I have started this blog- The Survivor’s Handbook- because many people have asked me how I manage to live my life as a happy fulfilled person, after having lost so much. I can tell you this...I feel blessed! And I have discovered many resources through my journey, too, which have and continue to be profoundly helpful. I call these resources “Survivor’s tools.” This blog is designed to share those tools, and to help you inspire the survivor within. Whether or not you have suffered a traumatic loss, event, or illness, this blog is for you.
Being a survivor is simply a mindset-a way of living life to its fullest- with purpose, empowerment, and an unshakable positive attitude. Once you begin on this path, you won’t want to turn back. But no one does it alone, so I’m here to walk with you, as you begin your journey of becoming a survivor.
My story (the beginning of it, anyway)
On February 13 1997, I was delivered a death sentence. I contracted a deadly strep A bacterial infection, commonly known as “the flesh eating bacteria.” The doctors involved with my case did not think I would survive. Within the first 48 hours of my initial symptoms, my breast, all the surrounding tissue and muscle were surgically removed. The left half of my chest was gone- literally stripped down to my rib cage.
On March 8 1997 both of my legs below the knees, and my right arm, below the elbow, were amputated, all in the effort to save my life.
When I was getting ready to leave the hospital, headed for physical rehab, my doctor came to see me. He asked me what my “goals” were for rehab. I tearfully answered that I just wanted to walk again. He smiled at me, and said, “If that’s all you want, it will be easy. 'Just walking again’ is duck soup!” He told me that once I was vertical (on my knees), he could have me walking in three weeks. I was somewhat skeptical over this ambitious promise, but nonetheless thrilled by the possibility.
Again, he asked me what my rehab goals were. I was confused. I thought I had already told him what I wanted to accomplish, and with an emotional proclamation at that. He then explained that rehab is an on-going process. “Surviving your illness is just the tip of the ice berg, but learning how to live with the aftermath is what rehab is all about.”
After he left my hospital room, I began contemplating on how I was going to live my life. Up until then, I had been living each day, simply to heal physically from this devastating illness. I had an occasional thought of how difficult life would be once I got home, but I kept putting those thoughts out of my mind. I certainly didn’t want to dwell on them. I didn’t want to face the possibility that I might not be able to do the things that any “normal” wife and mother could do. Frankly, I was scared to think about it. But my doctor laid it right at my doorstep… how was I going to live my life? I was terrified! If I could have worn boots, I would have been shaking in them.
I began to take a long hard look at what I was facing. I had help and I had support, but I had to dig deep and find the one thing that I needed most to begin this new journey of my life. I began focusing on getting stronger, physically and mentally. And little by little I began my forward progression. Lying flat on my back, with no right hand, and no feet left to stand on, I began the fight. I knew that I would battle and battle hard to pick up the pieces, to get home, and create a new life; one that I knew was worth living. I began a new chapter of my life, that day my rehab doctor came to see me, and I began the journey...the journey of becoming a survivor.