This weekend, I’ve defied all odds; I’ve done what never should’ve been possible…
I graduated from college, Summa Cum Laude… While in a long-standing battle with PANS and Lyme Disease!
When I was first diagnosed, it felt like my life was a tragedy, and PANS was the ending. I was sure that it had completely ruined me, and pursuing my dreams seemed inconceivable…
If you’d told me as a twelve-year-old struggling through middle school that I’d someday go to a top college, I never would’ve believed you.
If you’d told me at nineteen, as PANS had taken away my whole personality and cognitive capacities and my ability to do any school, that I would recover and complete one of the most difficult programs in the college, I would’ve laughed and said that was impossible.
And if you’d told me two months ago, as I was completely crippled by depression, had lost my reasoning abilities, and was even beginning to have psychotic symptoms… If you’d told me that IV steroid treatment would make me well enough to turn the semester around, get straight-A’s, and then graduate with Highest Honors as a result, I would’ve fainted in complete shock.
It’s been a very long and difficult journey to get my degree, and I’ve suffered tremendously along the way at times, but you know what? I’ve made it!
Somehow, despite my illnesses, I’ve taken advantage of every opportunity my school has had to offer over the last four years, and I’ve received national recognition for my work. I can honestly say that, thanks to treatment, PANS and Lyme ultimately haven’t stopped me from doing anything I’ve wanted to do in my life.
I’m not telling you these things because I need validation—I’m divulging my accomplishments because many of you need hope.
I’m sharing this moment to give encouragement to all the kids and teens with PANS who are out there wondering if they’ll ever be able to shoot for their dreams—or if they’ll even be able to dream of anything at all.
I’m sharing for all the parents afraid that their PANS children won’t be able to have good, productive lives.
I’m sharing because ignorant and skeptical doctors need to know that those of us with PANS, who have been mislabeled as hopeless psychiatric cases, can get better when given appropriate treatments.
Readers, followers, and friends, I’m showing and telling you today that life after PANS, Lyme, and autoimmune encephalitis is possible. It won’t be easy, and it may not be what you expect, but yes, with treatment, you can go on and live!
Nevertheless, my second chance at life and my graduation happened only because I was correctly diagnosed with PANS and was able to get the right treatments. This wasn’t just a matter of willpower—it was a gift that I was able to find treatments that helped me enough that I could dare to stay in school. I’ll be forever grateful, so I want to do all I can to raise awareness and allow others to experience this amazing gift of healing!
If you have PANS or Lyme, and you have a dream… Don’t give up. Your dreams may change to some extent, and you may not reach them in the way or the time-frame you imagined, but you can still have a beautiful life.
PANS doesn’t have to be the end of the story.
I’m Writing a Book!
Now that I’ve graduated, I want to help along anyone else out there with PANS or Lyme or another chronic illness who wants to go to college…
So I’ve started a book detailing the methods and strategies I used that let me graduate with a 3.95 GPA while fighting PANS/Lyme. It’s part how-to guide, with plenty of practical tips on everything from what to do in high school to make college easier, to managing flares while away from home, to taking care of your own dorm/apartment. It’s also part memoir, sharing anecdotes of how I applied the tips for myself while in school.
What would you like to see me discuss in my book? Do you have any particular suggestions? Do you have questions about my experience? I want this book to be useful to you, so I’d love to have your input. Please comment below, or feel free to send me a private message on my Contact page!
What About This Blog?
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to all of you who have read my blog and encouraged me over these last three years of blogging and fighting PANS. Your words of support have meant the world to me and have sometimes been the difference between a terrible day and the best day of a week.
Now that I’m done with school, it’s a new season for The Dreaming Panda. Don’t worry—I’m not going anywhere. If anything, I hope I’ll post even more consistently, and maybe I’ll share pieces of my books along the way.
I also suspect that there will be plenty of new adventures as I rest and recover here at home, and as I pursue new treatments. I plan to write about every step of the way, so I hope you’ll stick around!
For more about my time in college with PANS, check out these useful posts: