Brooke: After each chemotherapy treatment, at least a week would pass before I could do anything except read ahead in my textbooks, which helped me stop focusing on what was happening to my body. I went from nerd to über-nerd, because I knew every answer in class. Ultimately I graduated in the top ten of my high school class and received a scholarship to my first choice college: Carnegie Mellon University.
My last chemotherapy treatment was exactly one week before starting college, and by then the lupus had gone into remission, which was like a rebirth. Still, even in remission I had to be careful to avoid sunlight, get enough sleep, and avoid stress or I would get achy joints, migraines, or a rash. I was very careful; did really well in college; and stayed in remission those four years. My blood tests still showed that I was positive for everything in lupus, however, my kidneys were stable.
While in college, I became interested in genetic research, thinking that maybe as a genetic researcher I could help people with lupus. But I found lab work to be largely unfulfilling and realized I wanted to help people hands on. So I decided to go to medical school. My goal in life wasn’t so much to cure diseases as to help people deal with suffering. I believed that you could be sick and not suffer, still be happy, and enjoy good quality o flife.
The challenge with medical school was that students with an illness or disability were expected to work the same hours as everyone else. At one point I was working a hundred hours a week and my body couldn’t handle it. I got sick again; ended up having a transient ischemic attack, also known as a ministroke; and passed out in one of the clinics. I was told there was no permanent damage to my brain but I was at extreme risk for a major stroke.
After the ministroke, I had to give myself injections of blood thinners in my stomach every day, supposedly for life. I was heartbroken, because having been in remission throughout college I had thought the worst was over.The ministroke instead reminded me that the clock was ticking. With lupus,people don’t live long lives. The disease is constantly progressing; even medications that slow the progression can’t stop it. Without the medicines I was going to have a stroke and with them I might have a bleed—caused by a car accident, for instance—that could take me out. This new prognosis seemed like the final nail in the coffin in terms of having children since people with lupus often die in pregnancy or childbirth, due to blood clots.After a couple of weeks of mourning, I went back to thinking: You know,I’m still here. So I’m going to finish medical school and live my dream. After all,there are people who live a long, healthy life but never live their dream. I was once again filled with gratitude for my life.
I finished medical school and got my first-choice residency at Harbor UCLA, hoping to treat the homeless. I wanted to work with the sickest people no one else wanted to work with. However much time I had on this planet, I wanted it to be meaningful and dedicated to helping others live better and happier lives.I was just finishing up my last rotation in medical school when I met weight-loss expert and master trainer Thomas Tadlock, the most incredible human I’d ever encountered—gorgeous and also funny, caring, and brilliant. I didn’t believe in soulmates until I met him.
To learn more about the book Healing Happens: Stories of Healing Against All Odds, and discover more inspirational stories and transformative health and healing tips, please visit: http://www.healinghappensbook.com/