Ouch! Beverly Boyarsky felt a sharp stab in her ankle as she climbed into the front passenger seat of her car in August 2003. Peering down, she saw an unidentifiable large, black insect crawling up her leg. Without hesitation she squashed it! Although the bite was red and sore, Beverly thought little of it until a few days later. Suffering from flu-like symptoms, red spots began popping out all over her body, including on the palms of her hands. “My internist was concerned that I had contracted Rocky Mountain spotted fever,” said Beverly. “So she ran a blood test immediately. No medication was prescribed at that time because the wrong antibiotic could prove disastrous.”
Three weeks passed and the blood tests returned negative. By this time, Beverly felt better and she and her internist assumed it had just been a virus. But, time would prove them wrong. Soon, this strong successful businesswoman would become almost wholly dependent on others.
A few months went by and Beverly began feeling weak. Her back and hips ached. A public affairs director at a hospital, she saw every specialist she could and underwent every test available. But all results were inconclusive. At 46, Beverly started calling in sick for the first time in her life. “I had doctors telling me that the pain and sickness I was feeling was all in my head. ‘Stress’ and ‘depression’ are the words that the specialists used. ‘Too many hours at work!’ NOT! Being a serious athlete my entire life, I knew there was something wrong with my body.”
After seeing a specialist in New York City, Beverly was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The doctor showed Beverly how to give herself daily B-12 shots and referred her to an endocrinologist. Despite the treatments, Beverly continued getting weaker and weaker. Her body was breaking down, driving the 45 minutes to work every day became a major ordeal. “By mid-September 2004, I knew something was very wrong. My memory was gone, I could barely use my arms at the computer or while driving, and I just wasn’t functioning. My secretary came into my office, closed the door, and said she was worried. Two days later, my VP told me to take a few days off and find out what was going on.”
“Chronic illness forces a once independent person, like myself, to rely on others. I no longer take anything or anyone for granted.”
Beverly left work on September 27, figuring she’d take a few weeks off to rest and recuperate. She never returned to work again. Now bedridden and unable to use her hands, Beverly fell into a deep state of depression. Through it all, her beloved golden retriever was diagnosed with mast cell tumors and her father’s health started rapidly declining. What’s more, her financial situation took a turn for the worse. She’d been let go from her job without disability pay. “I had to hire an attorney to fight for disability payments. It wasn’t bad enough that I was diagnosed with an incurable disease and I had absolutely no money coming in for over a year. Now I no longer had health insurance! Or life insurance, for that matter.”
After undergoing several MRIs, a spinal tap, a muscle biopsy, and an EMG, it was actually the countless, small blood tests that gave Beverly a conclusive name for her disease. Her doctors came up with two possibilities—Polymyositis or Mixed Connective Tissue Disease. Either way, she was dealing with an autoimmune disease. Her body’s immune system was essentially attacking its own organs. Although the diagnosis terrified her, now at least Beverly could conduct her own research, which she did. She quickly learned three important things: The cause of her illness is unclear; it is unlikely there will be a cure until the cause is identified, and every drug she took would be experimental. “I felt both relieved and frightened at the same time. After looking up the disease and finding little or no information, I immediately knew I had a long road ahead of me.”
Despite her fears, Beverly also found solace and friendship on the Web. So many friends and acquaintances had drifted away when Beverly fell ill. But, in researching the Myositis Association and online support groups, Beverly finally realized that she was never again going to be alone with this disease. And, she started seeing that it was time to shed her former self. “I wasn’t the same person…on the outside…and asked myself what kind of partner, mom, daughter, sister, godmother, aunt could I be? I could no longer contribute to our life, financially or emotionally.”
Life as Beverly knew it changed completely. Through intensive soul-searching and therapy, Beverly chose to embrace her new self, ultimately coming to terms with the idea that she—a fiercely independent woman—is now limited in some ways. But, as it turns out, not in every way! Letting go of her illness for a brief moment, Beverly auditioned as a singer with a Long Island rock ‘n roll band. Not telling the band about her disease, she let her voice speak for itself and got the job! Checkered Past is now like family, supporting Beverly through the rough spots and putting the band on hold when she cannot perform.
And, while she can no longer work in corporate America, Beverly also came to understand that she still has something to give to mankind. She became an ordained metaphysical minister and has formed her own ministry, Beacon of Light (www.beaconoflightministry.com). Her new dream is to minister to people with chronic diseases and their loved ones. Beverly also chronicles her experience with Myositis on a personal blog (http://mylifewithmctd.blogspot.com/), where she’s touched thousands of people across the globe, and received positive feedback with her entries.
One thing that her illness has taught her is that life is too short not to live your dreams. On that note too, her home front has changed a little bit since Beverly’s disease came to light. Dealing with the loss of her father and her beloved golden retriever, Beverly now has an “official” support team—Sally, her partner of nine years and Sally’s son, Jarrett, who Beverly adopted following their commitment ceremony in April 2008.
When asked to sum up her experience and what she sees for her future, Beverly answered: “I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Chronic illness forces a once independent person, like myself, to rely on others. I no longer take anything or anyone for granted. Things could be worse. So, I celebrate and thank God for each day that I wake. And I promise that I will try to live my life one day at a time…to the fullest!”
Thank you Reverend Beverly, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Tamar Burris Story of My Life®