Meet Amira Elkashef, a joyful, adventurous warrior and obstacle course race junkie. Read her story of how she pulled herself out of a two year flare up that almost took her life and transformed herself into an athlete who attacks every day with enthusiasm.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amira, I’m 33, and I have a story to tell. One of my goals in life is to be able to share my experiences in hopes of possibly helping one person before I leave this earth. Before we get into the nitty gritty of the very obvious purpose of this blog post (I know the title have left you with no idea of what I’m going to write about), I’d like to give you a brief summary of how I came into the brilliant idea of starting this journey.

I have been sick all my life. Legitimately. Since I was born. A good part of my elementary school career was spent in bed with a fever; don’t worry, it didn’t stunt my intellectual growth. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with Lupus. Being the not-rebellious-at-all young adult I was, I decided not to go to the experimental clinic my rheumatologist recommended, and never took the prescription I was given a subscription for. I figured I’d rather deal with whatever Lupus had to offer instead, of chancing it and dealing with Lupus and possible blindness and hearing loss. THIS IS NOT AN ENDORSEMENT TO FOLLOW MY LEAD.

Let’s skip the awkward years and fast forward to age 28. I was living in San Francisco, working at an organization I had dreamed about since I was 18. One day while eating lunch, nothing crazy as I’ve always been health conscious, I noticed a sharp pain on my side. The more I ate, the more it hurt. Now, I have a very, very, high threshold for pain so when I tell you this pain brought me to my knees, you should be gasping. That was the beginning of the worst two years of my life. I could not eat anything from that moment forward. I was going from doctor to doctor, having every test known to the human and alien kind ran on me, with not one doctor being able to find what the cause was other than, “this is an autoimmune thing”. I dropped down to 95 pounds, had zero energy, and just wanted to get the hell out of SF. Turns out that when you are malnourished, it makes you hate everything and everyone.

So I quit the job I had been working towards my whole life, left my beautiful rent controlled apartment in San Francisco, and moved back to where I grew up – San Luis Obispo – to be near family as I for sure thought this was the end for me. More doctors, more tests, blah blah blah…I was beyond over it. Then I meet people along the way who genuinely cared about me and what I was going through and helped me tremendously. When I finally decided for myself that I wasn’t going out like this, I started advocating for myself and became really good at listening to my body, and then finally found a nutritionist that was able to help me, and began eating and taking a butt load (medical term) of drugs, and feeling sane again, my whole world changed. I remember thinking to myself one day lying in bed, that if I ever got better, I would like to spend the whole day, from sunrise to sunset, outdoors; being in nature and going on adventures.

Now, to the good part, and the reason you’re reading this! Today, I feel the best I’ve ever felt in my life! It’s been a long road but I firmly believe that my attitude, joy for life, sense of purpose, fantastic humor, friends, and family got me through some very tough times. Most importantly, it is critical to be your own advocate, listen to your body and be kind to it. I want everyone who’s going through any kind of pain to know that if you’re fighting tired and over it, keep fighting…it’s worth it. I live every day to the fullest and have tons of fun along the way, discovering new adventures whenever I can, and always challenging myself to be better than I was yesterday. Sure, I still have not so great days but I don’t let that stop me from appreciating every day. My body has kicked my ass for far too long; it’s my turn to kick some ass.

A year ago, I came across photos of a Spartan race and thought, “That is so bad ass. I’m doing it”. That same day, I signed up for the race and started trying to figure out how I could get in shape in time for the race. When race day came, I was beyond nervous but I did it! The feeling of crossing that finish line was euphoric! I felt alive! I felt like I was living! I felt like my best self. Not too long ago, I was lying in bed with no strength or energy wondering when my last breath would be. Don’t ever give up on your life.

My number one lesson from all of this has been that it doesn’t matter how many times you fall; what matters is how you fall and if you choose to get back up. I choose to get back up every time life knocks me down. I choose to do things that bring me joy. I choose to live life the way I want to. No matter what. No matter what it takes. I use every struggle I’ve faced to propel me through my races. Racing is such an emotional, cathartic experience for me. I’ve gone form almost dying, sometimes not wanting to live, to feeling the most alive I’ve ever felt when I race and cross that finish line.

Since then, I’ve competed in 3 Spartan races and going for my trifecta this year! Wish me luck!

Follow Amira on Instagram, find her on Facebook and read her blog for more.