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Never Let Go of Your Dreams!

Twenty-six years ago, I baffled the minds of the doctors in a small, northwestern Pennsylvania town. They weren’t expecting to deliver a baby with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH). Born with a blue face and a very convex chest cavity, I was life-flighted to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh where a team of surgeons gave me a mere 15% chance of living. From birth to the age of 15, I endured 8 major surgeries, a few minor surgeries, 2 or 3 bouts of pneumonia, and PLENTY of other tests and procedures. After my last major surgery at 15, I was still having a lot of lower abdominal pain, which my doctors assumed was just a result of so many procedures and that I would simply have to learn to live with it. In the Spring of 2012, I was trying desperately to complete another year at college, but the pain in my lower abdomen had become so terrible that I couldn’t focus on my courses, and I ended up landing on the “academic probation” list. I was devastated. The Department of Education informed me that I was no longer in the program because of my slipping GPA… and I just wanted to curl up and die. My dreams of becoming a science teacher felt shattered. I felt like I could hardly do ANYTHING anymore, much less teach! During the summer, my doctor recommended that I have some scans done to see if the pain I was having was linked to my pelvic region rather than something digestive. Sure enough, it was suspected that I had endometriosis WITH interstitial cystitis.  I saw a specialist who went in laparoscopically to remove the “gunk” and determine the state of my bladder.  The doctor said I had one of the worst cases of IC that he’s seen in a while and that I’ve probably had it for years. I went through every treatment possible and every medicine… nothing really helped.  I made the decision to change some of my behaviors, such as what I ate and the activities I could tolerate. Those changes allowed me to finish my teaching degree.

I’ve been volunteering as an informal educator at an astronomy observatory for the last 5 years and have devoted all of my energy (which, with IC, is very limited!) into Earth and Space education. Through my volunteer work, I’ve had the opportunity to travel the country; visiting various observatories, working on research projects, attending conferences and workshops, etc. IC hasn’t kept me from living my dream! Sure, I’ve had to make quite a few life changes in order to minimize my pain, but I try never to let IC control my decision to live a life of adventure!

Miranda Heller