I’m Not Invincible! Lesson Learned

August Guest Blogger: Dominique Gonzales

Imagine opening a medical bill, and the total amount due is over $500,000. How would you react to this?
Photo by: Skye Nguyen


Imagine opening a medical bill, and the total amount due is over $500,000. How would you react to this? My immediate thought was, “Ha! They’re never going to get that kind of money from me.” At the time, there was no way that I could have come up with even a fraction of that amount of money. I was not going to have that kind of money if my health did not improve and I was unable to go back to work.

How did I get there? The story is a long, but important one. I will condense it for this post. This situation completely changed my life and illuminated my purpose.

How It Started

In June of 2012, I was living the life! By living the life, I mean that I was healthy, building savings, having fun with friends and a few months away from finishing my Masters in Business Administration. I was living in Birmingham, Alabama, and love where my life was going. One Saturday afternoon as I was making a small breakfast of pineapples and a protein shake, I started to have severe stomach pain.

The pain felt like, what I imagine, it feels like to have someone stab you in the stomach and continue twisting the knife. It was torture! I continued to push through the day. One of my closest friends was having a baby shower that I could not miss. I had an event with Teach For America welcoming new corps members to Alabama. Also, my Boston Celtics were playing the Miami Heat in game six of the NBA Eastern Conference finals that evening. I could not miss any of it.

As the day went on, the pain increased. I continued to go to all of the events mentioned above and was near tears at some point at each of them. During the Celtics game, the pain became unbearable, and I left my friend’s house in tears and headed to the Emergency Room. After spending ten days in the hospital, my insurance company kicked me out of the hospital because most of the tests came back negative. On my last day, two doctors were determined to help me figure out why I was having pain. They did an extensive test for Acute Intermittent Porphyria (AIP) and said it would take three to four weeks before I would have an answer. Three weeks later, it was confirmed. A hematologist diagnosed me with AIP, and this diagnosis completely changed my life. I was not and am not invincible.

What I Did

AIP is not life threatening and does not cause much change in my everyday lives. However, I had to pay much more attention to my health. Additionally, focusing on my finances became critical. Before this incident, I didn’t have a flexible spending account, and I had the most basic health insurance plan. I was not saving for emergencies, and I was forced to understand the financial impacts of having to miss work because of health situations. I learned the importance of understanding the benefits offered by my employer. Now, I understood the importance of building emergency savings. I recognized the importance of health savings. My life changed, and I wanted to help others avoid situations similar to what I faced.

Now I’m Good

In 2016, I launched a business focused on health and wealth called Total Progression. My goal is to help people see the links between health and personal finances and assist individuals and families improve their health and increase their wealth. Before 2012, I thought health and personal finance was attainable by just living life. Today, I understand that it takes knowledge, intentionality, discipline, and consistency to reach your goals in finance and health. I am grateful for my story and lessons it is teaching me. My impact is greater because I now understand what many others may be going through and I am ready to help people make a change.

Dominique Gonzales