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Stories of NF: Riley

By April 24, 2023January 29th, 2024Awareness, NF1, Story of NF

I was diagnosed with NF at a very young age, but not young enough to forget the process of going through multiple MRI’s and wondering what is wrong with me. It began with my parents and family doctor noticing Café-au-lait spots, and shortly after, my ADHD had become extremely noticeable in my academic and home lifestyle. From what I can remember, I was going into a giant machine scared that I would never come out and why this was occurring. School became more difficult when it came to processing information on a level that was not meeting at the age I was. On top of all the new findings, what came to discover was a problem with my left eye. I was born with an eye deficit and over the years it had gotten worse. I was unable to fully look left with my left eye. The Drs had discovered NF had affected my vision and nerves in that one eye. This made me feel extremely insecure and not “normal”.

NF affects my life still to this day. Throughout my 22 years of living, I was an active competitive dancer, cheerleader, lacrosse player, and more – all while dealing with my eye deficit and mental disability. During my time dancing, I found new exercises to do with my eye in order to strengthen it but it still stayed the same. This made dancing difficult for me but I found a way around it. Having to turn my head fully left became a natural instinct for me by the time I was 15. Some of my friends would notice my eye but some wouldn’t and I realized it is a pretty freakin cool fun fact. I took my negative thoughts about myself and turned them into compliments. I was truly “one of a kind!” As I got older having that mindset helped me get through the rough sad times when I would wonder why me? I now know why.

There was never defining moment in my NF journey but more of a repetitive question, “why can’t you look left?”. Having to explain to my peers why my left eye did not move outwards made me extremely frustrated. I had to understand NF is something not everyone is familiar with.

I am now a recent graduate from Monmouth University with a communications major and a minor in media relations with a full-time job in the Private Club Industry. To be honest, I thought I would never get here with my ADHD and the problems that occurred during my time in school when it came to processing information and applying it. During my senior year of college (better late than never) I knew who I really was. I strived for clarity and to be mentally proud of myself no matter what grade I got on an exam or how long or short I had studied for that exam because it made me into the young lady I am today. Jumping off mountains to be the “smart” one in my class was my goal for a few months at a time but all in all, I just doubted myself because of my learning disability. I realized later in life I was always the smart one in class and it did not matter if I was the last one to finish an exam. I was the same as everyone else around me. That is what made me happy. Knowing and realizing my NF did not define me or my education. I graduated on time and I got my dream job two months later. It all makes sense now and it will all make sense to you too one day.

Favorite Song
What a Life by John Summit

Dream Superpower
To help others be mentally happy

Favorite Food
Penne vodka

Fun fact
I am obsessed with Rook coffee