Almost everyone can point to moments in their lives dictated by the choice: fight or flight. By definition, the fight-or-flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.
Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) patients have to choose to fight every single day. We have to fight against our very genes, which are causing our bodies to fail. We have to fight to keep moving, to remain as independent as possible, to keep living the life we want in spite of physical limitations.
When diagnosed in 2013, this fight-or-flight decision faced me. The very first words out of my husband’s mouth were, “We can fight this.” I immediately snapped back at him, “Didn’t you hear what the doctor just said? This is a life-shortening disease for which there is no cure or treatment, how am I supposed to FIGHT it? I can’t beat this!”
My friends and family quickly learned not to use that phrasing around me. They let me mourn this unbeatable battle I was facing. I was a definite flight risk. I wanted to avoid this. I didn’t want FA. I didn’t want to fight for the rest of my life. I wanted to fly away from FA into an easy, healthy life. However, we learned more about FA. And I realized that I needed to face it head on — I needed to fight.
I have since defined what fighting means for me in my battle against FA. My version of fighting is doing whatever I can to resist FA. I am fighting to slow its progression. I don’t give FA the power it wants and demands. I refuse to take whatever FA has to offer without fighting back.