By Chyllia Dixon
My life turned around and improved when I stopped asking “Why me?” and started asking “What can I learn from this?” I was diagnosed with juvenile dermatomyositis just days after my 11th birthday. I was quickly put on high doses of steroids that turned my weak and fragile form into something almost unrecognizable. The mood swings were horrible, and I silently wished to be free of my body. I pleaded to know why this was my burden to bear. After a couple of years, the monster quieted, and I went on to high school as if nothing had happened. But deep down, I had changed. By my junior year, I was giving speeches about treating people with kindness because you never know what they may be going through. It was then that I started to look for the lessons from my past. Eventually, time softened the jagged edges of my memory, and I was off to college without much thought of the monster.
At age 23, after moving hundreds of miles away from home, the beast reared its head again. I was devastated but prepared to learn what I could. I thought it would be another two-year journey, but almost 10 years later, I still spend one day every other week resting in the infusion clinic while receiving intravenous immune globulin (IVIG). In that time, I have earned my massage license, and I have learned how to touch people with care. I have earned my associate’s degree in nursing, and I have learned how to care for the sick. I went on to obtain my bachelor’s degree in nursing, and I learned to look at the bigger picture of health and wellness. A patient is more than the physical shell. There are relationships, emotions, dreams, hopes and goals that people are holding onto.
Now, as I work toward my doctorate in nursing, I see that the truly important things I have learned did not come from a textbook. I know the fear of lying in a hospital bed with more questions than answers. I know the relief of a predictable IVIG day with no insurance hiccups. I know how extremely hard it is to ask for help. I know, that at 32 years old, sometimes I just need someone to hold my hand while I cry. No textbook could have taught me these lessons. I have learned more about being a nurse, more about being a human, because I am a patient.
Chyllia Dixon is currently working on earning her doctorate in nursing practice so she can become a psychiatric nurse practitioner focusing on the mental health needs of patients with chronic health conditions. She also teaches various holistic health classes such as aromatherapy, stress management and support group facilitation.