How Myasthenia Gravis Changed the Way I Define Success

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

by Michelle Gonzaba |

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For as long as I can remember, my definition of success hasn’t wavered much. It didn’t matter if I was playing in a Little League game or preparing for a job interview, success always meant having the most, conquering others, and being the best.

I could argue that my definition of success was a product of my environment. I grew up in a very competitive school district and was in constant competition with every other student. Throughout my childhood, I was told over and over again what a successful life entails: a high-paying job, a nice house, a cool car, and a family. But no one ever told me that success is not a one-directional thing, and that my definition of success could change in an instant.

After being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG) and finally accepting how different my life would be, my definition of success changed every day, and almost every hour. In the beginning stages of the disease, before I had read about MG, I considered it a success if all of the food stayed in my mouth while eating. Could I drink water without coughing it up? If so, then I had achieved success.

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MG also greatly affected my mental health, so my idea of success wasn’t limited to overcoming only physical challenges. I also considered my state of mind a victory, depending on how dramatic I was acting on a particular day. I considered myself successful If I had the mental strength to get out of bed and interact with other people.

Although I felt good about overcoming these obstacles, I felt unsettled with my new life. Is that all I would be able to achieve? Was that as good as it would get?

It’s taken me a long time to understand that the success is not a concept that never changes. It ebbs and flows every second we are alive. For some, success may mean they scored higher than everyone else on a test. And they would be right in their definition. For others, it might mean they were able to feed themselves without any help. And they also would be correct.

MG has taught me that success means whatever you need it to mean to get out of bed in the morning. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks it is. The only thing that matters is how we each define it and how we work toward it. From the small victories to the large triumphs, we will never define success the same way we did the day before. And isn’t that a much more exciting way to live life? Every day, we can find a new way to win.


Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Jo Lawton avatar

Jo Lawton

A new way to win every day. I love that.
I found my way here because my cousin has MG and thanks to social media I have a couple of friends on line who also have MG. As a friend/relative/supporter I use to worry that I sounded patronising celebrating the little wins. My cousin does see it that way and I have to remember that where as one of my friends loves my excitement that she ate a few bites or she didnt fall when she got out of bed. It really is different for everyone.

Michelle Gonzaba avatar

Michelle Gonzaba

So true Jo! I used to feel like that too. Thanks for reading!

Thomas L Clark avatar

Thomas L Clark

We always try to slip our feet in other shoes but thanks to this blog I have learned this disease is like snowflakes, different and different. Up until my late 50's I considered myself as a success with my dreams pretty much fulfilled. I served in the military, Great civilian job with good income (better than I deserved) Successful project engineer a civilian pilot. I had the world by the tail then MG got me by the tail. On this blog I heard about symptoms that I had but did not attribute to MG. No small wonder many docs cannot diagnose. On the other side of my thymo I simply resumed life retired and became a truck driver cost to coast. (Don't recommend this, all you see of the country is the truck routes, not the great scenery. ha.) My faith and my wife has helped me along. I can see, a little difficulty swallowing without choking and aspirating and weakness in legs and neuropathy and clotting along with laziness and dumber than a hoe handle are leftovers.


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