For years, Samantha has lived with Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE), an incurable disease that causes her body to view most food as a parasite and attack. When Samantha’s condition was first diagnosed in 2007, her doctors and her family worked hard to try anything that could help her feel better. Trials included oral steroids, the Top 8 Elimination Diet (avoiding wheat, eggs, milk, nuts, tree nuts, soy, fish, and shellfish), and eliminating beef and corn from her diet. Nothing seemed to help. Samantha was still sick.

In January 2011, she underwent surgery and had a g-tube put in, which functioned as a feeding tube in her stomach. For two years, she was fed a special formula and had only potatoes in her diet. This year, she was able to have the feeding tube removed and add a few foods to her diet. However, she is still dependent on a special formula that she drinks for nutrition.

Samantha’s second diagnosis came late last year: mitochondrial disease. Mitochondrial disease is a horrific illness that affects multiple organs in the body. The disease is a chronic, genetic disorder that occurs when the mitochondria of the cell fails to produce enough energy for cell or organ function. It causes Samantha to experience extreme fatigue, cold/heat intolerance, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), and so many other symptoms.

For those who see Samantha, it is puzzling. She is a beautiful girl. Both of her diseases are invisible. Her outside appearance is admired, but her insides are often falling apart. She has good days and bad , but never gives up on her desire to live a meaningful life. While she may never be able to eat the food that everyone around her enjoys, Samantha aspires to be a chef.

Samantha continues to keep an upbeat attitude and stay positive. Her closeness to God continually motivates her to make the best out of a bad situation. Despite the fact that Samantha suffers every day, she keeps a smile on her face, is always willing to share her story and works to increase awareness for the illnesses that have stolen so much of her childhood.