I was born with congenital heart disease (CHD) and diagnosed with Marfan syndrome (MFS), a genetic systemic connective tissue disorder when I was two and a half years old. I have lived through fifteen surgeries to date, including two open heart surgeries at the age of 10 and 12 and continue navigating through a life with chronic illness.
My journey growing up with Marfan syndrome has very much shaped who I am as well as guided my academics and career.
Through the social sciences I found that I could analyze and express my biographical experiences of illness using scholarly and narrative techniques. In some senses this was an extension of the writing, an emotional outlet, I began as a child and teenager. Studying sociology and chronic illness became like holding up a magic mirror that allowed me to see myself and our social world in a new light. It made me question things we take for granted about being sick and being well and the institutions where we seek refuge.
I’ve written more about my experience growing up with Marfan syndrome on The Mighty.
In 2012, I graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Masters of Sociology: Families, Health and Well-being. Since that time I’ve worked in health services research and academic practice studying how policies, programs and practices create the conditions in which people give and receive care. I also work closely with and mentor clinical staff on how to evaluate their practice. Through this work I’ve found myself embedded in a hospital network where I am also a patient, giving me unique (and sometimes difficult) insights into the complexity of navigating our health care system. I’ve also engaged in numerous patient advising and/or advocacy roles in non-profit, government and research.
I decided to return to graduate school in 2016 for my Masters in Social Work at the University of Toronto. This degree felt like it was a long time coming and I once again found my mind and heart expanding in different, though complementary ways to my previous degree.
My earnest desire to work more closely with individuals, families and communities touched by illness has led me here.
Through my social work training I worked clinically in hospital and community settings. As a social worker, I bear witness to the incredible strengths and resiliency of the human spirit from a different position. I feel privileged to hold space for those wading through moments of uncertainty, shame, sadness, anxiety, fear, anger, self doubt but also laughter, relief, expression, vulnerability, triumph and re-connection.
I wrote more about why I chose social work in one of my more recent blog posts.
I turned to Reiki energy healing during a health crisis in 2016. Since that time I completed my level I and II Reiki training and am currently working towards my Master Teacher certification with the Canadian Reiki Association. I’ve found Reiki to a be a beautiful complement in my own healing journey and an important spiritual practice in my life.
I continue to work towards unraveling how to live well with chronic illness, exploring what it means to heal and how we might learn to find peace – body, mind and spirit – wherever we are on this path.