Thankful: Feeling Accomplished (The CHES Exam)


What a week to be thankful!  I came home on Tuesday night to an envelop that I’d been waiting to receive for almost 6 weeks. I was very nervous to open it, but inside was more than just a certification. It was an accomplishment and closure to my graduate education.

It’s Official, I’m a Certified Health Education Specialist

I completed my Master in Public Health in 2011, I remember it like it was yesterday. The final semester had been filled with the completion of my externship, my romantic relationship turned to a long-distance relationship, and I’d been suffering from a migraine for nearly a month.

I was so busy with the surrounding circumstances that I didn’t give the migraine a second thought. It wasn’t until the day I submitted my final paper for publication to the University that I realized I wasn’t seeing very well. On the ride home I noticed the street lights were glaring more than usual and I was having a terrible time seeing, but I made it home.

The next day proved to be life-changing. Despite not being able to see very well, I headed to work anyway. About an hour after getting there I knew something was seriously wrong, I couldn’t see my computer screen.

I quickly rushed to the hospital with my dashboard slowly fading away. My neurologist saw me immediately. I remember a medical student examining me and asking if I could see his eye. It was almost like some was slowly erasing his face. I couldn’t see his nose or his eyes. My wonderful doctor of then 4 years popped in to examine me. What he said would forever change my life. I was experiencing Optic-neuritis.

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By definition of the Mayo Clinic, Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Pain and temporary vision loss are common symptoms of optic neuritis. Optic neuritis is highly associated with multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes inflammation and damage to nerves in your brain and spinal cord. In some people, signs and symptoms of optic neuritis may be the first indication of multiple sclerosis.

This definitely wasn’t my first run-in with MS. You see MS and I met one sunny   Monday morning in the summer of 2006 as I headed to work. The doctor shocked me in the ER with a diagnosis that I couldn’t even mourn at the time  I suffered bad relapses in the past, but what was happening at this point was unimaginable. I was losing my vision.

This illness had come for me in the past and I’d struck it down, but why now. Why when I am planning to leave a job I hate to start a career I love? Why now, when my love is over 400 miles away? Why now, when my daughter needs me the most? Why now, when I’m finally on top of things?

It wasn’t fair. After that day in October 2011, I’d suffer through the worse MS relapse of my life thus far. I’d go on to lose complete vision in my right eye, functionality in my left side, experience muscle spasms around my heart and lose the ability to walk without the need of an assistive device. After months of therapy, and drowning in steroids my vision partially returned.

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I’d planned for the entire 2 years of graduate school to take the CHES exam, but I’d been met with a derailment. So I waited until I thought I’d be able to study. Unfortunately, that day never came. With healing throughout 2012, my main focus was on my health. The majority of my vision returned, but it was never the same. My love returned home and we got engaged in 2013. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. We welcomed baby boy Robinson in September 2014 and were married in May 2015.

I planned a baby and a wedding in the span of 18 months and never lost focus of my goal to get my CHES certification. Immediately after the wedding, I started focusing on taking the exam. With a new baby, marriage and new MS therapy,

I was in for a roller coaster. I held on tight and I must say I did not enjoy the ride, but I made it. I accomplished not only a long term goal but what almost seemed like the impossible. I’m thankful for not giving in to thoughts of failure. I’m thankful for leaving behind a job that was a source of stress and unhappiness.

I am a person that encourages others to follow their dreams. Having an illness such as MS has taught me that each day is not promised and things are not always in your control.  Never stop believing in yourself and thriving for your goals, no matter how small.

What does this mean for my future?

Holding a professional certification in public health gives a positive perception of my field. It shows my devotion to continuing to stay educated. I’ll now be required to attend professional conferences or read current literature to maintain my certification. I will continue to teach public health education courses and do outreach with the community. Public health is such a broad field the possibilities are endless.

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My concentration is in Health Education and Promotion, therefore I hope to work a lot more in grant writing to fund educational programs to promote a lifestyle for healthy babies.

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