The phone rang and on the other end was my daughter, Sara. She said, “Mom, would you be interested in going to Morroco and do a nine day women’s rally across the Sahara Desert?”. I thought for a moment and said, “You bet, let’s do this.” It was November 2014. This was a major milestone for me and let me tell you why:
My name is Teresa Stewart. I was raised in Arizona and presently split my time between Golden, CO and Kauai, Hawaii, with my husband of 35 years, Gary. We have two grown married children and three grand dogs. I am the CFO of Melange International, LLC, a privately held company focusing on every and real estate development. My husband and I, while in Kauai, grow coffee trees; we harvest, process and roast our own coffee. In my free time, I love to body board, sew, read books, and spend time with my family, and I have Common Variable Immune Deficiency.
I was diagnosed approximately eight years ago after 10 years of repeatedly going to doctors to finds out why I had pain and muscle weakness on the left side of my body. I have always been active, being a runner. I could not even climb a flight of stairs without stopping and resting my left leg. Also, my energy level was dreadful. I was so dragged out as they day progressed, I had to lie down. Finally, a friend of mine suggested an immunologist. After receiving a correct diagnosis, I started receiving IVIG Infusions for my left sided pain and weakness to subside. In October 2015, I went to a Baxalta sponsored meeting regarding insurance for PI patients, while there I learned about IDF and the PI Foundation. I talked to a representative about the adventure I was undertaking and they encouraged me to share my story with the PI world.
At the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, a gazelle is a woman competitor, navigating the desert, overcoming obstacles. It is the toughest women only driving event in the world. The Gazelle Rally is a nine day, 1300 km, off-road rally across the Moroccan Sahara Desert. Teams of two are given a 1950’s French military topo map and a compass; they are required to find specific locations along the way to a new campsite by the end of the day. They do this by navigating through five checkpoints throughout the day. Teams are not permitted to use any form of GPS. Competitors must drive the shortest distance to win, camp in the desert, and rely only on their determination and strength during these legs. There are 160 teams representing 22 countries across the world. Sara, my daughter is the driver, and I will be the navigator of our Jeep Rubicon. You can check out the website at: http://www.rallyeaichadesgazelles.com/en/top+story.
Even though I said yes to Sara, could a person with CVID take on such an adventure? I researched many items including the weather, immunizations, how strenuous it would be, and would my doctor let me go. Would there be clean water and food I could eat? Since I am soy, dairy and gluten free, I have decided to pack some of my own food. I got a green light from all, however, how would I perform under such stressful conditions? I will find out!
So, where am I in the above picture? I am in the Mohave Desert at a 5-day training session that is required for all first time participants in the Gazelle Rally. Even though it looks like a barren wasteland, I am taking a sighting to locate ourselves on a map using old-school techniques.
I am sharing my story with the PI community because I want everyone to know that after 17 years of feeling awful, I have emerged to feeling great! How long will that be? I don’t know. Perseverance is key; getting up each day, and view it as a new beginning: today is the day I will feel better.
*Teresa Stewart is an IMMUNOe patient. This is her personal story of living and coping with CVID. For more information about our services at our Immunology & Infusion centers, call direct line: 303.224.4678.