Devri Velazquez

The beginning of my health concerns started in 2011. I first noticed sporadic changes within my body, including a constant rapid heart rate, tingling in my arms, visual disturbances and overall weakness. At first, I did not think any of these symptoms had any connection with one another. In addition to the devastating effects my inner body was experiencing, my outward appearance began to change as well.

Although subtle at first, I did notice a change in my skin complexion. The color of my face was yellowing.  Its texture became coarse and bumpy. The skin under my eyes drooped a little more and made me look like I had been deprived of sleep for weeks. All the cold creams, moisturizers, and face washes resisted aiding the sudden onset of acne, bags, and sun spots on my face. I would bruise easily and my lips turned blue from time to time from lack of oxygen.

I had always been fortunate enough to have clear skin my whole life. But over the next few months, it only got worse. Instantly I felt like I had traveled back to grade school days when having random bouts of teenage puberty was normal.

MORE: Devri's Hair & Health Journey: An Introduction

As I wrote about earlier, I had been receiving relaxers on a monthly basis since the tender age of 5. My mane had managed to undergo a number of coloring, highlighting and straightening treatments throughout the years without losing any fullness, strength or length.

Before getting sick, I had experienced no immediate repercussions for doing a considerable amount of chemically treated damage to my tresses. But now my ends were brittle. The breakage was difficult to keep up with. I needed to get a trim every two weeks. My baby hair even looked like it was in dire need of something beyond moisture and conditioning. Every time I brushed or combed through my strands, an unusually large amount of hair fell out. The broom bristles came out of the closet every single day to clean up the mess I had left behind on the bathroom floor. I was not prepared for what lay ahead.

Inside I was hurting. Outside I was changing. The unanticipated shift in my hair, skin, and health was like a wave in the distance — fast approaching and unavoidable. All I could hope for was that once we made contact, the waters would not crash down on me and take me under with it.

MORE: Hair Envy Brings Devri to a Big Chop