My name is Danika and I am a 27-year-old, imperfect, passionate woman, on the journey to finding balance amidst life and all its beautiful chaos, hoping to empower others along the way. I am also a wife, Bernese mountain dog mom, registered nurse (agency/locum nurse), and family nurse practitioner student.
What I love about people is that each one of us has a different story to tell and from our stories we can encourage others and process our own experiences.
Up until a year and a half ago I was living in what felt like a perfect dream. I had just married an incredible man, we spent a month in Greece on our honeymoon, and he was almost finished his family medicine residency. We were finally going to be free to explore the world as two medical professionals working and traveling.
I was in a blissful place of all things unfolding exactly how I envisioned. Of course, this perfect-sounding story had to end somewhere right? Well it did. Over the span of four days. This blissful ending begins with me lying on the floor in the kitchen after hysterically crying while busying myself with doing dishes.
I was alone in what felt like the center of ruins from a bunch of bombs that had just gone off. The music was blasting in the living room and the floor was frozen, but I was deaf to the music and numb to my body.
My week had started with the news my grandma, who I thought was completely healthy, was about to die. I flew to see her and my family. Two days later I was home and back to work, only to experience my first pediatric death in the emergency room.
That same day after my shift I had an appointment with the ophthalmologist about my strange vision change, only to find out I may have a brain tumor or multiple sclerosis. I didn’t think I could handle all this, how were all these horrible things happening all at once? I remember lying there and thinking my life was over.
It was going to be over because of my own death or the death of a life I had envisioned. Amidst losing a child at work, my grandma, and the uncertainty of my own life, I began to mask my fears and sadness, pretending nothing was wrong.
I was holding myself together by a string, but I wanted so badly for people to see me as a well-composed strong woman who could manage it all, so I didn’t take days off, I didn’t cancel my conference presentation the next month.
I certainly did not tell my family or friends that I was sinking into a dreadful pit of morbid thoughts about my future or lack thereof. After my CT scan, I learnt I did not have a brain tumor, but the relief about this finding wasn’t there because now I feared living a life with a debilitating illness.
With no official diagnosis of multiple sclerosis made, I spent the year seeing specialists, having multiple MRIs and walking around in zombie mode continuing to pretend everything was fine.
What if I had multiple sclerosis? I wouldn’t be able to wear my favorite heels, my husband would have to push me in a wheelchair and bath me, my mom wouldn’t get to see me raise children.
I would never finish nurse practitioner school, and people wouldn’t think I was competent as a nurse anymore.
These thoughts circled my head all day every day. I was able to grieve the loss of my grandma and no longer feared a child coming into the emergency room, but I wasn’t able to cope with the loss of what I felt was my life’s dreams and goals. I spent a full year hiding this from the world. I was ashamed, terrified, and in denial.
I wanted to hide this diagnosis from everyone in fear they would look at me differently, pity me and my husband, and deny me of my dream career as a nurse practitioner, because I now had a debilitating disease.
The dark thoughts were very real and turned me into a person I had never been. I was moody, irrational, anxious, and stressed out! I was living with no idea what would happen, I had no control, and it seemed God had forsaken me.
Fast forward now to the moment I felt instant relief from this foreboding doom of what my life might become (later I would find out this relief was only possible by setting myself free of the most vulnerable component in my life; my deep dark secret fear of what others would think of me if they knew I had a debilitating disorder).
When I officially received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, I was encouraged to post a video sharing this diagnosis and the last year of my life. I thought I can’t possibly do that, then everyone would know my deepest darkest secret, but I felt this compelling feeling in my gut that I had to share, so I did.
Once I had posted, instead of feeling like curling up in a ball and hiding from the world, I felt set free.
I felt I no longer had to hide from myself, I could live again and become the strong woman I had always admired. It gave me acceptance to rid me of the label I put on myself. I was not multiple sclerosis Danika, I was Danika who has a chronic disorder and lives a full and wonderful life.
Things really turned around for me in this moment. I learnt that life doesn’t have to be perfect, food is medicine, meditation is stress-reducing, and slowing down is acceptable. Healing is the journey of a lifetime and I am learning every day a little bit more about what it means to live a healthy well-balanced life.
I am not hiding anymore and I am encouraging others to share their story. We all have knowledge to share and we are not meant to hide in our own skin. For now, I am loving being back in school working toward my dream career, I enjoy making different meals from a wholefood plant-based diet, and I am excited about my first garden.
My husband and I have bought a home on a remote island off the coast of British Columbia and we are heading to the Yukon to work and explore for the last bit of summer. I am also learning that life will throw curve balls at you, but it’s your reaction to them that will change the outcome. Thank you for reading my story, I hope it has encouraged you to share your story!
Photo credit: Tara Love Photography