Fallon's Story Chapter 2 "The Dating Game"


Introduction:

Today's dating scene can be weird and tough enough for a "normal, healthy person", but what is it like for a 20-something living with "invisible illnesses" like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Sjogrens syndrome and gastroparesis? We posted Fallon's story, Chapter 1, previously where, beginning at 11-years-old, her life changed drastically. Many parts of her life changed, including "The Dating Game".

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"Everyone has a story, everyone has a past and, yes, everyone hides secrets. Typically, people omit all negatives about themselves when they meet a new potential suitor, but how much is too much to leave out? When I’m on a new date, I usually ask myself why are they single? What could be wrong with them? For me, I used to think it was blatantly obvious why I was single.

As I said earlier, everyone has their own story, but when it involves having a disability, it can be heartbreaking and exhausting to endure yet another date’s reaction after divulging the details of the illness that constricts me. The reactions were always across the board and were usually followed with dozens of questions and blatantly terrified looks. But I was determined to show men not judge a book by its cover.

Fallon --- December 2014 with her feeding tube

Fallon --- December 2014 with her feeding tube

Once I finally accepted that baggy shirts didn’t hide my “imperfections,” parking further than I should to hide my disabled license plate was just irrational and clenching my legs constantly to stand properly was too much work, I felt better just being me — undeniably imperfect me. Why be fake and inauthentic when other warriors like me have been the realest, strongest people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and read about.
  
Our physical “discrepancies” — like my own feeding tube, 6-inch mid-line scar, gastric pacemaker and slight ambulatory awkwardness — don’t make us less attractive or of lesser value than any other able-bodied person. Yet somehow I allowed it to dictate my attitude with each new person who entered my life last year. I expected them to leave because I was too much to handle or a burden. I was my own worst enemy meeting others and dating because I wanted to stay “closeted.” So my advice to other women with chronic illnesses who may be pushing themselves to be normal and ordinary: Don’t.

Trust me, I’ve tried and failed miserably. It ends up putting your illness into a fast-forward mode. Even after a handful of people walked out on dates because they could see my tube through my shirt, I still have no regrets and realize that having this rare illness is a great weed-out process. Superficial and material assets will not overpower a chronic illness, so at least we know someone is with us for our actual selves. 

We all know the phrase, “In sickness and in health.” Well, ladies and gentleman, at least we already have the sickness part covered. And if someone is with us now, he or she knows what’s on the table and loves us for who we are. That, to me, gives people with chronic illnesses a defying and unusual advantage. If we are honest and true to our potential partners about our potential life challenges, then I believe that relationship will be unforgivably raw, genuine and deep.
 

Fallon's Story Update "Where Is She Now"

"I got my gastric pacemaker upped again to the highest now, but I am hopeful this one does its job. I got an ultrasound for pain in my left side, and the doctor's didn't find anything!” “Three weeks ago was a great way to start the holidays. I just had back to back procedures and nothing newly negative showed! Being "stable" is awesome! I am also feeling lucky I made it to celebrate my 22nd birthday. Cheers to new adventures in 2016...I am so thankful for a new year!

    I am thrilled to say that I will be graduating with a biology degree in May, 2016. I have been doing research on Parkinson's Disease since August, 2015, which has been a great motivator to finish school and pursue more. Since my first chapter in 7 Billion Ones, I’ve published articles across the internet advocating for awareness of invisible chronic illness, and I starting a book which vaguely relates to life thus far. With graduation around the corner, job hunting had been top on the priority list. To say things are looking up is an understatement. I am at this incredible stage in life where I am happy, content and have accepted myself who for God made me to be and why. Even though I am realistic about life challenges to come, there is nothing that can diminish my genuine love for life and hope for a better tomorrow. Meeting Randy and Shannon with 7BillionOnes was a blessing, not only did I get to participate in this game-changing organization, but also meet two individuals that share their love with me.”

CLICK HERE TO READ FALLON'S STORY "ONE LIFE TO LIVE"

 

Fallon's Story - Chapter 1 "One Life To Live"

Everyone seems to have a love-hate relationship with his or her body. Whether it is an issue of poor body image or born in the wrong body, we all can relate to the feeling. For me, this psychologically would be the case later in life, but in my youth it was more of a physically broken, failed body I felt I had.

Fallon --- November 2, 2015 at Kansas City's Saint Luke's Hospital

Fallon --- November 2, 2015 at Kansas City's Saint Luke's Hospital

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Fallon --- November 2, 2015 at Saint Luke's Hospital

This broken body was the result of a string of genetic mutations that affected my collagen resulting in a diagnosis of a rare, connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, EDS. At 11 years old, life changed for me. I wasn’t just the stretchy girl who had “cool, wiggly” joints, but someone who had an unknown future. As physicians said, it was a “guarded” diagnosis. Everything could be fine with few limitations or within an instant it could go down the tubes and that’s it. Anxiety was coupled with fear with each unusual pain that could potentially be a ruptured artery, an aortic dissection, a perforated bowel or just a joint that was dislocated for too long. It’s the idea, could this by my last good day? Is this the condition worsening? The prognosis was different for each type and each person, but overall the treatment was simply palliative and focused around pain management.

Fallon --- March 2015 after surgery

Fallon --- March 2015 after surgery

Fallon - After surgery December 2014

Fallon - After surgery December 2014

I was stable within the condition until I reached college. Who knew stress and exertion from walking to class would start the nightmares? Many of disorders are associated with EDS, it is known throughout EDSer’s that eventually you’ll experience a complication, it's not forbidden knowledge. The first complication came in the form of autoimmune disorders for me, which was no big deal and easily handled. I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome after losing my vision due to dozens of micro-corneal abrasions that were easily solvable after four procedures to “plug” my tear ducts and added medications. I was “fixed”.

Yet, slowly, the inability to eat occurred. I went from 120 pounds, 5 foot 9 inches to less than a 100 pounds over a summer semester. I was throwing up 10-15 times a day, no matter if it was water or a pizza. I knew the diagnosis was coming when it did. My colon already was triple its width and “paralyzed” because of the loose, fragile tissue causing an ineffective contraction, also known as no peristalsis… At 0% stomach function, I was in complete paralysis internally and diagnosed with severe gastroparesis. From that news, multi-organ failure was soon upon me and surgeries were being scheduled left and right. A feeding tube, stomach reconstruction, gallbladder removal, gastric pacemaker (2X) and several other smaller alterations to my internals from taking off dying portions of organs to removing dozens of adhesions, I survived and am here now!

Fallon --- November 2015

Fallon --- November 2015

At 21-years-old, it’s been a crazy ride. I thank God everyday that I can live another day with my friends and family that are full of love and support. They have been my anchor as well as my own determination to try and maintain some sense of "normal" - I try not to complain and am always pushing myself to rise above - to do more.  Even if I feel crummy, I think it's good to smile and try and look and be your best, because I want to be an inspiration for other people. I don't want to worry my family  either.  I have dozens of people contact me weekly on Instagram , thanking me for talking about my story. I was private for a long time, but started sharing because I see how it helps others. I saw patients in the hospital when I was going medical school, and so many of them, after hearing my story, realized if I could persevere, they could as well.

After visiting Guatemala several years in a row and seeing all of the oppression, poverty, and struggle there, I told myself, I will never complain: I have food and a home, and all I could ever need.  There are all of these people in the world, dying, begging on the side of the road, like the man I met who fell off a tree trying to pick pine cones to support his family. Things like that have really helped me keep life into perspective. I have grown an immense amount since the diagnosis and even feel fortunate that I could have had this pain because it has shaped me into who I am today. Last December I was given only two weeks to live. However, I have learned it is always important to realize this is our one life to live and it’s important to make the most of it. I will not let my illnesses define me!