When worlds collide

When my multiple autoimmune diseases caused me to have to stop working and file for Social Security Disability (SSDI), I was devastated. I’d always loved making a difference on a professional level. I always took to the goal of my role within a company or organization as my own personal goal and relished in the successes. However, when my autoimmune diseases took over, I worked for years while using all of my vacation days for sick days; and then the number of lab visits, procedures, and never ending appointments with specialists ultimately made my last full-time employer frustrated, with good reason. It was then that I realized the time had come to concentrate on my own health or lack thereof, and to get done working. It was a huge loss for me as I no longer had my professional identity and instead gained the identity of a disabled person. Let me tell you, that was a tough pill to swallow.

Fortunately, about a year after my most recent autoimmune diagnosis, LEMS, an opportunity came along with WW Maine (formally known as Weight Watchers of Maine). I was close to reaching my goal of losing 60 lbs when I was offered a position that allowed me to regain a bit of my professional self by working at WW for one afternoon a week. My professional life had started as a public health educator in the early 2000’s, so the opportunity to now help guide other WW members to attaining their weight loss goals, on a schedule that my body could handle, was truly an amazing gift.

Recently, WW of Maine held our annual meeting in Portland, Maine. The keynote speaker was Diane Atwood of the blog, Catching Health. She was humorous, she was real, and what was also exciting to me was that she is a fellow blogger published on The Bangor Daily News. However, other than tweeting her to say hello, my blogger hat stayed off. I didn’t take any pics, I simply took in her inspiring presentation, among all of the other WW Guides and Coaches.

During a break, a very surprising thing happened. As I was catching up with fellow Wellness Coach training class members, I noticed that Diane Atwood was at the same table they were. She was speaking with our WW Maine General Manager, Jackie Conn. I took a moment to introduce myself to Diane and to thank her for coming to speak at our meeting. I also told her that I, too, was a blogger and upon telling Diane the name of my blog, “The Battle Within,” my WW Maine “big boss”, Jackie, exclaimed “That’s you?? I didn’t realize that it was you! I love your blog!” I actually walked away from that table wondering if she was really talking to me? My “big boss” really read and liked my blog? How could that be?

I was absolutely stunned that my blog and story actually impacted the General Manager of the company that I regained my professional self worth with. Jackie had no idea that I worked for WW Maine until I introduced myself to Diane! When I went back  to clarify how she knew my blog, it turns out that Jackie blogged with the BDN as well, See You Lighter. Because I work in the Bangor WW Studio, I don’t often get to the Portland Studio where WW Maine, and Jackie Conn, are based out of. What was even more amazing was to not only have the blogger connection; but that she was a fan of my writing!

In a world where we are taught to keep our personal lives out of the workplace, I have been cautious about who I share my autoimmune battle with at WW. I never imagined that the person at the helm of the company I work for would literally be as excited to meet me as I was to meet her, and this was due to my sharing my story with the world through “The Battle Within.

Chronic illness can be lonely. Having an extremely rare chronic illness such as LEMS can be even lonelier. However, due to my utilizing my creative outlet with my writing, I have not only connected with other LEMS patients throughout the world; but I have also made some amazing LEMS friends whom I consider family. And most surprisingly, my professional world and personal autoimmune battle have collided in a way that I never would have imagined.

Thank you to everyone who continues to follow my journey.
Thank you for the encouragement to keep writing and most of all, thank you for remembering “The Battle Within” when you hear the name of it in your daily lives. As my battle continues, it’s moments like yesterday that inspire me to continue to write. Stay tuned for an upcoming post from Diane Atwood on “Catching Health” as she wants to write about my story. Imagine!

Dawn DeBois

About Dawn DeBois

Florida born and Maine grown, my life has been atypical. My childhood was full of loss and severe physical pain. Both emotional and physical stress during childhood has been found to contribute to autoimmune disease. My first autoimmune diagnosis was at the age of 28, which has led to juggling multiple autoimmune diseases (Hashimoto’s, Fibromyalgia, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Psoriatic Arthritis and most recently LEMS- Lambert Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome). I am officially now classified as having “Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome.” You know what they say, go big or go home!