Of all the beautiful days I’ve been lucky enough to see in 28 years, I can definitely say that no ray of sunshine was ever as perfect as the one I felt from the seat of my wheelchair in the courtyard of WakeMed Hospital. It’s amazing how perspective can change in an instant. I never really knew I was moving too fast and missing so much until I couldn’t walk. At 25, I found myself facing the kind of challenge I thought only existed in Lifetime movies. Without even auditioning, I was suddenly starring in the Guillain-Barré Syndrome story. Like, who is this rude French guy, and what is he doing in the director’s seat of my perfect life? Well, here’s the basic trailer:
In January 2013, I was fighting off some strep throat that just wouldn’t go away. In the span of a week, I went from having a tiresome cough, to waking up one day and not being able to get up the stairs. Though I was convincing myself I just needed more sleep and some new sneakers, thankfully, someone else was convinced I needed to go to the ER. Twenty-four hours and a spinal tap later, I watched three doctors take some deep breaths before they closed themselves in my hospital room. I remember a few things very clearly from this moment; the first of which being the certainty that a hospital never sends three doctors to tell you that you’re just getting antibiotics. Second, that it only took about eight minutes for them to drop the weight of the world on my shoulders.
So, 12 days after the start of a new year, I was told that I was about to become paralyzed …so much for that gym resolution, right? Guillain-Barré Syndrome is like a chronic form of multiple sclerosis, but it’s something you can fully recover from. I cried for about half an hour, and then I started to brace myself. With my mom and dad being on opposite sides of the country, I even called them and told them not to come. “I’ve got like, three books and a bunch of reality TV I’ve been meaning to catch up on, anyways. I’m fine. If they tell me a month, I bet I’ll be out in two weeks.”
‘Told you so’ is probably a poor phrase to use here, but I was singing a different tune in a matter of six days. In fact, I wasn’t singing at all; I was so paralyzed that I couldn’t even talk. I couldn’t smile, I couldn’t wipe my own ass, and I couldn’t even sleep without having my eyes taped shut at night. I went from 115lbs. to 89lbs in less than a month. I developed atrophy and bed sores from not being able to move. One lung filled with fluid, the other collapsed, and then came pneumonia. In only five weeks, I found myself laying in the ICU with a feeding tube in my nose wondering if I was going to live.
Well, spoiler alert: I did. Sparing you the details of three months in a hospital bed and six months of rehab with a wheelchair and a walker, I’ll fast forward to the reason I’m writing this down. It’s not because I feel like I have some grand story to brag about, or that I just stayed ‘motivational poster positive’ the whole time, or that I get to wear the handicapped parking pass of honor for five more years. It’s really got nothing to do with the circumstances; it’s got everything to do with what I learned to make of it.
Listen, just because you didn’t have to learn to walk again, doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to have a crappy day. Every single one of us faces a different battle. There is no more significant battle than another. The significance lies in how you choose to fight it. That’s the part of the playing field that’s even for all of us. That’s my whole point in writing this down and sharing it.
A friend of mine encouraged me to submit this story and told me that I should feel proud of what I’ve been through. I just think I’m proud that I can possess a spark that might illuminate someone else. I’m thankful, as cliché as it sounds, that I now understand happiness as a choice, and the time to make that choice is always now. That’s exactly why I started the story of this journey with what impacted me the hardest; I choose to remember the most pure feeling of sunshine I’ve ever known, and not what I couldn’t feel in my legs. That it’s always got to be focused on what you have, not what you think you’re lacking. Really, that we can all waste a lot of time wondering if the glass is half-full or half-empty, or we can toast to being alive and just drink it.
INTENTION: Life knocked me off my feet when I was diagnosed with a disease that paralyzed me. In the end, I found that I was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to get my wheels spinning in the right direction; not the ones underneath me, but the ones in my head.
Katy “funsize” Mogg is a 28-year-old candy addict, live-music lover and graduate of North Carolina State University. A Pittsburgh native, this East Coast gypsy has recently relocated herself to California’s Central Coast in the pursuit of happiness, adventure, and all things awesome.