As I shared in January, I finished off 2020 by getting tested for Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects about 4 million people in the U.S.
The results are in and it’s official: I have Sjogren’s as well as four other conditions: celiac disease, pelvic congestion syndrome and interstitial cystitis.
My blood work indicated that Sjogren’s may be the bigger problem. But my doctor said I would feel more of an immediate health impact by treating the celiac disease first.
She was right. I’ve since stopped eating gluten and have seen immediate and dramatic improvements in my health.
My digestive issues magically disappeared. The lingering brain fog that has plagued me day in and day out has lifted. My energy levels soared. And the strange radiating pains that used to shoot through my limbs subsided immediately.
I miss brownies, chocolate and pizza so much. But the health benefits have been worth it so far. I didn’t even know there was room to feel this good!
Giving up gluten is an important lifestyle change. But when it comes to my health, I know the best move I can make is getting a better grip on the stressors associated with my work.
As I’ve shared in the past, the stress of working in litigation is a very real problem in our industry. As I look back now, I think I found the job especially draining because I knew I could be doing so much more for my clients. My superpower has always been helping businesses stay ahead of potential issues — not battling it out in court on their behalf.
My husband, Carlos, and I talked about our options and decided the best approach was for me to take a sabbatical. This would give me a chance to recoup and destress, without having to give up everything we’ve built at our firm.
But as they say, “Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans.”
As Carlos and I were trying to figure out our next move, I was presented with what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
One of my Tampa clients asked me to step in as their full-time General Counsel. The company is a startup, and the idea of helping build a company from the ground up excited me. But there were so many contingencies to think through — my firm, my home in Orlando, my kids, plus all of my newly diagnosed health challenges — it was all too much to digest!
I knew if I said yes, then the transition would involve some big changes — including moving our family across the state, partially stepping away from my practice, and losing some of the freedom that I had owning my own business.
But if I said no, would an opportunity this amazing ever present itself again?
After weighing all of my options, I ultimately decided to join my client as their General Counsel. Carlos and I moved to Tampa in March of this year. We brought our two daughters, Jade and Maya, and rented a condominium about a quarter of the size of our home in Orlando. My son, Malcolm, also recently joined us from Miami.
Despite the tremendous sacrifices, my startup journey has provided invaluable learning opportunities. I’ve become a better lawyer and have grown my skill set in ways I never thought possible.
Besides having a newfound respect for lawyers who act as General Counsel, I’ve also forged some deep work friendships. I can honestly say that my first six months felt like I was earning my Ph.D. in startups. (More on that later!)
So, What Now?
As long-time readers know, my health issues have been weighing on me heavily for the past few years.
It was tempting at times to feel sorry for myself and only focus on the negative. But now, I feel invigorated.
Yes, being diagnosed with three autoimmune disorders and a related disease is scary. But it also provided immense clarity. Now I know how to manage and maybe even reduce many of the symptoms that have plagued me for years.
I don’t feel like a victim. I feel empowered.
I also have an opportunity to pursue what could be a dream job. This journey has had its ups and downs. But I can’t wait to see what life has in store next!