The day is not tomorrow, it’s today. The sun is shining awoken from hibernation, the birds songs of love spread through the air, it is summer. Exams are over and I have passed my sophomore year. I have beaten sophomore year with all its curve balls, and hospitalizations. It is all over and I don’t know if I feel like crying, or singing, or dancing, or just sleeping. Thinking back to New Years and the promise I made myself; I would go back to school and no matter what the pain was, I would keep going. Looking back, I am proud because I did just that. The first day I went back to school my head hurt so badly that I could barely walk, this would repeat throughout the year. I was asked to read a section of the textbook for my last class of the day and I remember I had no focus as to what I was reading. The only thing going through my head was “God give me strength. God give me strength.” Once class finished, I made it out to the car and cried for God had given me the strength to get through that paragraph. Stumbling on through my words. This cycle would repeat itself for the remainder of the school year. Studying while tears ran down my face, writing a lab report when I only had sight in one eye, not being able to eat for multiple days in a row, but most of all I prayed a lot, all day, and I prayed for strength. It is all over and I am so thankful I can get surgery and get better. I would love to lie to you and say that I wouldn’t change a thing in my life if I had the power, but it’s better to be honest. As honesty contains the humiliation and exposure as being stripped naked and thrown in front of a crowd. The truth is: chronic illness does hurt. Many people want to become bigger than it, but the first step of doing that for me, is accepting I don’t want this evil monster in my life. It is just unhelpful to pretend and put on a front. Nobody actually cares enough to judge what’s behind your mask, so don’t put it on in the first place. This was something that was very hard for me to do. The best step I took in making it through this year was accepting that it does hurt and it hurts SO BADLY and I wish I did not have such a struggle such as chronic illness in my life. It hurts to see a blank on your report card for a final you missed in December because you had your back filleted open, when you did every single homework assignment. There was nothing I could have done, but be strong. Therefore, I accepted my situation and dealt with it. In January when I went back to school I accepted that yes right now this disease was holding me captive, but I would do everything I could to live a normal life. Throughout all the tears, all the pain, there were the smiles. There were the laughs. There was the time I was dancing and my PICC line cap came right off, which although it wasn’t the ideal situation, it was pretty funny. I only had these moments because I multiplied the bad ones by 10. I asked my PT for exercises, woke up 10 minutes earlier every morning and in two weeks I had a new set of exercises (I was now lifting my leg off the bed AND holding it for 10 seconds). Week by week I got stronger. I climbed a mountain that according to my Fitbit was 225 flights of stairs. My mom asked me if I wanted a gym membership and I asked her if she was out of her mind. A week later I ran a mile on the treadmill… I had gotten my gym membership. When the distance reached 1 mile, I burst out in tears in the middle of the gym. I got some strange looks, but I don’t think anyone realized how much I fought to get there. It was in that moment I realized how far I had come and I cried to thank God. All those prayers, “God Give me strength. God give me strength.” Had been heard and listened to. I accepted my situation and I worked with it. When they told me I couldn’t do it, I said screw you. I have handed in all my finals. I have passed sophomore year, I have climbed a mountain literally and figuratively, and I couldn’t be happier. Because I am not my disease. I am Karen Richards. The only reason I got through it, was because I prayed not for all my problems to go away, but I prayed for God to give me strength.