Stories of Resilience: Cassandra Carpenter

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I’m living life and doing all the things because I stopped choosing to be afraid and instead chose to live. I hope you choose to do the same.

I had spent my entire life afraid of living until the day I was told I was slowly dying. It was a physician’s assistant that broke the news to me. My specialist either didn’t have the heart to face me or was too busy visiting other patients to worry about the prognosis of one 32-year-old female sitting in exam room 3. 

Honestly, I had been bracing myself for this. I knew that I was taking the maximum dosages of all the medications that they could legally prescribe me and nothing was working. 

It had taken everything in me to go to the outpatient clinic that day. Not because of fear, but because I literally had nothing in my body to give. My gastroparesis flare-ups hadn’t ceased in over 4 years and the vomiting took up more of my day than anything else. My chronic fatigue and stage 3 adrenal failure kept me bedridden for most of my day and in-between lying in bed trapped in a body that I hated and throwing up, I could hear my fiance playing with our sweet 5-year-old son downstairs. 

At times, the sound would make me smile because I knew that they were doing all the things that a father and son should be doing. But most times it made me cry with grief because I couldn’t be a part of that memory that they were creating because my body was failing me. 

Back in exam room 3, the PA averted her eyes and looked down at her clipboard as if she had it all scripted out. “Cassandra. We’ve done all that we can for you. At this point, your only option is to get scheduled in for a jejunostomy.”

“What’s the prognosis for someone with a j-tube?” I asked. I already knew the answer. I had looked it up more times than I could count. 

“With how advanced your condition is, about 7-10 years,” the PA said. She handed me a sheet to take down to the scheduling desk and on her way out sheturned to smile and said, “Have a great day.”

The combination of brain fog, malnourishment, and fatigue had me numb. With the scheduling sheet in my hand, I exited the exam room, walked past the scheduling desk, through the lobby, and out the front doors towards my car. I shut the driver’s side door and sat there in the stillness and cold, seeing my breath form a cloud in front of me. Hanging from my rearview mirror was a picture of my son, smiling, posing with a baseball bat in his hands from last year’s t-ball season. At that moment, the next ten years of my life flew before my eyes…15. I might live until he was 15 years old. I broke down sobbing uncontrollably. Once I regained composure, I made the 45-minute drive back home with my mind made up that I was not having the procedure done. I rolled down my window and let the scheduling slip fly up and out with the wind. Death was not going to be my destiny. 

Fast forward 7 years. Healing. So much damn healing. Deep, raw, lean into the fear, cry in the shower so no one hears your kind of healing. This isn’t a story about a massive transformation or putting your chronic illness into remission. It’s about showing up every single damn day because you have to and because you effing want to. 

Had I given in to the destiny that my specialist wrote out for me 7 years earlier, I’d be on my deathbed. The magic happens when life knocks you on your ass. You muster the strength to stand back up and surprise the hell out of it.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.

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