When I was 21 yrs old, I enlisted in the U.S. Army where I excelled as a Soldier and leader. The Army was not without struggles though. Being a strong woman in society can be difficult and being in the Army is a whole different beast. I can’t speak on how the Army is currently as I was medically retired in September 2016, but the way it once was, is as a female you were either a “bitch” for being stern and leading by example or a “whore” for using flirtatious or sexual mannerisms towards many or even just some, there were rimes where you may have been called both. It didn’t have to be true; these are just allegations from other’s thoughts and emotions- jealousy, envy or what have you. Or for example, I was raped in my first year in the Army. My best friend couldn’t understand this since I had kissed the guy earlier in the night. Due to her not believing me, I didn’t report him. He told others that we had sex and somehow this was a joke for others making me a “whore”, one that I had to just push deep down as I worked with this man who was higher ranking than me and I did not want to ruin my career that had just begun.
As a leader in the Army, I was well respected, as everyone knew where I stood. I was a rule follower, and not only when others were looking. I always tried to do what was right by everyone. Soldiers loved and hated me. They knew I was “hard”, meaning I would hold them accountable, but they also knew I cared and would do everything to help them succeed.
After my first combat tour to Iraq, I had a migraine that sent me to the hospital. I honestly do not remember this, but I know because it is in my medical records for October 2006, which is when I came back from Iraq. This was just one of many unfortunate incidents for me.
In 2010, during my third combat deployment to Iraq, I was hit so hard with a migraine that I had to be carried to the medical clinic where they ended up giving me morphine to try and calm the pain. This migraine lasted over two weeks. All the while I had to go back to work after a few days. After this migraine, I started getting them once every three to four weeks for about three to five days, which I felt was manageable.
Upon returning from my deployment to Iraq (2010), I was training for a marathon and running on post, crossing a street after looking both ways and I was hit by a vehicle. I ended up on this person’s hood and windshield causing permanent damage to many of my joints. There are multiple ribs in my back that have permanent joint damage so they are not in place many times, my c2-c7 vertebrae are all bulging and or herniated, but they cannot be fused as I would not have range of motion left to turn my neck, and my sacrum (going to the tail bone) is twisted with permanent damage, IT band issues, piriformis issues and sciatica on my left side. The physicians in the military stated I should have gone to the ER, even though it was quicker to get a same day appointment, therefore they did not provide me with the necessary treatment. When I went to physical therapy, they were treating my joint issues, but after moving to a new assignment, they did not. I pushed all the pain to the back of my mind and continued in life. Because I continued and refused to give up on life, I was unable to sue the person who hit me.
In late July or early august of 2013. I had a migraine so bad that I thought I was very sick. I could not walk, I was throwing up everywhere and going to the clinic non-stop every day just for them to tell me nothing was wrong, as I didn’t have a virus or anything. I finally realized that this was a migraine that just was not going away. Prior to the migraine clusters, I was a high-speed Non-Commissioned Officer in the Army, an avid gym goer, obstacle course and marathon runner. The migraines put me down, I had to re-teach myself how to function in a basic sense just to stay in the Army. I had to normalize this pain and continue living my life as best I could with the chronic pain, now including migraines.
The migraines have been treated through many different medications including eastern and western medicine, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, homeopathic medicines, and not much has seemed to help. Some things help, such as Botox shots and certain medicines, but not always and never fully. These treatments do take away severity though, so I am pleased about that. Since the migraines, I have developed allodynia, where my head feels like it is on fire, also my hair feels like pins and needles stabbing me in my head. Some people don’t understand why I don’t just lay down: 1. It really hurts have my head touch anything therefore I have insomnia, 2. I want to live my life. I don’t want to be defined by my injuries or illness; I want to make the most out of living. Although I am hindered, such as I don’t go out as much with my friends as I used to, I don’t go dancing anymore and I try to keep to myself other than clients and close friends as people’s energies drain me- I refuse to allow the migraines or any other pain to take over my life completely!
Due to the migraines, I was medically retired from the Army in 2016. At this time, I married a man that was so great during our courtship, but the day we got married, a switch flipped, and he became oppressive. He no longer wanted me to go to the gym or do anything other than walk my dogs and clean and cook. I gave him the opportunity to go back to the man I knew, but that was all a façade. In 2017, Once we were divorced, I bought a new home of my own and furnished it. Life was finally coming together for me.
At this point it had been over 12 years since I had been raped in the Army, I thought I was over it. However, my friend informed me that the guy was being stationed in the area and that caused me major panic attacks. I met a man who made me feel safe and secure, almost a year later we married and moved to San Antonio. His parents moved in with us when we bought our home, which I thought I would be okay with. It turned out that I was quite uncomfortable in the home due to people not following cleanliness standards and treating me as if I were a maid and or servant there to please everyone. I did everything for my ex-husband and his family, this caused me to break down. His parents moved out and I visited them and brought groceries for them as they stated they could not afford them. I did everything I could to help his parents, doing their taxes annually, helping his mother with her medi-care and health concerns. I loved his kids and tried to teach them how to be successful, provided great Christmases and Thanksgiving dinners all funded by me. I am not complaining, as Acts of Service is my main love language. Although help would have been nice from my husband.
In Jan 2020 my sister developed stage 3 breast and lymph cancer. Due to this, she had genetic testing done and learned that she has a genetic mutation that predisposed her to cancer. Once I learned this, I was tested. When the results came in it showed that I also have the same genetic mutation, making me 90% prone to breast cancer and high risk for other reproductive organ cancers. I was then given a choice to remove my breast, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix or to keep them and gamble the high risk of cancer. I “chose” to have everything removed. Some people believe this is a drastic move and some people believe that it is brave. I believe that I didn’t really have a choice, it was the only real choice. Either I was going to develop cancer or have my organs removed and be at much less of a risk. I also learned that Once you have symptoms of and get diagnosed with uterine cancer or ovarian cancer, etc, you’re in stage 3 or 4 and basically dying. Again, I didn’t feel there was another option other than to have these organs removed. During this same time, I found out that one of my boys (dogs), Spartacus had bone cancer and he was dying.
My husband was not pleased that he didn’t have a choice in the matter, but he tried to be supportive. After my first surgery (hysterectomy)in Feb 2021, he did not show up for me the way I needed and specifically asked him to do. I needed him to walk my dogs and clean the house. He refused and said he didn’t have to. I began cleaning and causing myself to bleed as I wasn’t supposed to do much, but I couldn’t bear living in a filthy home. I have two mastiffs, they are the best companions, but of course make things a bit messy. Spartacus also required extra help being lifted into my truck during a snowstorm or being helped onto furniture, which I also had to do myself. Three weeks after the hysterectomy, I lost Spartacus to cancer. This was the most heartbreaking event I have lived through to this day.
Just before I had my second surgery on 19 April 2021 which was a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, we got a puppy, Crixus. Prior to this surgery, I spoke with my husband again to ensure he would walk my boys and clean the house. Once again he did not. With drains hanging from my sides, I did what I could. But I ended up developing a bacterial infection and going septic. I almost died a few times and had an emergency surgery to remove the temporary implants and clean out the breast cavities.
After the bacterial infection and stay in the hospital, I came home to my husband using me as an excuse to not go to work, but he still wasn’t helping me. Instead we began to grow farther apart. It wasn’t until late July or august that year that the Infectious Disease clinic told me that they thought I might be out of the woods and cleared of the infection. Once I was cleared, I began working out again, walking my boys and trying to regain some normality. Early December my husband told me that his parents were moving back into our home. Without even speaking to me about it. I was furious and this was the last straw for me. I let him know I was leaving.
He did not want to lose the house we had, and I didn’t want to take it from him. He had told me it was his dream home for his mom. He didn’t want to pull equity out to give me any of it or pay for any of the furniture, which I had paid for all of it. Most of it was mine prior to our marriage, minus a bed and dresser in one of the rooms. He knew that I didn’t have money to ship any of it, so he said he would not sign the divorce papers since I wanted money. I then let him know he could keep it all. Materials can be replaced, happiness and freedom cannot. Since I had my boys, I knew I would make the most out of everything and rebuild my life.
I left San Antonio, TX on 16 December 2021 and stayed in California with my sister for two weeks before heading to Washington. 1 Jan 2022, I completed a drive to Bonney Lake where my friends graciously allowed me to live with them until I found a place of my own. I began working for a Luxury club as a Personal Trainer and restarting my life. I was all the while looking for somewhere to live. The prices kept skyrocketing. I found a place in Sammamish which was the least expensive at the time for the size 1 bedroom. During this time I was able to build close friendships and meet some amazing people. I left the Luxury club I was working at to work for myself. This allowed me to make more money and allowed my clients to have less expenses for their health, more affordable fitness and access to the best equipment at less than half of the luxury clubs membership price.
I now work out of the House of Pumps Gym in Kirkland maintaining my own schedule with my amazing clients. I had 1 reconstruction surgery in September 2022 to fix my pectoral muscles, I healed flawlessly thanks to my amazing friends and clients who drove me to and from my appointments, brought me food, and came to clean my apartment for me. I will have another surgery in April, where they will use my latissimus dorsi muscles (back muscles) to build small breasts with.
Although I have had many misfortunes or complications in my life, some due to my own poor choices, and I still have many hard times to come trying to rebuild my life from scratch, I am excited for what the future holds for me. As I know that through the pain, I will survive, and I will make more out of what I have. I will work hard to make a better life for myself.