Samantha has gastroparesis, which has changed her, left her with hardware and scars. She may be different but don't think for a second that makes her weak.
(originally published August 2018)
I have gastroparesis, and a month or so ago I had a routine doctor appointment. Got on the scale – for the first time in a long time, I wanted to cry. I spent the majority of my appointment in my own head, full of negative self-talk and barely listening to what my doctor was saying. All I could concentrate on was that stupid number.
I have a lot of parts of my body that are different. Different from yours – different from what they used to be on me. There are scars, bumps, bruises, tubes, devices, etc. Seeing all those things every day took a lot of getting used to (most recently my feeding tube). While such devices keep me alive and allow me to live as normally as possible, they make me…different. Being different is hard.
As I watched my body change, I had to talk myself through each stage. I had to learn to love myself through each of these transformations, and that has proved difficult. So many changes – so little control over them. I’ve seen my body malnourished and struggling, and all I wanted was to put weight on. Before I got sick, I saw my body overweight and only wanted to be at a healthy weight. I don’t want to go back to either of those places.
Since the beginning of April 2018, I have worked hard at trying to get back some of that control I lost. I’ve worked out to the best of my ability and done my best to fuel my body with the best nutrition I could. There were days I could barely get out of bed. There were days that I couldn’t keep down anything at all without getting sick or being in pain. Those days were tough because my mind wanted to push past my limits, but my body was unable. I was being too hard on myself, just like how in my doctor’s office I had allowed some stupid number to control how I see myself.
So, I started tracking every day. I put smiley faces 🙂 on the days I was able to accomplish my goals, and “REST” on the days I wasn’t able. By reframing my off days as rest days, I realized I felt differently. But my favorite was the day I was able to say “I RAN!” [Editor: for more about Samantha’s saga to become a runner visit her blog here]
When the negative self-talk creeps in, I do my best to reframe those thoughts too. It’s certainly not easy, but it’s something I work on daily.
Self-care is different for all of us. For me, it’s learning to find my worth not from other places, but from inside myself. I’ve become much stronger, strong enough to run again. I may not be able to run like I used to, but small steps are still progress and that’s what matters.
For me, tracking how I feel, my improvements, my timed walks/runs has made a huge difference. I use an app to record my health progress which gives me perspective. I can physically feel and see my improvements. My goal everyday is to be the best I can be, and better than yesterday. One day at a time.
So here I am, unapologetically me; tubes, devices, scars, all of it. I’m not perfect, and I don’t worry about that anymore. Neither am I concerned with anyone’s opinions. I don’t worry that I’m not exactly where I want to be. I am relentless, and I will reach my goals. This journey is lifelong, and I will continue being the best I can be.
Samantha “Sam” Smith is a Health & Wellness Coach and the Director of Public Relations for G-PACT, a non-profit patient support group for Gastroparesis. She lives in upstate New York where she was born and raised. Sam loves to run in the warmer weather. Sam has organized fundraisers, lobbied congress, and been part of many awareness campaigns for chronic disease awareness. [Blog]