Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 3 D’s: Dreams, Desire, Determination 

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”  Anatole France      

I never equated a dream to a goal until my dream and my goal became one in the same. And I never had a dream that I was so desirous to grab hold of until I felt my life slipping through my fingers.  

     My dream was formulated sometime between realizing that I was going to live, surviving a life threatening bacterial infection, and aching to be home. I don’t remember my exact location when my dream began to form. I was in the hospital, and maybe still in the ICU, but I can’t be certain.  All I knew was after losing three limbs, half of my chest, and my life, as I had known it; my recovery was going to be long and arduous.  But all I could think about-- dream about, was going home to my two little boys and my husband.    

      When I got out of the hospital, almost three months to the day from when I was admitted, and on to the physical Rehab facility, I was terrified.  I had no feet to stand on; only one hand-- the left hand-- and it was damaged from the illness.  I had no idea what it was going to take, or how painful it would be to get back on my brand new soon to be purchased feet.      
     I arrived at the rehab facility, and met with my physical therapist, Bob.  After doing an evaluation of me, he shook his head. “We have a lot of work to do here.” He explained how my muscles had deteriorated over the past months, while lying in a hospital bed.   After asking Bob how long it would take to be able to walk on prostheses, he told me, “That’s entirely up to you, and how hard you’re willing to work.” My fate rested in my own hands.     

     I explained to Bob that I had a dream…a goal. “I want to be home by my son’s 5th birthday, July 13th. I want to walk in my door totally unassisted, to help celebrate his life. I want to go home, and re-claim my life!”  Bob raised his eyebrows, and shook his head again.  “That’s a pretty lofty goal,” he said. “Be prepared to work hard.”     
     My regiment of exercises was brutal. But I hit that rehab gym every day six hours a day (that was all Bob would allow me to stay) working to exhaustion. The stronger I became, the more real my dream became. As I began to believe in myself, I knew I could accomplish my goal. I noticed, while doing my physical therapy, that if I kept my dream at the forefront of my mind, my grueling daily routine didn’t seem that grueling. I also noticed that the closer I came to realizing my dream; my desire actually increased and fueled my determination.  My immense desire and unrelenting determination made me unstoppable.  All of my hard work paid off. On June 31st I got my first pair of prosthetic legs.      

     When I stood for the first time on my new legs, it hurt like I couldn’t believe! But once again, I put my dream in the forefront of my mind, and my desire surged. I took one agonizing step after another, determined not to let my physical pain get in the way of my dream. As time went by, I started to adapt to my new legs. The pain turned into discomfort, and as I was able to wear my prostheses for longer periods of time, the discomfort began to ease.  I was becoming more proficient on my new fake feet walking indoors and outdoors. I could even go up and down stairs. Finally, I was ready to go home.       
      I walked into my home totally unassisted, realizing a dream that had been set almost six months previous. My accomplishment was great. I had a dream, a plan of action, and belief in myself that I would never quit. And my reward for realizing my dream was my home…my family, and the privilege of reclaiming my life.       
I left my house on February 15th, a victim. I entered my home July 23rd, a survivor.     

     When you’re on the Survivor’s path, no dream is too big. No obstacle will deter you if you have that unrelenting desire to accomplish your goal. And as the desire to grab your dream grows, it will fuel your determination and make you unstoppable. So never be afraid to set your goals high—to dream big.  

A Survivor knows that to believe in a dream is a dream already realized. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


“Weren’t you frightened?” Dorothy asked the Wizard of Oz
       “Frightened? Child, you're talking to a man who's laughed in the face of death, sneered at doom,
and chuckled at catastrophe... I was petrified.”
 From the movie “The Wizard of Oz”

     “Courage” was not a word that used to jump to the fore front of my mind when asked to describe myself.  My day to day was unremarkable for the most part. I may have encountered a hiccup now and then, but certainly not something that would involve having to reach inside myself to find the courage that I may or may not have possessed. I never had to laugh in the face of danger, or sneer at doom or even chuckle at catastrophe…until I had to actually deal with catastrophe. And much like the Wizard of Oz, when I did have to deal with more than a hiccup, I was petrified.

     Fourteen years ago, I found myself not only fighting for my life, but having to learn how to live in the body that I did not come into the world owning. I had been cast in a play I never auditioned for, and didn’t recognize. I didn’t know the lines, or how the story would unfold.  The only thing I was certain of was the end…the lead character, me, survived. I found myself living in a body I no longer recognized, and learning how to live in this new body, minus parts, was terrifying.

     There were days when I didn’t want to work hard on my survival, when I was worn and tired and troubled.  How was I ever going to get my life back with three missing limbs, and lying flat on my back in a hospital bed?  Coming to terms with that, fully understanding that my life as I knew it had ended, took courage. But embracing my new life, living in a newly disabled body took tremendous courage. 

     I found early on in my recovery that not only did I need courage to adjust to the new me figuring out how to manage this new life, but my husband and my two little boys needed it too. Even at the most difficult and painful times of my recovery, I recognized that it was my courage which was lighting the way for the others around me, and sustaining us all. 

      My little son, who was 4 years old at the time of my hospitalization, came to visit me at the hospital at least once a week.  Every time he would get ready to leave, he would walk to the threshold of the door. He would turn and look at me.  In his little tremulous voice he would ask, “When you comin’ home mom?”  Even though I knew the question was coming, each and every time I heard it, it would break my heart.  But I’d slap a smile on my face and reply, “soon honey, soon.”  It took every ounce of courage I had to put that smile on my face, and reassure my child that his mother would be home once again.  It was my courage that kept me from unraveling during those moments.  And it was my courage that allowed me to continue to give my child what he needed the most…hope.

      I have found out much about courage over these past years. I have learned that not only do you carry courage within you, but you can lend it to others-- that it builds on itself.  As you use courage, the more courage you will have. You may have to dig deep the first time you use courage to face obstacles or challenges in your life, but the more you use your courage the less deep you will have to dig. Pretty soon, you won’t have to dig at all. 

     Courage will be the first tool you grab to get you through your own personal catastrophes, or when you’re cast in a play you didn’t audition for-- when your lines are difficult, challenging, and maybe even foreign.  

     When I am asked to describe myself now, the word “courage” does jump to the forefront of my mind.  I have had to go to battle more than once in my life.  I have laughed in the face of death, and sneered at doom, and even chuckled at catastrophe. And each and every time, I have been petrified.  But I move forward, never being frozen in fear. 

     So, acknowledge the courage inside you even if you have to dig deep.  Be willing to accept that you have courage-own it. Continue to use it in everything you do.  The day will come when courage is simply a part of who you are. And maybe you will even be able to chuckle at catastrophe. But if you can’t and you’re feeling petrified, your courage will allow you to learn your new lines and not become paralyzed by stage fright. It will help you on your survivor’s journey…always moving forward.