When your health keeps you home

“My illnesses are a part of me now.”

Sarah Brager , writer, photographer

Mia Courson-Escareno, 10

In September of 2018, sophomore Mia Courson-Escareno received news from her doctor that would ultimately change her life forever: she suffers from endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). While this was a shock to her at first, Mia quickly realized that the diagnosis explained the crippling pain she had been experiencing the months prior to the appointment. Mia started school at the beginning of the fall semester along with the rest of the students, but after two weeks she ultimately decided to continue her schooling at home, for the pain had become too intense to manage within the school walls.

“Some mornings I can’t even get out of bed until noon, paralyzed in pain, so being in a traditional school setting isn’t possible for me right now,” Mia said.

Endometriosis is a chronic pain disorder where tissue, often found in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus, grows onto surrounding organs. It effects women ranging anywhere from  14 – 60 years old, and those diagnosed with the illness often battle the symptoms for the rest of their life. Mia found herself feeling constant abdominal pain and nausea as a result of the endometriosis. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the edges. Symptoms of the condition include weight gain, an increase in acne, and menstrual irregularity. Neither of the conditions can be cured through simple treatments. Because endometriosis and PCOS take such a toll on the body, Mia’s diet and physical activity have been severely limited.

“Both diagnoses are incurable, and will be with me for the rest of my life, so naturally, I felt hopeless at first. It is hard not being able to do the things I used to: eating certain foods, heavy exercise, even sleepovers were too much at times,” Mia said.

Day after day Mia was forced to stay home from school because the pain was unbearable. She quickly realized that her education would suffer if she continued attending school in her condition, so in early September, Mia switched to homebound schooling. Hays CISD offers a homebound education program, which means a certified teacher visits a student’s home for up to 4 hours a week and offers instructional support. Any student who has missed 4 or more weeks of school due to an accident or medical illness qualifies for this alternative program. Although she misses seeing her friends every day, Mia enjoys being able to work at her own pace in a setting that is comfortable for her.

“I like being able to do my work when I feel okay to do so; sometimes it’s 10 am, sometimes it’s 10pm. I can work as fast or slow as needed, and the hours with my teacher were very flexible,” Mia said.

Mia’s daily natural oils, herbs, and supplements

One of the greatest challenges Mia has faced while battling endometriosis and PCOS is finding an effective way to manage her pain. Herbal medicines and acupuncture have done just that. Mia uses an assortment of essential oils and natural substances to calm the body, and she regularly attends acupuncture therapy at Zoi Acupuncture. The treatments did not fail to show results; both Mia and her mom quickly noticed a significant decrease in her pain.

“After receiving the news from our doctors, I instinctively felt we needed to explore as many avenues as possible in finding help for Mia. I drove to Zoi Acupuncture in Buda to see Noa. She studied acupuncture, Chinese medicine, and herbs and had helped me with other health concerns. I hoped she could help Mia. Sure enough, she did. It helps her manage pain dramatically,” said Mia’s mom Christina Courson.

When she first heard Mia’s diagnosis, Christina was truly heartbroken. It was frustrating for her to watch her daughter experience this at such a young age, especially knowing it would follow Mia for the rest of her life. However, she is grateful that Mia had her family by her side though the painful experiences. Christina began making changes around the house to accommodate to Mia’s condition. She altered the family’s food choices in order to ensure that Mia did not experience any inflammation from her diet, and she always makes sure that Mia has her essential oils and heating pad ready in case the pain kicks in. While some days can be a struggle for Mia and her family, Christina is hopeful for the future and very proud of the progress Mia has made.

“I am proud, though unsurprised, that Mia is adapting so well. She is a very strong person with a very clear sense of herself and a clear direction for her future. No one, and nothing, will push her around or keep her down. She will find her way,” Christina said.

Although she is forced to overcome challenges most 15 year-olds don’t have to worry about, Mia has maintained an optimistic attitude. She is hopeful that she can return to school in the fall of 2019. Until then, she will be taking her classes online. Mia enjoys meditation, spending time with friends, and watching her favorite program, ‘That 70’s Show.’

She still struggles the symptoms of endometriosis and PCOS everyday, but she likes to remind herself that everything is temporary, so it’s important to appreciate the little things while they last.

“I cannot let my limitations define me. They only make me stronger,” Mia said.