The Joy of the Lord is My Strength
When I received the "Share My Story" request from Kay Martinek. I was in absolute amazement as I read about her friend Tanya Milhomme-Simmons. Tanya has what is called Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. Yes, you heard me right. This isn't something you hear of all the time, is it? That's exactly why I knew Purpose Driven Women Magazine had to contact Kay and Tanya to hear more. Check out their amazing story.
"If I had a dime for every time I heard "you don't look sick" over the years, I probably wouldn't have to work anymore. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body's defense system attacks itself. Most of the times the abbreviation MCTD is used to refer to this disease. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't just have one disease on the list of autoimmune diseases. I have several. MCTD is referred to as an overlap disease because the signs and symptoms are a combination of disorders, Lupus, Scleroderma and Polymyositis. People with MCTD may have a combination of various autoimmune diseases. "
by: Kimi Johnson
It all started in 1994; it was Christmas Eve. Tanya tried getting out of bed when she realized something drastic had happened. "I tried to get out of bed and couldn't move. I was stiff as a board, and every bone in my body hurt. I was enjoying the holidays when out of nowhere joint pains, fatigue, malaise, cold bluish discoloration of my toes and fingers rendered me helpless; and riddled with excruciating pain. My body was under attack, and I was not equipped at that time to deal with the war that was raging inside of me. I was in Law School at the time and could not afford to be sick." Unanswered questions lingered for four years as Tanya went from doctor to doctor seeking medical insight about what had taken place. No one had a clue of what was going. "I had a positive ANA, but no one could tell me what was wrong until 1998." Tonya was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1998.
From 1998 to 2012 Tanya went on with her life determined to fight through the pain. "There were times I wanted the ground to open and swallow me up. The pain was unlike any pain I had felt. On a scale of 1-10, my pain level was 15. Medications in the form of narcotics, steroids, chemotherapy, and biologics were my only options so that I could have a quality of life. It became apparent to me, that the doctors and I had a difference of opinion on the definition of quality of life. The list of medications that I have had to ingest will blow your mind. I take over 20 different medications. Some daily, some weekly, and some were every six months. I would be remised if I didn't mention the weekly chemo, Methotrexate, which is partially responsible for the loss of all my hair. That's what 15 years of ingesting this medication can do. I've been told I have a nice shaped head. Thank God!" Tanya shares.
When Tanya lost all of her hair her longtime friend and hairstylist Kay was devastated. "Tanya always had very full and thick hair," says Kay. "So when she started losing all of her hair I was devastated." One night the Lord put it in Kay spirit to do a 5K walk. With Kay being a runner and a hairstylist the Lord couldn't have given her a better idea. Embracing the vision, Kay pitched the idea to a few friends and everyone was on board. "The Lord has ordained this event," Kay declares. "The support is amazing." Amazing it is! Kay has successfully organized the very first 5K HAIR PEACE 5K RUN/WALK event.
Women of H.O.P.E. (Health Occupations Promoting Education) in collaboration with Paradise Spa Salon, where Kay is currently a hairstylist, will be hosting HAIR PEACE 5K RUN/WALK at the Miramar Regional Park on Saturday, October 22, 2016. The main goal of this run/walk is to help bring awareness and support to those who live with autoimmune diseases that result in devastating hair loss.
This life changing event aims to bring people together to celebrate the lives of those currently battling an auto-immune disease, remember loved ones lost, and helping to raise funds for hair prostheses (wigs) for women and men with hair loss due to an autoimmune disease(s). Walkers, runners, joggers, and rollers (baby strollers and wheelchairs) of all ages are all invited to come out and participate. Even if you can't join in the race, come support a great cause and have a good time doing so!
Since 2012 Tanya has stopped fighting the path God had placed her on, saying yes to her call as an intercessory prayer warrior. "God has a sense of humor Tanya says laughing. "Here I am in need of prayer and yet He has me praying for others." She found herself praying for everyone. "God started waking me up at 3 am to pray. Sometimes it was for people I knew and sometimes it was for people I did not know. If I knew them I would have to call them and encourage them," Tanya says. Not only did Tanya accepted her calling, she was able to finish law school in two and a half years instead of the four years that is generally required, and has been sharing her story to help encourage women that have an autoimmune disease. "I can probably say how I feel when I have a flare, the feeling of guilt I have knowing I can't actively participate in regular familial activities. They didn't sign up for this. I could share when I am in bed crying because the pain is so intense I pray for God to take me at that very moment. I could tell you about how I spend time dreaming about how I was going to be a powerful attorney, a force to be reckoned with. I'm grateful to God that I was able to obtain my Law degree, work for some firms, and now I have my own firm. Honestly, telling you these things will not assist anyone who has an autoimmune disease/disorder."
When asked what advice Tanya would give others who are battling an illness she replies, "If I had to impart some advice to those who are battling an illness; learn to speak healing, joy, and happiness into your life. On those challenging days when you are asked how you are feeling; respond with a positive attitude. This response will help you conquer your obstacles and help you have a great day. You will have "good days" and "great days." When life gives you lemons, take out the seeds, plant them, so you have your own lemons. That way not only can you make lemonade; you can make a pie, you can sell some lemons, and get paid. My point is don't let your illness stop you from fulfilling your dreams. You just have to trust God, be creative, and believe in yourself. You are not the disease that ravages your body, and creates challenges out of menial, daily tasks. You are a strong individual who on a daily basis must mentally, physically, and spiritually choose joy, peace, happiness, and love; in order to enjoy the quality of life that you were blessed with. MCTD is not me, it's just a reminder of how beautifully flawed I am; and allows me to accept the beautiful flaws in those around me."