Jan 02, 2018

Rising Above Challenges

By Lori Draz and Kayla Bevacqua

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Kayla Bevacqua, a 17-year-old senior at Monmouth Regional High School. As we kick off a new year, we confront the obstacles that stand in our way of keeping our resolutions. Most require just a little willpower or determination to keep, but sometimes, life throws you a curve ball that can make conquering an obstacle a real challenge. Kayla got thrown a curve ball when she was diagnosed with Lyme disease. Through her journey to recovery, she learned a lot about perseverance, hopefulness, and letting your real self guide you to wellness. Finding the joy in where you are going is much more powerful than feeling blue about where you are now. Here is Kayla’s story.

I knew that there was something wrong with me. It grew difficult for me to do anything; even the things I love. I had to sit out of dance class with a throbbing hip and I spent most of my time in bed. For about a year, I was travelling from doctor to doctor with all sorts of symptoms, and they all had the same response: “There’s nothing wrong with you.” Everyone just assumed, given the serious actress I am, that I was faking it all. But I knew that there was something more that wasn’t being said.

On an August Wednesday, I ventured into the kitchen for lunch. My mom was on the phone. When I heard my name mentioned, I instantly began listening in. My stomach churned as I registered that a doctor was on the phone. My mom didn’t seem nervous or upset, so I thought it was another “nothing is wrong with her” call and made myself a sandwich. When she got off the phone, she explained I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. I still wasn’t concerned, as I still didn’t know what that meant. She explained everything to me. And then the doctor visits started.

The rest of my summer went to waste, as it grew increasingly more difficult for me to function. The headaches became so painful, I sat in dark rooms for hours at a time. Freshman year started. For most kids, freshman year is full of firsts, and for me, it felt like a whole bunch of lasts. I knew that the odds of me dying of Lyme disease were slim, but I couldn’t help but feel that way. I just couldn’t understand why this would happen. Everything was going so well. I was taking vocal lessons, traveling with my dance team, and getting lead parts in the plays at my middle school. My perfect track to my perfect career was completely derailed.

One day, I noticed auditions for the spring musical, “Shrek,” were coming up. I prepared the song “Moments in the Woods” for my audition and although I hadn’t sung or danced in what felt like eons, I killed that audition. It was the first time in six months that I felt healthy. I felt like I was me again. It was as if the stage lights had burned into my skin and cured me. I got the part of the Fairy Godmother. I was getting back on track; I went to school again. In a way, afterschool rehearsals helped lift my body out of bed every morning. I started to finally make friends, I got my body back by dancing every day, I was laughing. I was me. The stage made me feel like I was living again.

After about a year and a half of battling Lyme, taking thousands of different medications, seeing millions of specialists, neurologists, and psychologists, spending countless nights in the emergency room, and getting blood taken once every month, my symptoms began to diminish. Before long, there was no trace of Lyme, except for the trace that will stay in my blood – and my mind – forever. It was undoubtedly the hardest year of my life. It sucked to be sick, but it sucked even more to not be able to do what I loved. And it was that thing that I loved so much that saved me. My passion for performing was so strong, not even chronic Lyme disease could stop me. Lyme disease has been the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome thus far in my life, but my battle with Lyme gave me strength and taught me that I can, and will, overcome anything to reach my goals.

I learned the most important lesson in life: that absolutely nothing can change who you are and what you love. Not even the worst of circumstances can stop you from dreaming big and working hard. It is important to never stray from who you are and what you believe in, no matter how difficult it may be. Everyone faces some kind of challenge in their life, but we cannot let that challenge become who we are. You must always rise above, and not sink below. If you’re going through a rough time, find your passion. For me, it was theater, but it can be anything. Find the thing you love the most and let that heal you.