Just because one has beauty on the outside doesn’t mean that there isn’t a battle happening on the inside. Sometimes, behind a beautiful smile is the untold story of constant invisible pain, determination, and an uphill medical battle. Pragya lends her voice for awareness to share the untold pain of suffering from chronic illness.

At 40-years-old, Pragya’s entire life has been a struggle. She has suffered for as long as she can remember from constant digestive issues, such as stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation. Pragya shares that she couldn’t have a normal childhood because she was always sick. Later in life, she focused heavily on her studies and excelled in academics. She was always at the top of her class and earned significant recognition for her academic success. Pragya noted that it took her longer to study than most because she experienced significant brain fog. She had hallmark symptoms and yet no doctor would give Pragya a precise diagnosis. She grew up in the small town of Raurkela in Orissa where medical care was limited. Her parents took her to nearby cities seeking treatment. Her outings were limited to hospital visits where she desperately hoped to find answers. Pragya often wondered ‘what’s wrong with me? What did I do to deserve this life of pain and suffering?’

Despite her hardships, Pragya lived a productive life, achieving higher education, a career and marriage. Pragya continued her search for answers to her ailments. Years went by and each year new health concerns arose, spinal misalignment, tailbone pain and unrelenting stomach issues. After enduring numerous scans and procedures, consulting with multiple physicians and the difficulty of living with chronic illness, Pragya was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, and congenital intestinal malrotation. She was depressed knowing that she was battling two rare conditions. Pragya had intestinal surgery with subsequent complications. After her initial discharge, she was back in the hospital shortly after with an intestinal blockage. While in the hospital, doctors seemed overwhelmed by her care and she stayed for weeks being treated with IV lines, NG tubes and unable to eat orally. She lost 13kgs during her hospitalization. She describes her recovery was ‘excruciating.’ After her hospitalization, Pragya began serving tables to support herself. Her mindset was that if she couldn’t enjoy eating, then she wanted to feed others to find joy in their healthy relationship with food.

In the meantime, Pragya experienced personal pain while she navigated a devastating divorce. At this time in her life, Pragya believed that she had hit rock bottom. She continued to lose weight and faked a smile wherever she went, just trying to make life seem more bearable. Pragya shared that no one saw the grief behind her smile. Again, Pragya asked herself, “Why me, why was I given this life to struggle?’ She watched in the shallows: accomplishments of her friends and family, their lavish vacations and their career growth. This was the life that Pragya aspired for but not the life that she was given. A point came when Pragya changed her mindset, she wasn’t going to let her disability shake her, she was determined to turn her hardships into strengths. Pragya started seeing a psychologist for support. She eventually found the strength to travel to Bangalore to accept a position at an innovative start-up company. The founders of the company saw something special in Pragya and were willing to give her a chance. Even more amazing is that the company accommodated all her exceptional needs. Pragya didn’t do anything aside from work at the office and go home. Her goal was to work and heal, yet her health continued to deteriorate. She began multiple treatments to address her Fibromyalgia and gained some relief; she began to feel hopeful again. Friends and family supported Pragya while she started participating in physical therapy and working to modify her diet. Things finally felt like they were looking up for Pragya.

Enter 2020, Pragya got sick with the Flu, took a terrible fall and received a leg injury. She acknowledged the setbacks and was determined not to give up on herself. She continued therapy and spent time working on her self-care. Pragya believes that healing starts from within. Now at 40-years-old, she has found solace in her journey. Throughout her trials, Pragya dived into researching her two conditions. While researching, she found her way to the intestinal malrotation support group on Facebook, where she offers support to others experiencing similar circumstances. She feels empowered by the knowledge and support that she receives in the group and no longer feels alone in her battle with intestinal malrotation. Pragya has accepted her medical circumstances and practices gratitude every day. In the past Pragya had hit rock bottom and she knew that she didn’t want that for her life. Pragya wants to live life to its fullest. Pragya quotes, “you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.”