Hope Warriors

(Be The Cactus) Kenz

Originally Published September 6, 2017

The lovely woman I’m about to introduce to you all this week is perhaps one of the most resilient human beings I have come to know. Her posts are honest, raw and give a clear picture of what life with autoimmune disease(s) is like. Even though she has been through plenty of trials and tribulations, Kenzie has faith and remains beautiful and looks for the good through it all. Her motto, #bethecactus, is so fitting to describe her. Make sure to check her and her sweet dog Ophie out on her website here and Instagram @accordingtokenz  
(Update: her new handle is @bethecactuskenz 
Thank you so much for sharing your story Kenz!
 You are one of the lucky gals that has the gift of the diagnosis that just keeps on coming. Will you please share your current diagnoses? 
My primary diagnoses are rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and lyme disease. We’re still ‘sorting out’ a lot of the specifics, but my Addison’s disease is well-controlled for the first time since I was diagnosed in June, and my RA is responding very well to my current treatment!
So, you’ve been through a lot of first times receiving the news that your life is going to change, yet again. Can you share what it feels like when you receive a new diagnosis?
It’s frustrating, obviously, and it’s hurtful…also obviously! The very first time I was told I had rheumatoid arthritis, I experienced a lot of relief because I finally had something tangible to account for my symptoms. I could’ve never imagined at that time that I’d go through the “newly diagnosed” stage with 3 other diseases, too! 
What medications/treatments/surgeries/lifestyle changes have you gone through to manage your disease symptoms?
I’ve had two joint surgeries, a subtotal colectomy, two additional abdominal surgeries, sinus surgery, port-a-cath placement surgery, and good ole’ wisdom teeth removal surgery!
I’m currently on 10 oral medications, 2 IV infused medications (Remicade and iron sucrose) and a once weekly injectable therapy called Methotrexate.
Ophie is absolutely adorable, and I love that she is in your life. How does she help you cope with everyday chronic life?
Ophie holds me accountable on days when I’d rather not get out of bed due to feeling overwhelmed, depressed, etc. She also provides special comfort on the days when I cannot get out of bed due to pain, swelling, and other debilitating symptoms. She’s taught me a lot about patience and simply enjoying each day for what it brings — good or bad. She’s motivated me to keep active and her personality is such a reminder to not take anything too seriously!
What other coping mechanisms do you use most often?
I do a lot of journaling/writing in solitude. Walking with Ophie, practicing yoga, employing mindfulness strategies, coloring, spending time outdoors, snuggling up with a heated blanket, and reading often distract me from distressing days/outcomes!
Who inspires you?
People who are out there making things happen in spite of the hand of cards they’ve been dealt. Britt Johnson, aka “HurtBlogger” is one of my closest friends who is living proof that we can find joy in the most difficult seasons. I’m also deeply inspired by literature, and psychology experts in particular. Kay Redfield Jamison, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Henri Nouwen, and Laura Ingalls Wilder are just a few of my favorite individuals. 
Sometimes it is hard to see the light in the darkness, but what is the best thing you’ve find about having chronic illnesses?
The numerous connections and friendships I’ve formed with other individuals who fight a chronic illness day in + day out just like I do. Becoming active on my blog and on Instagram has allowed me to connect with more people who “get it” than I could have ever imagined or thought possible! It’s a really, really special community to tap into.
What keeps you hopeful?
Reflecting on the truth(s) so evident in my life. I’ve been taken down so many times by both chronic and mental illness, and I’ve made it through each and every one of those difficult seasons. Somehow. Some way. My strong faith in something so much more perfect and Heavenly following this life gives me the courage I need to face each day with a certain stubborn minded resilience that hasn’t failed me yet. 🙂
What have you accomplished that you are most proud of?
Traveling has always been an important part of my life and spirit. There was a time when I thought I had to give that up. I’m always proud to reflect on the adventures I’ve taken even though the odds are often stacked against me. In spite of chronic illness and many, many complications, I’ve traveled to South Africa, Swaziland, Jamaica, Germany, England, France, Austria, Alaska, California, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C. over the past several years. The list of places I want to go grows longer and longer as the list of places I’ve been grows, too!
Do you have a saying or quote or song that you turn to when you need to flip your mood around?
I’m notorious for ending a good vent session/medical field misadventure story with… “…but, if you don’t laugh, you’re gonna cry!” Disclaimer: I often do both! 😉 
I’ve also adopted the motto + hashtag #BeTheCactus after a good friend likened me to the cacti family’s resilient, hardy nature. They withstand even the most treacherous conditions while remaining wondrous and beautiful.
Tell me about some of your favorite things. (food, beverage, location, activity, people, hobby, animal, etc you name it!)
I love memoirs. My favorite would have to be Kay Redfield Jamison’s “An Unquiet Mind.” Kate Middleton is a timeless, classic style icon of mine that I keep up with relatively closely. My latest TV obsession is the Game of Thrones series. 
Okay, Rapid Fire time!
Chocolate or Vanilla? Vanilla
Coffee or tea? Tea
Injection or IV? IV
Hot or cold? Cold
Sweet or sour? Sour
Charmin or Cottonelle? Cottonelle! Always Cottonelle!
Dog or cat? Dog!
Running or walking? A few years ago I would have said running…but I’m a walking girl now!
Road trip vacation or resort vacation? Road trip!
Yoga or Cardio? Yoga
Android or iPhone? iPhone
Sunshine or rainy day? Sunshine
Dinner out at a restaurant or a nice home cooked meal? Nothing like a home cooked meal!
Doing the dishes or doing laundry? Laundry
Comedy or horror? Comedy
Fiction or nonfiction? Nonfiction
Cake or pie? Pie
An audiobook or a netflix marathon? A good, true-crime podcast! Does that count? 🙂