I previously defined myself by the things that consumed the majority of my time. In high school, I was a student-athlete. I used most of my energy for ice hockey and the rest for studying. In college, I spent most of my time in classes or at the library. Post-graduation, I defined myself by my career as a special education teacher.
Three years ago, I received a PH diagnosis and supplemental oxygen. I was suddenly no longer an athlete, no longer a student, and no longer able to maintain my job as a special education teacher. PH cruelly took all of that from me. For close to a year, I grieved the pieces of myself I couldn’t reclaim. I felt lost and empty, and didn’t think about all the other things that made me “me.” It wasn’t until I started moving past the lost parts of myself that I realized all there was to gain.
From athlete to leader
Losing my athletic ability has been extremely difficult to move past. I still find myself longing to be a part of an ice hockey team. For 14 years, hockey was my life. It was my emotional outlet and pushed me both mentally and physically. As an athlete, my body felt stronger and properly fueled for the next practice and game — I miss that. But once I moved past what PH took from me, I could see the other life skills gained from hockey that I continue to retain.
Hockey gave me more than athleticism. It showed me the importance of working as a team to move through problems together. It also gave me leadership confidence, grit, and determination. Hockey taught me how to fight for myself and others.
If I tried to skate as fast as I could from one goal line to the other right now, I’d most likely have a syncope episode. But skating fast is no longer what defines me. Instead, being a leader, being part of a team like BioNews Services, and having the determination to fight through difficulties are parts of myself that I take pride in.
From teacher to advocate
Losing my career as a special education teacher was one of the hardest blows I’ve experienced. The hours studying in the library, being in the top 10 of my college’s graduating class, and landing a full-time job just months after graduating — it felt like all of that hard work was for nothing. It’s difficult for me to believe that I could once memorize notes of information and perfectly recall it all for a test. I could teach a lesson and pause to answer questions, then regain my thoughts as if I’d never stopped. But I lost those skills. When the classroom became too difficult to be in and I was spending more time taking days off than being there for my students, I knew it was time to stop.
Being a special education teacher helped me gain valuable skills. Teaching is more than just actively being in the classroom. After my teaching career was over, I continued to educate, especially by spreading awareness of my condition. As a special education teacher, I constantly advocated for my students and what they needed. Because of that, I saw the importance of advocating for myself and others. Now a large part of my day is spent sharing and writing about my experiences in hopes of helping others.
Three years ago, I defined myself by what I did. I was an athlete, a student, and a teacher. After losing these titles, I felt like a part of my life was missing. I failed to see the parts of myself that were just as important, the parts that were always there. I am still a leader, teammate, and fighter. I am still an educator and an advocate. Even though I can no longer skate or be in the classroom, I realize that there are many parts of me that will never be lost.
Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.