Focusing on the things I can do rather than those I can’t

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by BioNews Staff |

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The myasthenia gravis community spotlight banner features photos of people living with MG.
A profile photo shows a woman smiling in a black yoga top, sitting in front of a large window in an industrial-looking area of the city.

(Photo courtesy of Tanya Chiu)

This is Tanya Chiu’s story:

In the beginning of 2022, after two stressful years of COVID-19, I had to make the difficult decision to close my yoga studio. Also, my father in-law passed away and then my mom lost her battle to pancreatic cancer. Needless to say, I was a mess. The losses were piling on top of one another, and I couldn’t manage.

One morning, I awoke with my left eye feeling weird, and I had a droopy eyelid. I began to see double. I went to the local optometrist, who ran some tests but couldn’t find anything. The optometrist, convinced I had myasthenia gravis (MG), booked an emergency appointment with a neuro-opthalmologist for the following day.

I had never heard of MG before, but it was confirmed through blood work and additional tests.

Being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis has been one of the biggest challenges of my life, both physically and mentally.

I have been working in the wellness space for over 20 years as a personal fitness consultant, and I had my own yoga studio for 10 years. My body has always been my friend. I had strong and functional muscles and endless amounts of energy — until I didn’t.

With MG, there were days when I found it hard to brush my teeth or even tie my hair back in a ponytail. I was plagued with overwhelming thoughts and questions, such as how I would work and live if I couldn’t even lift my arms or walk a straight line. I felt that my life’s work was gone. It was a dark time that led me into a bit of depression.

In January, I had surgery to remove my thymus gland and a small thymoma.

I thought I had gone through the worst of it until I had my first myasthenia crisis at the end of March, which landed me in the hospital for five days. It was challenging to breathe, swallow, and talk.

During this time, I felt really isolated and alone. I spent most days in bed. I would meditate and chant “two, three” to help navigate my next steps to find a new direction. It was clear that I needed to turn my pain into purpose.

My goal now is to spread awareness about MG and to support those who are suffering.

A woman sits on the floor in front of a large picture window in a large city. She is barefoot and wearing yoga clothes. She looks to her right, has her right knee raised, and her hands are clasped on her knee.

(Photo courtesy of Tanya Chiu)

My yoga practice has changed drastically. In the past, I could easily move for an hour, but nowadays, I’ll take snack-sized moments of movement for up to 15 minutes a day.

I am grateful for my body each day, and I’m well aware of how quickly things can change. As I write this, I am in bed having a flare-up and not feeling as mobile today. I know there will be good and bad days, and I need to honor it all as part of the process. I have been forced to relearn most things, including the way I move my body, socialize, work, and most importantly, the way I think.

Having the right mindset is a powerful thing. How we think and feel about our life circumstances is important. Acceptance is key to learning how to navigate a new way to live. It feels better to focus on the things I can do rather than those I can’t.

This illness has taught me to be present and grateful for all the moments I have with my family, friends, and sweet dog, Arlo.

In recognition of Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month in May, the MG Community Spotlight campaign features a series of stories highlighting the real-life experiences of people affected by MG, written in their own words. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #MGSpotlight, or read the full series.