SUCCESS WAS EVER MEANT TO BE EASY
Guillain-Barré (pronounced ghee-lan bar-ray) syndrome is a rare and serious condition that affects the peripheral nervous system. Nicole Joubert from Grassy Park, tells us how this condition affected her at a young age, how she overcame the challenge of living with the possibility of a relapse and how she overcame all her other life challenges.
‘At the age of six, I suffered from a syndrome called Guillain-Barré. It started with me having flu type symptoms for a few days, until things got worse and I started bleeding from my nose. When my grandmother took me to the hospital, the doctors realized the seriousness of my condition. The right side of my body was paralysed due to my immune system attacking my nervous system. I was in hospital for almost two months and stayed on for the recovery process for an extra month with ongoing physiotherapy sessions to fully recover my leg mobility’. Doctors told Nicole’s family that she could relapse and that has always been a source of stress for her and her family. Nicole said ‘For many years it was something that was in my mind all the time but as I got older I came to realize that living in fear was not going to prevent it. I then decided to live each day as it comes.’
Nicole’s grandmother played an essential role in supporting Nicole through this time. Nicole’s beginnings were tough, her parents divorced when she was few months old and her grandmother took care of her since then. Her mother remarried after two years into an abusive relationship and for that reason never took Nicole to live with her. Nicole remembers when she used to see her mother with bruises and making up stories to cover up the situation. This lasted for seven years and even though was a source of sadness for Nicole, it also became a source of inspiration, ‘It taught me to never let it happen in my relationships. I knew what to look for in a partner and that I will never tolerate any man to do that to me or to the people I love.’
In Nicole Matric year, her grandmother passed away and despite this big loss Nicole kept focusing on her education. ‘My grandmother used to tell me that education is the key to have a prosperous life.’ Nicole was the first in her family to be accepted into University to study a BEd in Education.
‘I was motivated by the desire to make a better life for myself,’ however Nicole fell pregnant in her first University year. ’I felt disappointed in myself for taking chances and I felt that I had let everyone down including my belated grandmother. It took me almost until the end of my pregnancy to forgive myself. I kept remembering another advice my grandmother used to give me “to always have the best interest of my family at heart especially the children I would have one day”. I knew I did not want to repeat history as I struggled with not having a father figure and not seeing my mother everyday, so I married my son’s father, dropped out from University and started working to provide a better life for my son’.
Nicole continues fulfilling her passion through her work as she works in youth development ‘I am able to provide youth with the information and the guidance they need to succeed. I am also getting ready to go back to study on part-time basis and finish my degree. I think my grandmother will be very proud of me.’
Nicole believes that hard work is the only way to succeed, ‘If you want anything in life it will take hard work but in the end the benefits will be extraordinary. This belief makes me push myself everyday to do better and continue to reach my goals’. Nicole finished by sharing a key piece of advice that she often gives to the youth she works with. ‘No matter how many times you keep falling, whether 100 or 1000 times, what matters most is that you get up and rise above the challenges. It won’t be easy but then success was never meant to be easy.’
Nicole is a Salesian Life Choices staff member.