and tiredness, even walking around the mall with my friends is difficult, then every night I take even more medication, unhook from my feeding tube, and connect to my TPN or IV nutrition which is delivered through a central line in my chest. I need a lot of help to get things done during the day and the simple things that people take for granted every day I need help to get accomplished. I have lost quite a bit of independence to say the least.
What advice would you give young people who are battling a chronic illness?
Don’t let your disease get the best of you and live your life despite the disease. Our disease put a great amount of limitations on us at times but we still need to get out and try to do things the average young person would do! You want to be able to enjoy life not be bitter just because of the challenges you are facing.
Michaela Shelley is a young woman who is living with a few chronic illnesses. She still has to get up every morning and go to school. She has to go on with her daily activities and be responsible to remember to take her medications. She doesn’t let her illnesses stop her from conducting her normal activities. She shared her story with us to show people to be grateful for the little things. Be appreciative of all your blessings. Michaela Shelley is a Woman of Strength.
By Lovely Haitian