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  • Kate Walker

Connection


The need to be connected, or the need to love and be loved, are among the most basic needs that exists for people. As children, we grow with a sense of belonging to family, friends, teammates, teachers, coaches and so on. Having a “tribe” gives meaning to our lives and tends to help make hardships easier to live through.

In many lives, that sense of belonging can be jeopardized or flat out removed by a hundred different things, commonly; divorce, loss of loved ones, relocating to new cities, not making the team and almost any diagnosis of a long-term health problem, to name a few.

The diagnosis of a disease is devastating, scary and leaves most people feeling alone, lost and defeated. When I was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia I wasn’t too worried at first. I had never heard those words and the first time I did hear them it was through a nonchalant conversation with a neurologist over the phone who seemed to deliver the news as if it were no big deal. She had scheduled an appointment for me with a Geneticist and Genetic Counselor who would explain things the following week. She didn’t sound too worried about things so I wasn’t too worried about things.

Of course, a week later, after sitting down with the genetic professionals, a fuller picture of the future was painted. Further, about 3 minutes on Google that night added to that painting in vivid details that were completely foreign and overwhelming. Thankfully, with the way my brain is wired, I would only spend about two weeks wrapping my head around this diagnosis and the new prognosis of my life before choosing to face this villain head on.

The people I have met, the friends I have made and the Tribe that I have found over the last eleven years has been the most rewarding, significant and influential elements of my life. My sense of connection is deeply rooted evenly amongst people I hang out with on the weekends and people I’ve only met virtually.

There are many things in my life that are less than ideal, especially the life-shortening condition of Friedreich’s Ataxia. However, I realize that if it weren’t for this thorn, life would be completely different and I wouldn’t have the tribe I have today.

With that said, I hate Friedreich's Ataxia. I hate disease in general. I hate the negative effects it has on my life and the lives of people I care about. I want Friedreich's Ataxia to be cured. However, I'm grateful that it is a part of my journey and I'm grateful for the sense of connection it allows me to hold. I believe connection is more powerful than the disease itself and I work hard to keep it that way.



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