In the past four years, Lauren Breazeale, a 21-year-old student at the Weatherford College Education Center at Granbury, has been diagnosed with everything from endometriosis to osteoporosis.
Her pain level averages 7 out of 10 each day, but all outward signs show a vibrant young woman.
As a 17-year-old senior at Godley High School, Breazeale began gaining weight uncontrollably. One day after school, she experienced a stab of pain so intense it brought her to her knees.
“It shook me to the core,” she said. That was the start of a roller coaster ride of health issues that hasn’t stopped since.
After multiple doctor visits, a plethora of tests and retests and several surgeries, Breazeale felt defeated.
“For the longest time, I was angry that I had no control of my body,” she said.
Currently, Breazeale takes about 20 supplements each day and closely monitors her intake of grains, dairy and sugar to help manage her pain level.
“Slowly but surely, my goal is to be pain free,” she said. “I know that it’s a long shot, but it will be worth it. I’m fighting 12 different autoimmune diseases. But I want to live. I’m going to school. I work. I’m studying to be a teacher.”
She also wants to be a voice for those suffering through the same invisible fight she faces each day.
“The most annoying thing is when people say, ‘You don’t look sick,’” Breazeale said. “One day someone pulled me aside and commented on how my face looks inflamed and how I should get it checked out. That hurt me more than anything . . . I can’t help that my body is inflamed, that my hair is falling out or that my body is falling apart.”
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WC counselor Phyllis Tiffin said that is a common criticism since pain is subjective and can’t be seen or felt by another person as it is by the afflicted.
She added, most students who are veterans and/or have a disability experience chronic pain to some extent, but it’s unclear how prevalent chronic pain is among the general student population.
“Chronic pain is not something that people want to discuss, because it makes them feel weak and it carries with it a stigma,” Tiffin said. “The stigma mostly surrounds the use of pain management medications, and pain cannot be seen, so when people have a disability that is not visible it is often judged.”
Weatherford College offers a variety of counseling services for all kinds of issues, including chronic pain, and support groups are in the works.
Breazeale uses both the counseling services available at WC and takes her story to the pages of online support groups. She has found a large community of people experiencing similar diagnosis on Facebook in groups like Teenagers With Endometriosis, SIBO Discussion/Support Group and the Texas Advocates for Endometriosis Awareness, where she regularly shares her story and spreads the message of hope.
“I want everyone to know they are worth more than statistics, doctor’s visits and expectations,” she said. “I believe it takes one person to change another person forever. That’s what I want to do with my life. I‘m not scared to die. I’m scared of not living.”
To contact the WC Counseling Office call 817-598-6246, email email@example.com or visit the counseling office located on the lower floor of the Student Services Building on the main campus.
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