The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college began like any other; hanging out with family and friends, playing golf, going to baseball games, but it took a sudden and drastic change when I fell ill and became pretty sick.

Here I was a healthy, normal 19-year-old college student, who could no longer eat any food without getting sick almost immediately. I was extremely confused, frustrated and even angry. Why me? Why now? What was happening to me? My doctor sent me to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and after a few months of testing they had a name for my disease, Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE). After multiple attempts, I finally learned how to pronounce and spell the name of my disease—the spelling part really took some effort!

I decided to approach my illness the way I approached all aspects of my life, with an extremely positive attitude! I knew my situation wasn’t very cool or fun to deal with, but I knew it could have been way worse. I decided to head back to college in Louisville, Kentucky (I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio) with my positive attitude, a smile on my face and lots of broth (one of the easiest things I could manage at the time).

My friends and family were extremely supportive, which was so helpful in handling what I was going through. When no medications seemed to help my symptoms, my doctor decided to put me on a feeding tube — that was probably one of the hardest things to deal with — especially while being in college, when everything you do socially is based around food!

I went home to Cincinnati almost every weekend that semester—it was easier to be around my family—my mom wouldn’t let my dad or brothers eat in front of me and that was way easier than watching my friends order pizza every Friday night! Through the past five years I have continued working with my doctor to find a way to manage my symptoms—but I still get sick very often. BOO!

With my smile and positive attitude it sure makes it easier to handle everyday! And if I can handle this difficult situation, then I know I can handle anything!