For anyone who lives a fast-paced life, it is easy to sometimes forget our need to take care of ourselves and to listen to our bodies. It is easy to get distracted from the importance of a healthy lifestyle when it seems there is so much to be done.

But it isn’t always so easy to keep moving. The number one thing that can affect one’s ability to continue on is their health. A health battle can range from something as simple as a common cold keeping you from a weekend getaway to an injury that makes travel more difficult, or even impossible. No matter the severity of the health situation, it is most often disappointing and frustrating to feel limited.

I have lived with a chronic stomach condition and chronic anemia my entire life. It has been an ever-changing battle. When I was in middle school, I missed nearly half of my seventh and eighth grade years, had to stop playing some sports, and missed several family vacations—these are just a few of the sacrifices I made.

Nonetheless, as I have grown up, I have found ways of my own to manage pain and discomfort, and I have gotten by with the support of a great medical team. I have promised myself in the last few years that no matter what happens down the road, I will not let my condition limit me—I will push through.

But what happens when you cannot push through your limitations? What happens when you can’t just toughen up, just rest a day or two to feel better, or seem to make sense of the situation or get answers right away?

When I was younger and watched my dad battling his CLL, he too had to take a backseat of his normally extremely busy and upbeat lifestyle. He took steps to ensure this speed bump in his health would be temporary and treated as seriously and positively as possible. Although at times I am sure he sometimes also felt limited, his condition was not going to just disappear, and now was a time to put his health and well-being first ahead of all of the normal hubbub of life.

For the first time in a long time, I am experiencing this feeling. The difference this time around is that “just pushing through” is simply not possible. As I returned from traveling abroad this summer, I noticed some moderate to severe pain that deep sea diving seemed to trigger. Anyone who knows diving knows that ear pain is never a good sign, so I went to the doctor. Over the following four months, I went to see multiple different ENT doctors, to hopefully ensure that I would be healed and feeling ready to dive in the new year. But in between every visit came another bad cold and set of antibiotics, and every change in pressure (even an elevator ride) caused me discomfort.

In the month leading up to my departure for Honduras, I was feeling strong and confident. I was trying to treat my body the absolute best way possible, to ensure there wasn’t a chance I would get sick or have any setbacks. But a few days before leaving came another cold and another set of antibiotics. I had my heart set on going and trying, and I promised to listen to my body—no matter what—even if it was telling me something less than ideal.

When I arrived in Honduras, I was ready for a challenge and hoped for an exciting experience. I patiently waited to dive until finishing my last course of medication. I started diving, and the first few days went well. And then I woke up with another cold, of course. Mind you, it was 88 degrees, sunny,and beautiful—I was absolutely baffled that, yet again, I was sick.  Off I went again to the clinic, for more antibiotics.

Now came a decision point. I told myself I would do one more dive, and if I felt pain, I would stop. I had heard horror stories of friends diving and rupturing eardrums, losing hearing, and other extremely unfortunate and painful events. I didn’t want to push myself to a point that required me to stop, since I was already in pain. I did the dive and immediately after coming up (with a sore throat, raging headache and extreme discomfort), I knew in my heart that it was time to really figure out what was going on. I realized that if I want to pursue diving in the future, then I must take care of myself now…hopefully my future self will be thankful for that decision.

I struggled emotionally—diving is supposed to be fun, not painful…and I tried to rationalize that I could dive a million places once I got better…my head was swimming. I try to be a very positive person, but I must admit that this was hard for me. I always thought that if I wanted something badly enough, I would be able to do it—but I have a hard time accepting that there are times you can want something very badly, but the timing may not be right. I’m working on it. This situation has taught me that things happen as they should, even if we don’t fully understand why in that moment.

So sadly, after finishing my rescue diver course, I headed back to the U.S. —eager to get answers, feel strong and get back out there. I will wait to see the doctors that hopefully can get me well, and in the meantime I will try and feel as happy and positive as possible about getting my health in order—and get back out there swimming with the dolphins!

With many situations like mine and like my father’s, a medical challenge doesn’t have to be seen as the end-all-be-all. With the support of good doctors, the communities we find in places like Patient Power, and working continually to be a strong self-advocate, we can navigate our way to better health and back to the life we want to live.

For everything there is a season…

Ruth Schorr