Emma Widmar is a 17-year-old student who was diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease and POTS in 2016. From symptoms such as swelling due to an allergic reaction to her own hormones to being unable to digest food by mouth, this girl has seen it all! Luckily she was able to have a feeding tube placed and she is moving in the positive direction. However, things haven’t always been easy for Emma.
After waking up for weeks with a swollen face, Emma and her family knew something was wrong. Many of the doctors she visited told her it was “psychosomatic” or they could not reach a diagnosis as to what was wrong. Eventually, she checked into the Mayo clinic and after testing, she was diagnosed with Mast Cell Disease. Mast Cell Disease is when your body has too many mast cells and those cells are leaking too much fluid, therefore causing allergic reactions. In Emma’s case, it has negatively progressed so much that she is no longer able to ingest food by mouth. From September to December 2016, she had lost 50 pounds and was in intensive care almost every day for malnutrition and dehydration! However, in December of 2016, Emma was able to check into Mayo and have a feeding tube placed. Since then, she has made a lot of progress and is doing well!
Even through the worst of times, Emma has been able to maintain her positive attitude towards life. Here are a few tips she has for maintaining resilience when battling a chronic illness:
1) Celebrate the little victories
It’s the little things in life that add up and can make a difference. For example, whenever Emma gets through a feeding with her feeding tube, she acts as though she’s done something extraordinary (like ending world hunger)! Appreciating and celebrating the little things in life (especially when living with a chronic illness) is an excellent mechanism to get yourself in a positive attitude!
2) Don’t ignore your illness
Although sometimes people want to act as though nothing is wrong, it’s important to embrace your illness. By speaking up and sharing your story, you are able to create a community with others going through the same situation.
3) Look for others to inspire you
Through joining a Facebook group with other patients who have POTS (another one of Emma's major illnesses), Emma was able to connect with someone all the way in Austria. They developed such a strong bond and actually met in person just a few months ago! By establishing this bond with someone else who understands your situation exactly, you are able to relate, build off of, and push each other to become bigger and better every day.
4) Don’t let your illness limit or define you
You are the same person you were before you were diagnosed. If there is something out there that you want, go get it! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Many of Emma’s teachers told her to drop out of school, but she resisted and has been at school almost every day! Her resilience against letting others and her illness influence her actions proves that anything is possible as long as you set your mind to it.