It may have been seven years ago, but Chandra Wilson remembers the struggle leading up to her daughter's diagnosis like it was yesterday: One day, then-16-year-old Sarina McFarlane was casually hanging out with friends — the next, she was suddenly and continuously battling bouts of severe nausea and vomiting.
Both mother and daughter suspected McFarlane had food poisoning at first. But when the painful vomiting attacks continued, they knew something else was wrong.
Wilson, who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey on the popular ABC television drama "Grey's Anatomy," took her symptom-sleuthing skills off-screen and immediately began doing everything she could to determine what was wrong with her daughter. They visited hospital after hospital and doctor after doctor to no avail, so Wilson began keeping a record of everything McFarlane did and ate.
"I found myself tracking what foods she was eating, where we were, tracking all this information myself," Wilson recently told People. "Each hospital visit, I would put the info into a binder. By month eight, I was walking around with this gigantic binder."
McFarlane, who's now 23, says the process was especially hard on her as a teen. She told People that the other kids at school often assumed she was bulimic, and she was "scared, frustrated, and depressed" during the months leading up to her diagnosis.
Finally, after 10 grueling months, a doctor was able to diagnose McFarlane with mitochondrial dysfunction, a disease in which the body's cells can't produce energy properly, and cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), a rare disorder that causes a person to experience regular, intense bouts of vomiting. They were relieved to receive a diagnosis — but their next steps are still unclear.
CVS only affects about 2 percent of school-aged children, and is even less common among teenagers and adults, according to Mayo Clinic. It can be managed with anti-nausea drugs, stomach acid suppressants, proper hydration, and an overall healthy lifestyle, but there's no cure for CVS.
McFarlane has paid many more visits to the hospital since she was diagnosed. Despite the constant struggle, though, McFarlane and her mom try to maintain a mostly positive attitude.
"I could be sad about it," McFarlane told People. "But it's going to come back anyway."