I was diagnosed with Hansen's disease when I was eighteen in 1997 and began treatment shortly thereafter. I was still
in college at the time, but was still able to graduate magna cum laude even with all the additional stressors. I am now thirty-three,
my skin smears and biopsies are all negative, and I have two wonderful boys who are now 8 and 7.
I have had both negative
and positive experiences living with this disease, as is expected. The most profound experience was to have a primary care
physician not give me the respect I deserved, of shaking my hand and introducing himself on my initial visit to him. He chose
instead, to speak to me from inside the doorway. This was because he knew I had Hansen's disease. Having experiences like
these helped propel me to continue my schooling and obtain my Masters degree in Community Counseling. I am now a Licensed
Associate Professional Counselor in the state of Georgia, and work for a 24-hour crisis line. I have continued to run this
website with the help of IDEA, in an effort to give back, after being fortunate to meet so many supportive people along the
way with Hansen's disease, or those who were advocating for us.
I now know how truly blessed I am to have
a supportive family and a network of friends who love me, perhaps even more, because of my struggles and my determination
to keep fighting on. I have learned that as a person with Hansen's disease it is important to never leave your doctor's office
without having your questions answered. The key to getting well is in your hands. You may not be able to control what is going
on inside your body, but the more knowledge you have about Hansen's disease is the more empowered you begin to feel. If for
some reason your doctor does not have an answer then get it yourself. I found that sometimes the best prevention is self-education.
by Nicole H. Holmes, MA, LAPC, NCC