Archive for February, 2009

Pay it Forward

February 28, 2009

Isn’t it amazing the difference a child can make in one’s life? For everyone I have ever known that has become a mother, one of the common themes is that they never truly knew love until they had a child. And for many, that child’s love is what opens their heart back up to the world, to hope, to God. But who would have guessed that a little child’s action could set into motion the gift to Pay it Forward?

 

I was just given the most amazing gift I think anyone has ever done for me. (Well, besides the obvious of my parent’s giving me life and Christ dying on the cross for me). Some of my family – the Campen/Ollard clan decided this year for Christmas that instead of giving each other gifts they would do something meaningful for someone else. And I was that someone else. Never in a million years would I have ever guessed someone or a group of people would do something so impactful in my life. My Aunt, Uncle, Cousins, their Spouses, Kids and Dogs (the entire Campen/Ollard clan) all got together and set up a medical seed fund for me. Its an account that anyone can contribute to and hopefully over time grow, gain interest and be there to help pay for my medical bills when I need it. My greatest fear in this life is that the day will come when I can’t afford insurance or my medical treatments. And for me, that could mean going back into a wheelchair or me not being able to protect my heart and keep it pumping.  I’m not scared of death (man I even challenge it at times…), I’m not scared of spending the rest of my life alone – I’m scared of needing medicine or some treatment and not having the money to afford it. And because I all too often allow my pride to get in the way, I would never ask my family for money. Now don’t get me wrong, I know my parents and my sister would give me anything I needed – they have offered time and time again. But I would still never ask, and never take.

 

On Thursday I went to see my cardiologist and get an update on how my heart is doing. The news came back that my heart is getting worse, not better. And there is a good chance my MS meds may be the cause, again. I damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I don’t know how, but these two demons inside of me battling for my soul (MS and CHF) are going to have to find a way to co-exist, without killing me. I have been working so hard to follow a strict low sodium diet, careful not to push myself too much (although my parents would disagree). But I am human, I am 31-yrs old and I need to just let loose and have fun sometimes as well. So for everyone who has been wondering if I can just take a pill and this go away – the answer is very clearly NO. Every decision I make – how much I sleep, how I sleep, every piece of food I eat, what I drink, how much or little I drink, if I am too stressed, how much I exert myself in a day directly effects my heart. It is no longer a matter of simply making the decision each day that I will get out of bed, regardless of if I am walking or not (which was the last 12 years of my life). I have to make the choice to live everyday. It is now having to make the choice everyday to get up and LIVE. And consciously make the decisions that are right for my heart’s health instead of what my brain may want to do (like thinking its okay to have just one Jack and Coke, or splurge here and there and have that fried chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A). I slip up and my heart pays the price. While my heart has gotten worse, the good news is that we don’t feel it is irreversible. And the humbling lesson I have learned is that maybe, just maybe I am not invincible.

 

So now my point as to how these two events come together. I am a firm believer that God works in funny ways. As I said before, never in a million years would I have ever guessed that a group of people would do something like this medical fund for me. This fund has laid the foundation to take away my greatest fear in life. And the simple words of saying thank you will not do it justice. What set this ball in motion was the actions of my cousin’s daughter, Alex, who decided to give her birthday money to the local animal shelter instead of buying toys for herself. That selfless act inspired a family to give me the gift of life. See, all of this came at a point when I feel I could have just given up and thrown in the towel on this fight. And at a time where I am fiercely fighting my insurance company to cover my medical claims – they have now decided to deny every one of my insurance claims dealing with my heart and my MS. (I must interject a side note here, I ask that you take that statement of ‘throwing in the towel’ with a grain of salt – literally. It’s really easy to sit on the sidelines and judge how someone can just give up or say they are going to give up. We all know that I will never truly give up, but don’t think the thought doesn’t pass thru my mind at times. “Oh you’re too young to give up Lindsey.” “You are such a fighter” “This too shall pass”. Yeah, well come live a day in my hell sometime and then you can appreciate that statement. When the core of who you are gets constantly tackled, and when you are told the very things that make you feel alive in this world you have to kiss goodbye, then you can judge that statement.) If the Campen/Ollard clan believes enough in me to do this selfless act, then I will believe enough in myself not to let them down – ever. No matter what the price, no matter what the personal consequences are in my life (another blog for another day..) I will make the right choices for my heart’s health; I will make the choice everyday to not just get out of bed but to LIVE in the manner that will keep me alive. If a child can act so selflessly, then I have no right to act selfishly. And I will keep this ball moving forward.

 

First, if anyone wants to know what to get me for my birthday or Christmas, or any other holiday you feel you want to buy me a present, then make a donation into this medical fund. The way it is set up, anyone can donate to it, but only I and my Aunt Trisha can make withdrawals. And the money can only be used for medical bills and treatments. I don’t want anyone to think I am going to run off to Mexico and drink myself to death off tequila with this money. If you would like to know how to make a deposit, send me an email (lindseybowyer@gmail.com) and I will give you the instructions. It’s done anonymously, so I will never know who or how much you deposit unless you decide to tell me.

 

And now about keeping this ball rolling……
Again, the simple words of “thank you” cannot do this gift justice. So here is how I am saying thank you to the Campen/Ollard Clan. I promise that I will do everything in my power to stay healthy and to live – no matter how bad it gets, no matter how tough it may be. But I will also pass this gift you have given me on to as many people as I can.

 

The first is to my cousin Jeanie. I am walking with her on March 7th to raise money for MARR – a treatment facility for addiction that saved Jeanie’s life. I was so honored to be with her about a month ago when she gave her 15-month sobriety speech. Listening to her battles in life, the simple fact that she is still alive after all she has been thru – is true strength. The fact that she had to get up everyday, look her demons straight in the face and not only say no, but make the decision everyday to live and stay alive is a testament to her willpower and determination, but also to the fact that we can do all things thru Christ! This treatment facility saved Jeanie’s life. I am very selfish in saying this, but they gave me my cousin back. And so I am walking because I am so damn proud of Jeanie, to remind her to be proud of herself and continue this fight, and to help raise money so that others that battle addiction can get the help they need and want, but may not be able to afford it. If you would like to make a donation for the walk, here is a link to the flyer à http://www.marrinc.org/calendar_upload/WRCRegFlyer09.pdf  Just send a check made out to MARR, Inc to the address on the flyer. And in the “For:” section on your check, write For Jeannie H!! Check out their website, there are other events coming up that you can also participate in.

 

The second, (and by no means the last… – this is just the start of things…) is a Benefit for Jen. I don’t know if this link will work if you are not on facebook à http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/event.php?eid=129280365061&ref=share
Jennifer is a friend I went to high school with. Not too long ago she was on her way to Asheville to pick up her son and stopped to help a stranded motorist.  While helping she was struck by a car. Fortunately her life was spared, but she is a single mom who now cannot work and needs multiple surgeries to recuperate. This benefit is to raise money for her medical and living expenses. It’s March 19th from 6-10pm at Zen in downtown Greenville, SC. If you cannot make the event, you can still donate money to help Jen. If you do not live in Greenville or cannot attend A Benefit for Jen at Zen event you can still help out by making a direct donation via paypal or mail:
Paypal:
http://www.paypal.com-Then send to email address @ fullmoonkayaking@aol.com
Mail:
P.O. Box 743 Simpsonville SC 29681. Make check payable to Jennifer Benedict.
ALL donations are to help Jennifer with her living expenses & med bills.

I’m trying to rearrange my schedule so I can be in Greenville for that date. Please come join me, or help me in raising money for Jen. She did a selfless act for a complete stranger and is now fighting for her life.

 

In spite of the life altering diseases God has blessed me with in this life; I truly am a very lucky woman. And I am serious when I say He has blessed me with these. My life would not be the same, and I have learned so much (and continue learning) from these little gifts. I would not be able to have the strength I do without God in my heart, life and soul and without the love and support of my parents. The Campen/Ollard Clan has reminded me of so much that I need to be thankful for. And for the gift of life they have chosen me for, I will Pay it Forward. My prayer is that you will join me in this too.

 

To the Campen/Ollard Clan – I love you all more than you know. For the first time in my life, you made me speechless!!

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Misconceptions

February 22, 2009

Sorry it has been awhile since posting a new blog. I’ve had a little bit of writer’s block and there has been a lot going on.

So…. remember the old saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover”?? I think we were all raised with that one. Things are not always what they seem. I’ve been meditating alot on that statement lately. over the last month or so, I’ve had various comments made to me, and experiences that I felt maybe I should clear up some misconceptions that might be out there. I want to preface this blog that this is not directed towards any one person, this is a culmination of comments and experiences that I just need to clarify somethings…. Maybe if nothing else, I am clarifying them for myself.

1. Heart failure is the same as having a heart attack.
Nope. I didn’t have a heart attack, so I can’t talk about what that feels like or everything it involves. What I can tell you is about MY heart failure. Heart failure is when the heart muscle becomes weakened after injury from something like a heart attack or high blood pressure (or in my case – chemotherapy) and loses its ability to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs. The ejection fraction (EF) is the percent of blood that your heart pumps out to the rest of the body per beat. The normal heart’s EF is 55-60%.

2. I’m dying.
Heart failure does not necessarily mean that my heart has stopped working, is about to stop working or that I’m having a heart attack. Many people live long, healthy and normal lives with heart failure. That is my goal. If I don’t watch my sodium intake, various environmental factors, etc then I can get into trouble really fast. But I am not going to drop dead tomorrow, and well… if I do – my will is in place. Which leads me to my next one…

3. Because I wrote out my will I am giving up.
That is the farthest thing from the truth. I am simply being a responsible adult. I have a condition that could one day cause me to lose my life before my parents, so I need my affairs to be in order. There is a chance one day I may be in a state where I am unable to make medical decisions for myself and need to make sure I have an advocate who can legally speak on my behalf. This is not me giving up the fight, this is me making the necessary precautions to ensure myself and my estate are protected. As Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

4. A low sodium diet is as simple as not adding salt to your food.
Man do I wish that were actually the truth. My life would be SOOOOOOOOO much easier. No, its not that simple. Salt is just one component in the mix. You have hidden sodium in many foods that is an enemy.  (bread being on of the biggest culprits, along with anything frozen).  The only way to 100% control my sodium intake is for me to make every last piece of food I eat. Realistically I can’t do that. (so my awesome mother has made me lots of food I store in my freezer…) Your typical fast food value meal combo will be about two days worth of my sodium allotment. But the simple act of not shaking a little bit of the white stuff on my food isn’t going to cut it, isn’t going to get my heart stronger and isn’t going to keep the fluid out of my chest. I have to cut out sodium.  And if you feel there is NO way on God’s green earth you could live that way, then that’s fine – but you can keep that opinion to yourself. Because this is my life, I don’t have a choice in the matter. I don’t get the luxury anymore to add a little salt to spice things up. (which by the way, red pepper always worked better anyways…)

5. It has the American Heart Association seal on it – so its safe for you. Or it says “Low Sodium” so I can eat it.
NOPE!  Heart failure is just one area of heart disease. I am affected by sodium. But others have to watch their cholesterol levels very closely. Some foods that have the AHA seal are low in cholesterol, but over my limit for sodium. Also, many foods advertise that they are “low sodium”, but its still more sodium than I can have. A good example is chicken broth. The average chicken broth has over 900 mg of sodium in 1 cup. That’s my entire day’s allotment of sodium. Now you look at the package advertised as lower sodium chicken broth and its still 700 mg  per cup. My gauge for eating is it needs to be 100mg or less per serving. I am thankful that many manufacturers are going lower sodium, but they are going to need to bring it down a few more levels before I can consider it.

6. But I don’t look sick…
Actually, thank you. I do love that comment. No one wants to look sick.  But unfortunately underneath this glowing skin are two demons battling everyday for my soul. Just because I don’t look sick doesn’t mean I don’t feel like shit. I try very hard everyday to carry on the most normal of lives. And I try to stay as healthy as I can. Most people can tell when I don’t feel good, but for anymore TSA agents out there who are feeling a little bullish – listen up = DO NOT insult me with that statement and ask me to show you all my medicine to prove I have heart failure. You don’t have the slightest clue what any of those pills do for my heart, and furthermore you probably can’t even properly pronouce their names. When you can explain to me what a betablocker is then maybe, just maybe I will give you one ounce of credit and respect in regards to that statement.

7. Because I’m tired I must be really lazy.
Ha! PALLLEEEEEZZZEE! If I’m tired its because either my MS is acting up, or my heart is not keeping up with me. I operate at 90mph on a constant basis and don’t allow myself the rest I should. Here lately, or sense the little December fiasco, I have been tired. I am still adjusting to having heart failure, I’m trying to get my heart stronger so I can go back to the life I had…. (and I will get there). And if you really do think I am lazy, then come walk a mile in my shoes.

8. Because I write this blog, any topic of my life is open for discussion.
No people. I do realize by having this website that I open my life up for some type of scrutiny. But that does not mean I will write about every aspect of my life on here (there are some things that are personal), and that doesn’t mean I will even talk to you about everything in my life. Let me just clarify here – my divorce is not a topic open for discussion.

9. I am a china doll that is about to break.
Again, NOPE. Trust me, I do have thick skin, inspite of what some people think. I can and have taken beatings in my life, so this fight is no different. Just because I get knocked around a little bit doesn’t mean I am out for the count. I may take a step backwards today but can run a mile forward tomorrow. The only thing that needs protecting right now is my heart because its been injured and is trying to recover, but I as a person am just fine. I don’t need things sugar coated, I don’t need everything laid out on a silver platter for me. I am not going to and will not break.

10. And lastly…. This will just go away.
OOOhhhhhh, if only it would! I would go streaking thru the streets of New York if that could happen. Until they have a way to repair the damage done to my heart, this isn’t going away. Same with the MS – until there is a cure, this isn’t going away. I will live with both of these diseases until the day I die (or until they have cures…).  And I have to come to a place of peace about that (that is kinda going back to the whole chinadoll statement). I’m tougher than people think. I may stumble several times along the way, but I will handle this.

I know my blog about “Somewhere there is a village missing its idiot” scared people from asking me questions or inquiring how I am. I don’t want that to scare people, and I don’t want this blog to scare you either. Sarcasm is alot of how I deal with stupidity at times.  Some of these misconceptions are honest ones that I felt needed to be cleared up, and some are me just being sarcastic to events that have occured over the last month or so.. I’m pretty sure you can decipher which is which.

Riding the Redneck Ninja Wave

February 6, 2009

So… the past couple of days have been some of those weird “Ah-hah Moment” kinda days. As you first start reading this you are probably going to think I am having a “Woah is me-pity party”, but stick with me kids and you will get to my point.

When I was in my young 20’s (okay, damn – first that makes me sound old… and second I sound like one of my parents – when I was your age…) anyways – back in my young 20’s just out of college a lot of my friends were getting married and picking out china patterns. I was picking out the color and style seat cushion I wanted for my wheelchair. (and to this day it baffles me why I didn’t pick orange…) Years later as my friends started having kids and learning to drive those mini-vans they swore they would never drive, I was learning to drive with hand controls. Because my legs wouldn’t work more than they would. Now I’m in my 30’s and my friends are planning that next house purchase or the next sibling to add to the group, and I’m writing my will and planning for my death on the off chance I don’t beat the odds. It is a very humbling experience to write out what you want done with your body because chances are you will die before your parents. Now don’t get me wrong here people – I am not giving up. I will fight this until my heart gives its very last pump. But it would be very irresponsible of me not to go ahead and make arrangements. As my Dad always says, “We plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

So yesterday I was absolutely terrified driving to my attorney’s office. I always have my ipod and normally can find any song to pump me up or capture my mood. But not yesterday. It was just dead silence… How do you tell someone when you are only 31-yrs old what to do with your estate?? (and again, don’t get any whacky ideas out there people – there isn’t a hell of a lot to my estate. But what is there is being left in very good hands..) How do you know if you want to be buried or cremated – where to spread your ashes?? (ok, honestly – that was an easy one for me…) I mean shit – at this age I should be planning out my next kid’s nursery colors, not what type of damn urn to put my ashes in. (and before any wise cracks are made you have probably already guessed – yes there is a stipulation that the urn must have an orange “T” on it somewhere and some of my ashes are to be spread at Neyland Stadium, where my heart will always remain..)

So now to the point of all of this. As terrified as I was yesterday, I took a deep breath, looked down at my shirt and rode the Redneck Ninja Wave into the attorney’s office with no more fear. Yesterday, in my own little world, I was a Redneck Ninja.

Redneck Ninja’s is a concept my friend Drew Bates created. (see Drew’s website –> http://www.drewbates.com) I want to make sure you get the full idea of what this awesome creation is, so I’m just going to copy the words right off of Drew’s website: “The idea behind Redneck Ninja: Being rural but really adept at the things you love. Country fried warriors who struggle to function in the modern world. Somehow by skill or luck they always manage to save the day. They are masters of Qi, hillbilly fighting – they stick out like pink flamingo lawn ornaments.” And with the talented and creative animation by Jasen Strong (link to blog on the side, website –> http://jasenstrong.artstooge.com) he brought Drew’s concept to life. Gave his vision legs to walk right off the page and into my life.

There is something about this concept that just clicks with me, makes me feel like I have these superhuman powers… like one of his characters by either skill or luck I always manage to somehow make it through the day. And there are so many different levels that I connect with Drew’s creation. Raised to rebuild Jeeps, but trained under the strict discipline of Tae Kwon Do. Groomed with the manners, grace and style of being a Southern Belle but taught to shoot a rifle. Even the name Redneck Ninja resonates so strongly with me. I have that sweet, southern accent but pack a powerful punch. Its like the Ying to the Yang…. Maybe it has something to due with the fact that most of my life people have called me a redneck because I wore camouflaged boots, took auto mechanics, had the single best Jeep Spring Valley High School had ever seen (don’t deny it guys – you know its true. And I also know you used to call my Dad to come pull you out of the mud when I wasn’t home. Ha – ametuers!!) But underneath that “country-fried” facade was a secret ninja who had been training all of her life for what she didn’t know at the time would be THE fight of her life.

On my myspace page under hero’s I have my Dad – as a cancer survivor & the strongest man I have ever known, he has taught me more about how to be a true fighter in mind, body and spirit.  While he is a third degree black belt and could bench press most of you reading this (I know that last comment just probably killed my next date…) what sticks so strongly with me were the lessons that there are more ways to fight the enemy than just with your fist. That is the easy way out, and not what will let you endure in this life. Redneck Ninja!!

Redneck Ninja is like my battle cry right now. The Scotts cried “Freedom” before they ran onto the battlefield. I scream “Redneck Ninja”!! So Drew…. I’m sorry buddy, but your stuck with me for awhile. Ha! And if you’re reading this – I think you need to make a poster I can put up in my office just as a reminder on those days things get a little tough around here…

You can read more about Redneck Ninja’s by going to Drew’s website. Also, 10% of the proceeds go to the Quad Fund – so buy your shirts!! I have two already–>  http://www.cafepress.com/uniquepubllc

Drew – thank you for giving me a battle cry! And Dad – thank you for being my hero, my inspiration, someone to look up to. Thank you for teaching me the lessons I fought so hard not to learn, I would not be the fighter I am today without them, or without you!

Redneck Ninja’s!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Hold on Tight Spider Monkey!

February 4, 2009

Hmmm…. doesn’t sound very romantic does it? Well, if you have seen the movie Twilight it’s enough to make you cock your head to the side and say, “Bite Me!!” I never thought I would get hooked on these high school drama books. But what an awesome concept = the one thing you want more in the world is the one thing that could kill you. The one person you feel that gives you life is the one person that will most likely cause your death. So if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, you’re probably asking how this can be a love story?

To love someone so much that you are willing to truly trust them wiht your life. Knowing that the one thing they feed on, the one thing that can keep them alive is your blood. And for that person to love you so much that they can control this monstrous urge they are born and bred on, because bring with you is more important than feeding on the essence that keeps them alive.

I think most all of us have had boyfriend or girlfriend relationships. Some can say they have truly been in love. But have you experienced that kind of intense passion and ultimate trust that pushes you to the very limits of your being? Can you honestly say you trust your mate with your life and can hand it over to them – like Bella does Edward?

So now lets move to who wants to be a millionaire. When you find “the one” don’t you feel like you’ve won a million dollars? If you haven’t seen SlumDog Millionaire, it’s another one I recommend. Put aside the cultural aspects of how the West views India or vice-versa. What broke thru in this movie to me was this underlying love story that every girl dreams of. The notion that you know the very second your eyes meet that you were destined to be together. The noble pursuit of a man doing whatever it takes, against all odds (and trust me – he was up against some big odds to get Latika), to lay down his life – not only to find and be with her, but so that she can have one too. To walk thru life for years and years searching for her because she is all that resides in his heart. Now, I don’t want to mislead you here – there are other political undertones and themes entertwined into the basis of the movie. It’s the American dream in India – that an orphan can rise from the ashes to greatness. But again, for me, it was the love story that grabbed hold of me as tightly as the seatbelt grabs you in a car accident and stops your breathe for a minute.

Can you imagine knowing that kind of true love? Can you imagine someone searching for it for years and years because no one else could ever take that place in their heart?

I don’t know why I am so obsessed with these two movies right now. Maybe it’s because it’s late, I can’t sleep and I’m laying here in an empty bed (for those of you that have gone thru divorce you know exactly what I’m talking about). Maybe it’s because after having my heart broken so badly I’m trying to find any reason or sign to believe that true love really does exsist in this world and it’s not just a Hollywood mirage. Maybe it’s because Friday is National Wear Red Day to make a stance against heart disease and its one more reminder to me that my heart is broken in more ways than just by love. Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and I get to celebrate that day of love with me, myself and I. Or maybe because if I believe in these movies, believe that there are men who can possess this kind of love & intensity then one day there will be hope for me.