When I was a kid, I was involved in every activity you could think of, basketball, volleyball, soccer, student council, and early Spanish classes, you name it, I did it. I was also absolutely inseparable from my twin sister, Whitney. If I was around, you could bet Whitney would make her arrival soon. One day, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, I woke up and I couldn’t see very much out of my left eye. I just shrugged it off, because I was 13 and I didn’t think anything of it. Finally, it got to a point where I had to tell my mom that I couldn’t see much of anything. Maybe a few bright colors, like red or neon green, but not much else. You know when you go to the eye doctor and they tell you to pick between which eye can see based on the blurriness? Yeah. It felt like I was stuck on the worst level of blurriness for a week with no way of changing it.
Eventually, we found out that this loss of sight was the first symptom of my Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. After I was diagnosed, a heavy dose of intravenous steroids would decrease the swelling of my optic nerve over the course of a few days and my vision would be restored. The doctors kept asking me about overwhelming fatigue, headaches, visual changes, forgetfulness...blah blah blah. All of these things were normal to me already and I hadn’t really noticed a difference. All I wanted to do was get back to sports and the clubs that I loved, but I had to stay for more tests and results. Luckily, I didn’t have another real episode again until two years later and then again ten years after that.
Through one of the darkest times of my life, I found my light. Fast forward a few years- it was now time to declare a major in college. My MS was finally under control and I was a sophomore at The University of Missouri with no real plan. I was a psychology major, and I was happy. I just knew it wouldn’t be the same forever, so I started on a journey to find myself and my identity. A piece of this would manifest into my own nursing school student organization, Finding Your Identity [In Nursing]. I had always had the dream of working in healthcare as a nurse, I was just nervous to take the leap of faith. My mom was the real reason I finally jumped and submitted my application for nursing school; I wanted to help people the way my nurses helped me. I was first inspired at the age of 13 and then again at 15. Nurses were the ones who helped me when it was tough to walk and hard to stay awake, they would even re-explain things to me or my family when we weren’t sure what was happening. It was always the nurses.
Ten years later, here I am—a registered nurse that serves patients with neurological illnesses. I would definitely call that a complete circle. I absolutely love my job and couldn’t possibly think of doing anything else. My only advice to anyone reading this would be to go for your dreams no matter what. There is always a way no matter how hard it may seem. Also, remember that it’s okay to lean on family and your support system sometimes. I really don’t know where I would be without them.
Written and lived by Brittany Kwamin
October 30, 2019
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