I Believe in Mind Over Matter

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Simple physical tasks have always been difficult for me. Running the bases in softball, climbing the basement stairs, even reaching for something on the top shelf. I couldn’t do these everyday activities, because for as long as I can remember I’ve always had some sort of pain.

I’m a junior at Penn State. During my second semester in Happy Valley, I decided to go home for the weekend. That weekend, everything changed.

One wrong step. One twist of my hip, turn of my ankle, and placement of my foot. That one wrong step changed my life forever. I was on my way up the stairs from my bedroom to the kitchen when my hip “popped out.” My family and I decided it was finally time to get to the bottom of my strange pains and injuries. At one of many appointments, a doctor finally said, “What about Ehlers Danlos Syndrome?”

My original reaction, like most people’s, was, “…huh?” My doctor then began to explain. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, known as EDS, is a rare genetic connective tissue disorder. The body of an EDS patient doesn’t make enough collagen. Collagen is what makes the muscles and tissues strong enough to hold the joints together. EDS patients have joints that move around fairly freely, and that’s what leads to the pain.

My life with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is extraordinarily difficult. There are days when I don’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes even when I’m sitting still, I have stabbing pains coursing through my body. Some days I want to throw in the towel, and say, “Fine EDS. You win.” And every time that happens, I cry. I cry, feel the pain, and I let myself be upset. But then I stop. I tell myself it’s time to knock it off – that my hips, my shoulders, my back and my knees do not define me. I refuse to let a syndrome dictate where I go and the choices that I make.

Yes, my life would be simpler if I stayed home, rested, and didn’t do anything to risk a flare up. I know this because that was my life for six months. While I was undergoing the process of being diagnosed, I took a semester off from school. It was the worst few months of my life.

I don’t want to spend my life sitting at home to avoid pain. I want to go to football games, and concerts, and even my 9 a.m. class. I’d rather have my hips absolutely killing me after a night of laughter with my best friends than to sit on my couch alone with no pain. And that’s why I believe in mind over matter.

I want to be a reporter who travels the world, interviewing politicians and presidents. I want to make a difference. My EDS will surely interfere with my dreams. I can 150% guarantee it. But I can 150% guarantee this too. There are going to be many things that interfere with my dreams. I’m going to face hundreds of roadblocks along the way. And I’m going to go around those roadblocks. I’m going to jump over them, figuratively of course, and find a new path to the life I am desperate to lead. Ehlers Danlos is just an obstacle that I promise you, I will overcome.

Hopefully, one day you’ll know my name. And when you do, you’ll know me as, “CNN correspondent, Laura Kennedy,” not, “EDS patient, Laura Kennedy.”

Comments

Michelle Rodino-Colocino
State College
Jan 07, 2013

Thank you, Laura, for your inspiring words. See you at our 9am class!
—Prof. MRC

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