Carrying on: Achalasia survivor wholeheartedly puts faith in God

Story and photos
by Callie Sterling

2015 has been the hardest year yet for Achalasia survivor Mary Clements, yet she is fighting back with full force.

“I was officially diagnosed in 2012, but I have been having complications since 2009,” Clements said. “Achalasia is where your lower esophageal muscle does not relax properly to let your food enter your stomach. The condition tends to worsen over time, and there is no cure.”

As a side effect of Achalasia, Clements would regurgitate anytime she ate or even when she would drink water.

“My muscles in my throat are paralyzed so I would throw-up anything and everything that I ate,” Clements said. “I haven’t eaten steak since 2010. I have to be very careful about what I can eat.”

Clements has had countless procedures and surgeries performed, including several blood transfusions.

“I have had an Esophagoscopy, an Esphagectomy, my gallbladder removed, a mobility test, Heller Myotomy and Balloon Dilation to name a few,” Clements said.

Earlier this year, Clements passed out while alone at work. She was found by her boyfriend and rushed to the hospital. The length of time that she was unconscious is unknown.

“I punctured my liver when I fell, and since then I have had five blood transfusions,” Clements said. “I have to take 12 pills a day now.”

The negative news seems never ending for Clements, but she remains positive and grounded in Christ.

“God has helped me heal over and over — He is my strength,” Clements said.

In addition to having trouble eating and drinking, Clements occasionally has issues with her hair falling out.

“Due to the fact that I can’t digest foods normally, I don’t get all of the vitamins that I need,” Clements said. “I couldn’t just take a pill because I literally could not swallow it. My hair falls out sometimes because I am lacking certain vitamins.”

Clements knows that it is easy to feel sorry for herself, especially when going through difficult times. Yet she chooses to remain hopeful and wants to raise awareness for Achalasia.

“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me,” Clements said. “I want to brighten others’ lives and not sit around and say poor, pitiful me.”

Clements encourages others to not ignore symptoms or signs.

“I thought in the beginning this was just acid reflux,” Clements said. “If someone is having some of the same symptoms I was, I hope they don’t take it lightly. Get to the doctor and get tested. It may be nothing, but it could be more. Achalasia doesn’t have a cure, but it is so much better if it is caught early.”

Clements credits her resilience to her faith in God.

“I know my faith in God has helped me,” Clements said. “I always like to remember Philippians 4:13. That is the verse that says, ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.’”

Even medical professionals have said that Clements is a walking miracle.

“Every doctor that I have seen has said that there have been some serious miracles performed with me,” Clements said.

In addition to leaning on the Lord, Clements relies on her family and her boyfriend.

“My boyfriend, my daughter and my parents have been my rock through everything,” Clements said. “I keep on fighting for them. They are why I try to stay so positive. I want to be a light for others.”

Clements created a shirt to raise awareness for Achalasia. She does not keep any of the proceeds.

“I am charging only what the shirt costs,” Clements said. “I am not the type of person who wants any kind of donations or handouts. Some people really need assistance, but it is not my style to ask for it.”

To order a shirt contact Clements on Facebook under Mary Clements.

Clements wants to reach out to newly diagnosed Achalasia patients by giving advice.

“The No. 1 thing I want to tell newly diagnosed Achalasia survivors is to pray and don’t over do it,” Clements said. “Take it easy, know what you can and cannot eat. Take care of yourself. Lean on God; you will get through it.”