Carrie Ann Inaba May Live With Chronic Pain, but She Isn’t Defined by It

On television, Carrie Ann Inaba is always beaming. The spirited, bright-eyed judge from Dancing with the Stars is a ray of light. But behind the scenes, she struggles: Inaba lives with chronic pain and has done so for years.

“I’ve been through a lot of trauma in my life,” Inaba told People. And while it’s been hard, Inaba admitted “tragedies are usually the biggest gifts.”

In 2007, the former dancer was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that can cause pain, weakness, numbness and tingling.

“I remember going to the doctor and I couldn’t move my head,” Inaba said. “I was in excruciating pain for years,” and the struggle was exhausting. “When you’re in chronic pain, you become exhausted, because your body is fighting this pain all the time. Pain is a life stealer. And it’s hidden, so people can’t see it or understand it.”

But that wasn’t the only adversity Inaba faced. Six years later, she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome, an incurable immune disorder that causes pain and fatigue Inaba told People is “debilitating.”

“I was in so much pain, I just had to survive. I had to stay in bed three days a week,” Inaba said. “I’m so fortunate because I had the kind of job where I could do that. There were days I could barely make my coffee because I was so exhausted.”

The good news is Inaba’s diagnosis forced her to reevaluate her life.

“I did a lot of soul searching,” Inaba admitted. “I learned about who I am besides being a sexy dancer chick. And ironically, as I let all that go, I found my way back to feeling vibrant and radiant again.”

Inaba’s medical difficulties also gave her a new outlook on life.

“I love when life throws me something challenging,” Inaba said. “Because I know something beautiful is just around the corner.”

And not only do we love Inaba’s perspective, we admire it.

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