We are told to love our body with all its flaws and imperfections.
But what if your very own body turns rogue against you?
Natasha Coates, 22, is a living example of how your own body can make you feel alienated and the road to self-love isn't all that simple.
But it isn't impossible either.
Allergic to everything
The 22-year-old gymnast suffers from an auto-immune disorder called mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)—a rare condition that causes her body to react adversely to particular triggers.
Any person suffering from the said condition reacts to triggers that vary from case to case, depending on the severity of the condition that can change over time, according to a New York Post report.
"Mast cell activation syndrome affects every bit of my life. From what I eat, where I sleep, to the products I use, to the people I interact with, to the places I go," Natasha explained.
Natasha's condition causes mast cells (a type of blood cell ) in the body to react to triggers by releasing histamine and other chemicals that cause an allergic reaction to occur.
In Natasha's case, who is a native of Nottingham, England, the trigger response is activated by her own hair, tears, changes in the weather, metabolism, and even food, with varying reactions every time.
“Reactions can vary. They can be anything from just feeling under the weather, itchy, very tired or they can be life-threatening like tongue and throat swelling,” Natasha told News AU.
The condition is so extreme that every time she grows hair on her scalp, it starts to blister and burn. Even when she cries, the tears cause a red, itchy rash to form on her face. Pertaining to food, sometimes a particular food can be okay for her health while other times the very same food can become fatal.
“There are so many things I react to—changes in temperature. I react to bath products, beauty products, deodorants, sprays, different make-ups, things around the house,” she revealed.
“One day I could eat a cheese sandwich and I will be fine,” she said. “I could eat the exact thing the next day and it could try and kill me. And the day after I could eat it again and it will be fine. I don’t know what I’m going to react to next,” she explained further.
"If there is going to be a storm, I can feel the pressure changes because I have got quite severe bone pain or the pollen in the air drops. I will experience high fever type symptoms. So, I am pretty much known as a weather lady," she remarked.
“I am not able to do most things most 22-year-olds do. I can’t drink alcohol. I can’t even tolerate it on my skin. I never know if I am going to make it if I will be sleeping in my own bed or be in a hospital bed. Or even if I will survive, to be honest,” she remarked ruefully.
The condition hadn't really taken birth until she turned 18-years of age. Up until then, Natasha was living a very normal life. But soon, the condition developed and life turned topsy-turvy for the young woman.
Living life to the fullest
Natasha's condition began to develop in severity by the year 2012. However, it was only after two years that her condition was accurately diagnosed.
“Towards the end of 2012 I started getting allergic reactions to fruit,” she said.
“My lips would blister a little bit and feel a bit itchy. First, it was apples, then strawberries and then it was tomatoes. I was sent to an allergist and was told I had oral allergy syndrome and to carry an EpiPen just in case. But then I was out one day with friends at an event. I hadn’t eaten anything new. I hadn’t drunk anything new and I suddenly felt really unwell. The next thing I know, they are putting an oxygen mask on my face and then I lost consciousness,” Natasha said.
“I was told I’d had a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction,” she divulged. In a bid to protect her daughter, Natasha's mother Adele only cooks certain foods she knows are safe and keeps the house as clean as it can be.
She also makes sure that anyone who comes knocking on her doors washes their hands so that they don’t bring germs inside the house.
“To reduce the chance of her having a reaction I tend to be overzealous with the cleaning, dusting, wiping surfaces down, making sure people wash their hands when they come to the house,” Adele explained.
Natasha endures numerous reactions every day that range from swelling, itching to head-numbing migraines et all. Hospital trips are an everyday affair due to the fatal reactions she faces.
In fact, she has used more than 250 EpiPens to help her with her reactions. (Epinephrine, also known as adrenalin or adrenaline, is a hormone, neurotransmitter, and medication.)
Despite living with a life-threatening condition and suffering the consequences in practically every aspect of her life, Natasha hasn't lost all hope and is continuing to live her life to her full potential. Refusing to let her sickness get in the middle of her goals, Natasha trained hard to become an elite disability gymnast.
“I have done gymnastics since the age of eight, just recreationally,” Natasha was quoted as saying, as per a report published in DailyMail. "And when I developed this condition I wasn’t able to keep up with the mainstream gymnastics so I switched to disability," she added further.
Although, she still faces a lot of issues even while training, Natasha hasn't given up on hope.
"There are lots of barriers when I exercise because of the way chemicals affect my brain. I lose the feeling from my elbows down and my knees down. So when I stand on the beam, I can’t feel my feet, I can only look at the beam to know where they are," she explained.
In fact, Natasha has competed in the Disability British Championships and is currently ranked number one in the UK. "Gymnastics for me is my therapy. It keeps me sane and also helps with my physical ability," she said.
Her passion for gymnastics has made life easy to some extent but self-love is still hard to accomplish. However, Natasha has mastered the art by inculcating a simple trick in her life.
"I stay positive just by practicing being positive – you know I say, "Fake it till you make it" if I just keep telling myself that it's okay this will be alright then I start to believe in myself," she told DailyMail.
Watch her inspiring story here:
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