This is NF: Salina Itwaru

When I was young, I didn’t know that much of the pain I felt was from having NF. The pain was real, it was not in my head. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized it was linked to neurofibromatosis. I covered myself up all of the time. Looking back, I wish had more confidence in myself when I was a child. I wish I did not care what others thought of me.

Although it may not show in my face, every day is a challenge. Every step back, I push myself forward ten times harder. I don’t feel strong all of the time, but helping others makes me strong.

After high school, I went to work, though not long after, I decided to go back to college. I worked full time and took 12 credits. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Monroe College in the Bronx. It was difficult and I had tutors, but I graduated with honors and on the President’s List. I am also a certified health coach.

Never ever listen to someone who says you cannot: You can. It may be more challenging, but you can. Scream at the top of your lungs, "I GOT THIS." You may have to work harder, but at the end you did this. You deserve all the good. My son, who also has NF1, makes me stronger. He gives me a reason to be strong. He and the many courageous kids with NF make me strong; I feel like I have to be strong for them, guide and help them see how awesome they are.

Salina Itwaru, 37 years old, lives with neurofibromatosis type 1. A Document Control Manager, she currently resides in Jamaica, New York with her family.