As a child, Alexis Kline hoped to one day be a professional soccer player. That all changed at 12 years old during soccer tryouts when Alexis started feeling so weak and sore that she needed to visit the doctor. Her soccer dreams were dashed when she was diagnosed with dysautonomia, a condition in which the autonomic nervous system functions incorrectly. This can have wide ranging effects on the body, potentially involving the heart, bladder, intestines, sweat glands, pupils, and blood vessels. To this day, Alexis’s exact form of dysautonomia remains unknown.
Alexis has channeled her years of experience navigating chronic illness into her new middle grade novel ‘Compass Points the Way.’ The author’s story is mirrored in the main character Allie in that she dreams of nothing but soccer, but diverges from the author’s reality in that Allie is diagnosed with POTS, or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. A huge element in the book is Allie’s relationship with her dog Compass, and how this canine friend helps inspire Allie to switch gears and find new purpose in life after her POTS diagnosis. Although POTS is indeed a form of dysautonomia, Alexis herself does not meet the criteria. She decided to focus on POTS in her novel to provide representation for this specific disease, as it is being diagnosed in higher numbers than ever before.
In this episode of the Major Pain podcast, Alexis details the inspirations behind ‘Compass Points the Way’ while also sharing her tumultuous path through chronic illness. When she initially left soccer practice due to illness she was immediately diagnosed with mono, but never fully recovered. Doctors have debated whether or not to qualify her as having CFS/ME (chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis), but have leaned towards believing this mono infection triggered a flare of an underlying illness. This theory is influenced by the presence of Alexis’s comorbidities, including Chiari malformation and small fiber neuropathy.
Although Alexis has not given up on uncovering the mysteries of her chronic illness, she has also turned her attention to improving her quality of life within her limitations. She has discovered that mobility aides including a walker and wheelchair allow her to participate in life more fully. Being an author was always a distant dream, but Alexis turned it into a reality after realizing she was unable to maintain consistent employment. By refocusing her life goals and aspiring to reach new dreams, she has proven that finding direction and meaning is still possible while living with chronic illness.
Find Alexis’s published works at https://www.underthesunpublishing.com/
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