Seasons of Life with Friedreich’s Ataxia

Kendall Harvey avatar

by Kendall Harvey |

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Since my 2013 Friedreich’s ataxia diagnosis, the condition has consumed a part of every day. I was prepared for the physical changes that would come with FA, but the mental and emotional stress has surprised me.

It is a factor in almost all of my decisions, both big and small. I have to think about my limitations and how destinations will affect me. Are there stairs? Is the ground bumpy and holey? Can I use a shopping cart or should I bring my walker? Should I just put it off until someone can go with me?

I have always been a planner, but I was a spontaneous planner. I know that sounds like an oxymoron. Let me explain: I was spontaneous but I was good at quickly thinking ahead to accommodate my spontaneity. I quickly executed plans to make things run smoothly. And everything generally worked out just fine.

Then FA came into the picture. I lost my confidence along with my spontaneous gumption and my planning mojo. I found my anxiety and my introverted tendencies. I was scared of looking or feeling “disabled,” so I just didn’t say “yes” to things. I was self-conscious that people were expecting happy, carefree Kendall and would be disappointed when “I’m just having a rough day” Kendall showed up instead.

So, I let FA rule my life for a while. I let it win. I was in a dark season.

Join the FA forums: an online community especially for patients with Friedreich’s Ataxia.

Then, I stopped my pity party and realized that I could still DO so much, so I put FA in a little manageable corner and got on with life. Yes, it was always in the room, but it was just there. It wasn’t dominating my life anymore. It wasn’t winning.

Then FA would demand acknowledgment. I would fall. I would just be having a bad week in which I was physically and emotionally drained. FA would consume my attention again. I would have to slow down and focus on my condition again.

I realized that I couldn’t segment FA out of my life. It is a factor in all aspects. It affects how I mother my children, how I do girls’ night with my friends, how I travel, how I sleep, how long it takes to get dressed. So, I am getting back to my spontaneous planner roots. I am saying “Yes!” I am living my life, but I am also making logical steps to accommodate FA.

There are times when FA is a more consuming part of my life, like when I travel across the country once a month for a clinical trial or deal with a broken ankle from a particularly bad fall. But I surround myself with enough positive distractions and obligations that FA is just part of my life — not the entire thing.


Friedreich’s Ataxia News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.


Melissa Monser avatar

Melissa Monser

Reading your story made me pause and think if FA controls my life! And it does not but I know that I have limitations so I try to work around them so that I can accomplish my goal. It is just the way of my life and I do not let FA define who I am!


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