{Election 2016} Your Voice Is Not Lost

For some it’s just an election. For some it’s a chance to make a choice and to shape our country. For some it is our duty to vote while others say “ahh someone else will do it so I don’t have to.” 

I know it’s over. The media keeps telling me that. I know it’s a new day, but this new day is filled with uncertainty. The country I believed in is no longer the same as it was on Tuesday morning. You say there is nothing I or anyone can do. But there is, we all have a voice, a voice that can change the world around us. 

In 2009 I became a pre-existing condition. I paid more for insurance than my healthy counterparts. The law allowed this. In fact I was grateful because the law also said that they could deny me coverage based on my pre-existing condition. When I switched to contracting I couldn’t afford the insurance premiums so I went without. Which was on my part a costly mistake. 

I was angry and heartbroken so I did what any American would do, I got involved. I started talking to my law makers, I joined advocacy groups that allowed me to use my voice. I started raising awareness and speaking all over the country about the importance of affordable healthcare. My part was tiny but it was indeed a part in what we now know as the Affordable Healthcare act that changed my life for the better. My outspokenness earned me an invitation to Washington D.C. to give a speech on the capital steps right along side Nancy Pelosi and other members of congress. To them I mattered I am the American they were fighting for. 

Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. He sees it as a failure and not a success. To some it is a failure but to the people who are benefiting from it, it is a godsend. The rising cost of health care should not be blamed on the affordable care act, look deeper more people than ever have access to care which means insurance companies are paying out more and taking less in. Which in turn causes them to raise the premiums and copays for services. 

Repealing the Affordable Care Act will not stop the rising costs instead it will make care inaccessible for people just like me. Millions of Americans will be cut off from the care that they so desperately need to survive and that they cannot afford without the ACA. My fear is that my health care will once again become inaccessible. Millions of Americans are sharing this fear right now. We are waiting for this new day to unfold with abated breath, our lives they are on the line. 

This country can either thrive on fear or it can rise up and greet it. One thing I do know is that the grass roots of this country are strong and just like before we can make a difference. Start speaking to your law makers tell them why the affordable care act is important and how it benefits those in your life. Start talking to your neighbors let them know that love trumps hate. Start making a difference, set an example for the next generation. Show the world the we are better than Trump’s words and actions. We are America and as long as we love her she will never steer us wrong. 

{Weight Watchers} Thinking Outside of the Grocery Store

I spend my bus ride to and from work scrolling through the Weight Watchers Connect feature. People post about their struggles, their triumphs, and mostly their relationship with food. On how they would eat their feelings and stressors. Some admit that eating brings them the pleasure that their lives are lacking. One woman said “a pint of ice cream never gave me a nasty stare.” Some ate out of boredum. In their words it dawned on me that so many Americans have a terrible relationship with food. For many it stems from their up brining and using food to cope. 

I’d like to believe that our eating habits reflect our up brining and life style. For me food was always available. My parents were eating organic before organic was a buzz word that graced grocery shelves. Every fall my parents would get a hog from Huttles in Lake city and vegetables/fruit from a meat locker in Downsville. It was a big day when the call came the our bacon and ham was ready for pick up. We had two chest freezers, you know the big ones that you can hide a body in. One was filled with pork and the other fruit,  vegetables, and ice cream. As my parents loaded the freezers I would play in the empty boxes while begging “can we have tater tots!?” 

My parents made sure that my tiny hands touched the soil. A good part of my childhood was spent tending to our small orchard and the fruit trees at our house in town. My dad taught me how to plant, trim and care for our trees. In the fall the picked apples and pears went to Ms. Dorothy. When I think of Ms. Dorothy I think of summer afternoons picking cucumbers, tomatoes, and preparing dill bundles for drying. Ms. Dorothy is the reason I have an obsession with mason jars. She taught me how to can vegetables and fruit, to make jam, apple sauce, and soup. Ms. Dorothy and my parents brought the farm to my childhood table. 

As a child the grocery store wasn’t fun, the only thing my Mama bought was milk, bread, juice, Shasta, and cereal. I would try and sneak canned ravioli and pasta into her cart, she always caught me, took it out and said “no.” I would get so mad because all of my friends were eating canned food and boxed Mac & Cheese, I wanted to eat like they did. It didn’t matter how much I whined, I never got it. Mainly this was for my own health. 

Back in the 80’s food labels held little to no valuable information.  Canned and boxed prepared foods were loaded with salt. Sodium was the enemy in our house, my kidneys couldn’t handle it and my body was still healing from bladder reconstruction surgery. At one time all I could keep down was yogurt and jello. Trust me I have eaten more jello and yogart, than one soul can handle. Fish was a staple, until an eye ball appeared in my fish sandwich. Vegetables, I have a non existent relationship with vegetables. If it’s a root vegetable I will eat it, but you will not see me sit down to a salad. Salads are for rabbits, not humans. My Mama often made two meals, one family and a separate bland meal for me. 

Even when I was given a clean bill of health, we still stuck to the low sodium no processed food regime. In college I was finally away from my parents and you guessed it I bought canned ravioli……. they were disgusting, same with boxed Mac & Cheese. I have never eaten Ramen or a Twinki, I am probably the only American who has achieved this feat. Over the years I have gained and lost weight. My weight gain was not due to my eating habits, but my lack of activity and the medications I was taking. Add in two pregnancies…. then you get the picture. 

The fore mentioned is what brought me to Weight Watchers. Over the past month I have been asking myself “do you eat for comfort? Do you eat because you are bored?” The answer to both  questions is no. For me food is nourishment and not comfort. Don’t get me wrong I love me some comfort food! Many ladies eat because they are stressed or emotional. When I am stressed food is the last thing I want. I rather take a nap or veg out on the couch. If I’m emotional, I want to nap with my dog, not food.

Food doesn’t define me, I define it. My farm to table upbringing has a huge impact on my relationship with food and choices. I stray away from microwave meals, canned goods, Tyson products, and artificial flavorings/sweeteners. Sure I look at pop tarts and granola bars longingly, but I know they are not good for me. Cupcakes and I well let’s just say I can’t have just one, so I don’t even bother to bring them home. Same goes for cookies, cookies stay on the shelf. For me it’s knowing what triggers a slippery slope down fall. Those triggers stay at the store, where they belong. 

It takes a lot of strength and will power to pass up the bakery department and center isles of the store. All of the good stuff lies on the edges. Even better the freshest food lives at your local farmers market or butcher. Don’t be defined by your grocery store, think outside of the store and buy from your local farmers. 

{Hearts on 22} I’ve Got Weight to Lose and a World to Gain 


What can I say, I am a Minnesota girl through and through. I have a deep deep love for all things tasty. Chocolate isn’t my cup of tea, it helps that I am allergic to it, but girl I can get down with a slice of lemon cake or an apple pie. Preferably pie, I’m not a big cake fan, but if cake is in the room chances are it will find its way into my belly. 

Bacon it doesn’t stand a chance! I am in LOVE with bacon. It was a big deal when I said to Jay “I love you more than bacon!” When I am not with bacon, I am with cheese. Wisconsin’s greatest gift to the human race was CHEESE!!! Fresh cheese is the best cheese, it’s even better when battered and fried, cheese curds are literally a girls best friend. Who needs dimonds when you have cheese curds! 

We need to get real! I mean like really real here folks, thou my love for bacon and cheese is strong, it is starting to show on my ass, my thighs, and every where else it can accumulate. I am starting to feel it in my knees and I have to squeeze myself into my pants. I like wearing pants that don’t squeeze my innards and allow me to eat food while they are buttoned and or snapped up. I also like shirts that leave a little wiggle room. My dresses are more forgiving thou they to are getting a little tight around the ass region. 

Guys and Gals, shopping isn’t AJ’s thing! Yes I am female and yes I just admitted that shopping isn’t my thing. Sorry boys I know I am a catch for that very reason, but I am already happily taken. Anyhoo back to the wardrobe, something has to give I love my current clothes and I want them to love me back. So this only means one thing, “AJ needs to make a life change.” As in clean up her eating and get her ass moving like a boss. 

I should know a thing or two about weight loss and healthy living. My first job out of college was with Jenny Craig as a Program Director, I sold the program and counseled clients along their journey. It was fun, but if you know me and you know me well I HATE prepackaged microwave meals! Like hate them, they never look like the picture on the box, they are loaded with salt, and not to mention the chemicals in the plastic tray that leak into your food during the heating processes. Yes, I know I’ve put way to much thought into that. Anyways I did not want a plan that requires me to live out of my microwave or drink shakes. I wanted something that would fit into my life and not fit my life into a diet.

Enter advice from the world’s greatest best friend Sherri, she said why not try “weight watchers!” Hmmm I instantly pictured little old ladies in swim caps doing water  aerobics while counting points. Then there is Oprah, she’s always yelling “I LOVE BREAD” and urging us to give weight watchers a try. I did some research and took Sherri’s advice, I signed myself right on up for the program. $20.00 a month isn’t so bad plus there is a handy dandy ap that synchs with my Fitbit. Bonus Jay is also going to be working the WW plan too. It’s nice to have your BFF and life partner on board, otherwise this journey would be boring.

The Weight Watchers app is pretty simple to use and was easy to setup. My goal is to lose 34 pounds by my 34th birthday. Which is 10/27/2016, I figure slow and steady will win this race. Best part is I do not have to deprive myself of anything. I still get to have my beloved bacon and cheese. Everything has a point value, foods higher in sugar/saturated fat and sodium have higher point values. Which helps steer you towards healthier choices that will eventually result in drops on the scale.

The Weight Watchers Beyond the Scale program also focuses on activity and non-scale victories. I love that my Fitbit synchs with the weight watchers app. I earn extra points to use during the week based on my activity level. AJ don’t run unless she is being chased but these shoes were made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do. Non-scale victories can be as small as turning down Deseret or as big as finally fitting in an airplane seat. You choose your own victories and celebrate all of your success that happens off the scale.

I have been working the program since April 2 and I can honestly say I don’t feel deprived or hungry. I am less bloated and have more energy. Thou I still need naps, naps are my jam man. Cullen is tired, tired because his legs are short and we have been going for longer walks. He really likes naps too! Below is my before photo and hopefully my after will look drastically different. I don’t want to be a skinny mini, I want to be a size healthy and feel comfortable in my own skin. Because Beauty knows no number. 

Before!!!!

You can follow along on my journey as I will be sharing the tips and the tricks that I learn along the way. Besides we both know I am going to also be sharing my success and the down right funny moments of this process too! It will be fun so put on your walking shoes and come along with me! 

{Go Red} Hearts For Fashion Show

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Every February Boston Scientific sponsors the Hearts for Fashion show as apart of the Go Red for Women expo at the Mall of America. The show allows survivors to strut their stuff down the Go Red for Women runway, all while putting a face to heart disease and stroke. Survivors are not the only ones strutting their stuff, the designs of local students who were inspired by heart health, survivors and the color red will also line the runway. This event allows the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign to educate the public about women’s heart health through fashion. What girl doesn’t love fashion, I know I do.

Last year I was invited to be apart of the Go Red for Women campaign which included posing for a billboard, gracing many bus stops around the metro, and being a part of a PSA commercial that was aired on channel 9 through out the month of February. I am not use to being in front of the camera, I am the quiet type that walks the capital halls, so it was a big change for me and I am glad that I did it.

This year I was invited to walk the runway in the Hearts for Fashion show. I have watched the show for many years and always thought it would be fun to be a model in the show. When the offer came I gladly accepted and waited for the day to arrive. My outfit was on loan from Macy’s Mall of America and Ginny did a great job at dressing me. I was a little bummed that I did not get to wear a red dress in the show, but its ok I got to rock a modern suit instead.

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I had to be at MOA by 8AM for makeup and hair. Our makeup and hair was done by the Minnesota School of Cosmetology students. The girls did a really great job with my updo and makeup, they made me feel like me but better. With hair and makeup in the bag it was time to get dressed. Jay was in charge of collecting my parents and bringing them to MOA for the show. Jay was successful and soon they arrived and Jay’s eyes lit up when he saw me all done up. That’s how I knew the girls did good. A ton of photos were taken and soon we were released to go down and watch part of the show.

I didn’t practice my walk. Being in heels made me nervous, I just said a little prayer and hoped for the best. Lucky for me I didn’t trip!!! That is a miracle in itself and I took on that runway like I was made for it! Yay! Go Me! That is until I looked over and saw my Daddy and Jay plus my Mama all teary eyed. It took everything in me to hold it together, if I see tears I start to tear up, so it was a miracle that i didn’t start crying too. Now Sherri she was the only one holding it together like a boss. Survival is more than the survivor, without my parents and Sherri who knows where I would be, they have been with me since day one of survivor-hood.

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Being in the fashion show was a lot of fun and I know Jay had a blast pulling all of the bobbi pins out of my hair. I think he pulled out close to 30 or so, it takes a lot of pins to tack my curly mop down.

{Go Red For Women} “I Lived” is why I Go Red 

 
“I Lived” is why I Go Red. Survivorhood is a beautiful disaster. There is no guidebook or follow the dots for survivorhood, each woman has to lay the bricks for her second chance. There are moments where I wish someone would hand me a guidebook and to show me “this is how you do it.” But then I think to myself, “on October 22, 2009 you were given a blank book and only you know how to write your second story.” 

 Make a difference. Amongst all of the fear and unknown I stopped to ask “how many other women has this happened too?” In one moment of disaster my passion was born. I wanted to make sure that no other woman endured my fate, I wanted to make a difference and raise awareness about the side affects of hormonal contraceptives. 

1 out of 3 women will die from heart disease and stroke. 1 out of 5 people will survive a pulmonary embolism. Those odds are not in our favor. So many women have no idea that their birth control puts them at a higher risk for blood clots, stroke, and heart attack. When we look at these odds one most stop and ask “are they preventable?” The answer is simply, yes they are. 

Education starts with you and me, together we can help medical professionals learn the signs and symptoms of blood clots. They do not live in our bodies, we do and we know our hearts like no buddy else does. It still bothers me to this day, that it could have all been prevented. I could have skipped the pain and avoided the aftermath. That if my doctor had listened to my symptoms, she could have ordered the d-dimer test and the clot would have been stopped before it hit my lungs and eventually my brain. I have to live the rest of my life knowing that this didn’t have to happen. 

But it did. A beautiful disaster the ignited my passion and gave me purpose. I got a second chance to live this life. I am blessed, I am amazed, and sometimes I feel like I am living someone else’s dream. It’s mine, every pothole, pitstop, and curveball are mine. In the moments of disaster I found myself. I found the strength to continue dancing on the good days and laughing on the bad. I cherish each moment, for I know I am living on borrowed time. I’ve stolen almost seven years from the sandman and I pray that I will steal a few dozen more. 

From billboards, to bus stop posters, to PSAs and beyond. Six years ago I had no idea that my story would have so much value and impact on the people around me. State lobby days allow me to make a difference and national lobby days allow me to take a stand. With tears in my eyes I stood on the U.S. Capital Steps right next to Nancy Pelosi, giving a speech on the impact and importance of the Affordable Care Act. You’re the Cure has given me a platform to make a difference and for that I am forever grateful. 

  

Time. Be it given or borrowed I do not take it for granted. I survived the worst day possible. I lived. I’ve squished a lot of life into the past 6 years. I got a divorce, adopted a dog, found a job that I love, mostly amongst it all I found myself.  I became a mom, Lucia and baby E rest in God’s heavenly arms. I spent time with my father, wine tasting and thrift stores are our jam. My mama and I spent time in the dells, shopping and lunching. Those two, they are my rock. 

Our family grew, I watched my sister become a mom, Sophia and I are bonded for life. I got to paint Sophia’s toes and take her to her first movie, Charlie Brown of course. As I was letting go of Baby E, I again watched my sister welcome her second child. Jack doesn’t know it yet, but he is one lucky little dude, aunties like me are hard to come by. Sophia and Jack are spoiled, I treasure each moment and love them beyond measure. Their Auntie, I will always be. 

Love slowly seeped in. Fate brought me my best friend, my confidant, dinasour loving, dirty joke telling soulmate. In Jay I found home, in me he found the woman he will soon call his wife. We were so close to parenthood, but Baby E was never meant to be ours. Jay. and I have hope that our rainbow Is just around the corner. 

Who knows maybe if the stars align this time next year “motherhood” will be my why. I would love that “why” very much. 

But for now: “I Lived” is Why I Go Red

 

{Go Red for Women} #GoRedMN – Selfie time!!!

I have some totally awesome news to share!!!! 

 
We all know you love taking a good selfie and you love to share that awesome selfie on social media. We all love to share and now our sharing will earn funds for a very important cause. 

From February 5 – 14, 2016 The St. Jude Medical Foundation will donate $10 per selfie up to $25,000.00 for every selfie posted on social media  with the hashtag #GoRedMN. How stinking cool is that!? Breakout your selfie stick, practice that duck face, strike a pretty pose, get your friends involved, heck take one with your dog and go red for the women in your life. 

Remember to use the hashtag #GoRedMN, if you don’t it won’t count and I will be sad. Be a superstar and use one of those fancy apps to link your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter together. That way you only have to create one post and you share it on all of your platforms! 

A huge shoutout and thank you to the St. Jude Medical Foundation for their commitment to women’s heart health! ♥️ 

{Go Red for Women} Being an Auntie Is Why 

 One out of three women will die of heart disease. One out of five women will be impacted by heart disease in their lifetimes. If you ask me one, is one woman to many. Many believe that heart disease and stroke only affect the elderly, sadly this isn’t the case. The thing about Storkes is this: “they are a thing, they have no idea how old you are, or the color of your skin or your weight, they strike when you least expect it.” Stroke is not an elderly thing, it’s an every woman thing and they are 80% preventable. 

My stroke was the direct result of a hormonal contraceptive. I had gone to my annual exam and displayed all the signs and symptoms of a blood clot and my doctor ignored me…….. Yes you read that right, she ignored the signs and told me to drink some water and walk more. Her medical advice seemed half hearted and rushed. Something in my gut told me to get a second opinion, I never sought that second opinion, instead one week to the day I drove myself to the ER. 

I drove myself through rush hour traffic to the ER and that is where my second story began. I was fighting for every breath I could muster and fading fast. The CT scan revealed a clot the size of a 10cent gumball blocking the main valve that connects the left lung to my heart. Blood was barely getting past the clot, my heart was in sinus tachycardia, and my blood pressure was rising, all ingredients for a perfect storm. A storm that lead me to have a stroke right in the ER, clot busters were given to me and blood thinners were started, and I walked out of the hospital four days later.

I survived the unthinkable, only 1 out of 5 survive a pulmonary embolism and walking away unscathed from a stroke is a miracle in itself. What hurts the most is that all of this could have been prevented, there was no need for me to die almost five days before my 27th birthday. My pulmonary embolism and stroke were 100% preventable. All the doctor had to do that day was listen to me, a simple test called d-dimer could have identified the clot before it reached my lungs and my stroke would never have happened. Yet, I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, in a moment of disaster my purpose was born.

I fight for all of the women who were asked to leave the table. For those women who never got a chance to say I do. For those women who never got to watch their children grow up. For those women who never got to become mothers and for the survivors who will never hold a baby of their own. For those who never got to hold their nieces and nephews. 

Thousands of women’s lives are being cut to short. Thousands of children are being cheated out of there mothers, aunties and grandmas. Not to mention think of all the men who never got a chance to meet their soulmate. We can change this! You and I can change this, by simply going Red. When we go Red we raise awareness of heart disease and stroke in women. When we go red we raise funds for life saving research. Mostly when we go red we save lives. Life is why and no woman deserves to fight alone.

If you need proof that “Go Red” matters, look at Sophia and Jack, they will tell you “it matters.” My family will tell you “it matters!” My story could have ended diffrently, Sharon would have picked out an urn instead of a 27th themed Halloween birthday cake for her daughter. Jammie’s children would be learning about their auntie through photographs and stories. Because of the American Heart Association’s life saving mission I got that 27th themed birthday cake and I get to be Super Auntie! 

So yes Go Red does matter and it does make a difference! Please join us and go red for the women in your lives on Friday February 5, 2016. 

Being an Auntie is Why I Go Red 

{Go Red For Women} I can have bad days too!? 

  There is no perfect survival story and there is no guidebook called “how to live your second chance.” Life is messy, it’s a beautiful disaster. Some survivors chose to curl up in a ball and wish the world away. Others are filled with anger and they become bitter with age. Some simply give up before they give them selves a chance to rise. Then there are the ones like me, a special breed who doesn’t deal with the mental/ emotional aspect of what happened, yet they want to change the world. 

When you survive the doctors do a really good job at taking care of your body. Your mind and soul are left with you to repair, as they do not have time for that. They simply cannot mend what they cannot see. 

Trauma leaves scars behind. Pulmonary Embolisims and Strokes take pieces of your soul and if you survive they leave you with survivors guilt. I’ve spent more days than I can count wondering why me and why not her? Why am I allowed to take a seat at the table while so many women are asked to leave? Fate she amazes me, maybe she saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Maybe she knew that I would grow in a moment of darkness. 

I never looked at my PE and stroke as a tramatic event, for me it was a horrible event that I wanted to stuff in my pocket. I wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible, it never crossed my mind that I needed to deal with the mental and emotional side of survivorhood. In my eyes I was doing a really good job at running from my emotions and memories. My back pocket held my PE, the Stroke, Lucia, Divorce, and Charlie. As long as they stayed in my back pocket I was safe. I believed whole heartedly in the old adage “out of sight, out of mind.” 

A soul can only carry so much disaster before its seems break. My seems burst long ago, I was living on patches, throwing myself into my work and crying my tears into the muppet like dogs fur. When I turned 32, I knew something had to give, I thought “therapy is only for the crazies and for those who can’t get their fucking little ducks in a row.” My ducks were lined up in size order, my exterior was iron clad, and crazy, ha I probably am but hey that’s ok who isn’t a little off these days.

Research, I checked the health partners sight to see what my plan covered,Watercourse is where I landed. Turns out they were right around the corner from my apartment, I had driven by their office for years. I slowly dialed there number, a nice lady answered, she asked if I had a couple minutes, I said yes. I unfolded the items hidden in my back pocket, she repeatedly said “you poor thing,” and promised to match me with a therapist. I was sceptical and hesitant, a few days later they called, her name was Emily. My first appointment was scheduled. I was ashamed to tell my friends “hey I’m gonna go see a therapist so I can learn how to deal with my shit.” 

Walking into Watercourse I was in denial and skeptical about therapy. Mostly I was afraid she would tell me “you are insane, here is the name of a psychiatrist.” No one wants to be told they are crazy. Emily didn’t tell me I was crazy, instead she asked me question after question and with each answer the items in my back pocket unfolded into the room. She started to build a picture of my past and my survival mechanism “put it in a box and deal with it another day.” 

Bottling up emotions is not the answer. Eventually the top is going to fly off and you will end up in a puddle of tears on your appartment floor. Trust me I know about this kind of thing. Emily understood the road I was walking on and through guided conversation we traced each step. We discussed how I don’t always have to be perfect, she told me “it’s ok for you to have bad days too.” Emily was the first person in 6 years to tell me that it is ok to have bad days or off days or any kind of day I want. Everyone else acted like I shouldn’t complain or have a bad day, instead I should be grateful that I am alive. 

I am grateful to be alive, I know that a few minutes could have given me a different ending. I am a stubborn survivor, help is something I rarely ask for. In my mind asking for help is a weakness and shows your flaws. Emily made me realize that we all need a little help and that people want to be needed. I am so used to being the helper that I put my own needs aside. I do everything on my own, including driving myself to the ER, because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone or ruin their day. Which I wouldn’t recommend you do, ask for help, don’t be like me. Then again I have turned a new leaf and have learned its ok to ask for help. Jay can attest to this as he has taken me to the ER about 3 times now and carries heavy things for me. I am still not great at it, but I am learning that it’s ok to not always be the helper. 

I’ve been seeing Emily for over a year now and she has helped me immensely. Not only have we delt with survivorhood but we delt with Lucia too. Everyone says “oh you will have more children,” without knowing those words cut through me like a knife. A grieving mother doesn’t want those words, she wants her children. When a plus sign showed up in May I was terrified and did not want to get to attached to the contents of my uterus. She let me know that these feelings were perfectly ok and that with time they will fade. That I didn’t have to be afraid of an ultrasound machine and that I have a right to demand that we handle this pregnancy my way. 

That + sign slowly turned into an empty sac, I was crushed. I felt defeated that my rainbow eluded me. Emily helped me deal with my emotions and fears when it was determined that a D&C was the best course of action. Without her help I probably would never have gone through with it. We talked about the procedure and that it was ok for me to speak up if I didn’t like something or if something felt off, after all it is my uterus. I did my research and found a doctor who understood what I had gone through and he promised he would take every precaution he could to protect my uterus. He did just that and he said “I have no doubt that you will carry a baby.” Those are the only words I needed to hear, that I can have babies too.

A perfect storm, the past 6 almost 7 years has been waves of disaster. Between each wave I found calm and enjoyed the beauty in the silence before the next one came crashing down on me. I was sailing in a beautiful disaster. My boat on the outside her haul was perfect, but on the inside my engine was slowing burning out. Therapy helped me really examin each wave, to realize that there was nothing I could have done to avoid them and we cannot simply see in to the future. If I did manage to avoid each wave my life would be drastically different and I wouldn’t be me. 

The biggest lesson I learned is this: it’s ok to seek out a therapist. Sometimes one goes through so much that she needs another soul to help her deal with it. I had no idea where this therapy journey would take me, I just went in with a semi closed mind and came out stronger than ever. The doctors they fixed my heart and lungs, but Emily she mended the one thing they couldn’t fix, she mended my soul. 

We are all in this together. 

Mental health is often overlooked when it comes to heart and stroke patients. So many doctors only concentrate on the physical and leave their patients to struggle through the why mes, the what ifs, and other questions that plague survivorhood. The thing is we do not have to go it alone talk to your doctor, let then know about your struggles. Because one’s mental health plays a huge part in their  recovery. If your mind is not in the game, then your heart surely won’t follow. 

To learn more about  Watercourse please visit: Watercourse Counseling 

{Nuva Ring} She Had to Break, Before She Could Shine

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One email told me that my settlement check had been cut and mailed out. I knew that the post office closed at 5PM, so today wasn’t going to be my ending. I got home at 5:10, breezed past my Birchbox and opened the mail box to find the all important “we missed you card.” The back of the card said the post office was open til 5:30 PM, it was 5:10, I knew I could make it and I did with 8 minutes to spare. Damn it door is locked, I show the man looking out the window my card. He opens it a crack to tell me they are closed, I explained “sir the back of the card says 5:30.” He points to the hours on the door, the door says Close 5:00 PM and 3:30 PM on Saturdays, again I pointed to what the card said. He explained he was the supervisor and they were closed. I had come so close, yet so far from being done.

I could feel the tears fighting through, I looked at the man and said “Sir, I have been waiting six years for this letter, I know waiting one more day won’t hurt, but you see Sir that letter is my closure, its a settlement check, a check I’ve been waiting six years to see. He started to notice the tear rolling down my cheek, he said “here let me look at that, I don’t normally make exceptions, just wait here ok. He closed the door and disappeared inside, he emerged a few minutes later and told me to come in. In his hand was the letter with a logo I have seen dozens of times, but today it meant it was all over, I just needed to sign and closure would finally be mine. I tearfully thanked him for making the exception, explaining he has no idea what his kindness meant to me.

The tears began to fall, I sat in the drivers seat holding the envelope in my hands, quickly realizing that my tears were staining the envelope, I figured I should probably open it. I did, never in a million years did I think I would see this day. Never in a million years did I think I would see a check. It was just this distant far away untouchable thing, that was never meant to be mine. Yet, there it was in my hands, my name was spelled correctly, its mine and mine alone. I was never in this for the money, I am humbled by what I received. The check doesn’t take away what happened or undo the past six years or bring back my son, but in some way it validates that what happened to me was wrong. Merck never had to admit wrong doing, they will not be held accountable for the deaths or thousands of injuries that the Nuva Ring caused, they simply just had to payout and walk away to operate another day.

I never signed up to get rich, I wanted to stand up for myself and to prevent this from happening to anyone else. Having your life change in seconds scars you, it changes you in ways words cannot begin to describe. If I would have known that this little plastic ring would bring me to the brink of death, I would have left it on the prescription pad and asked my doctor for something else. We as humans cannot see into the future nor can we relive the past, we are in this haze called the here and now, it holds us and comforts us, in away it protects us from the journey ahead. Because if we knew our road was going to be lined with pot holes, tears, and fear, we would stop traveling and stay just as we are. October 22, 2009 taught me more lessons than I could ever begin to explain, it taught me to fight for myself and to always listen to my body, because she will never steer me wrong. It taught me to love my friends like sisters, to cherish my family, to dance on the good days and to fight on the bad. Faith is something I always have, as long as she is at my back, I will face the wind and sail the angry seas.

Survival is a funny thing, you go through phases and it is an ever changing sea, no wave nor current is the same. There are moments where I feel guilty because I lived and someone else’s daughter died. One out of five people will survive a pulmonary embolism with infarction, one out of five is a shitty equation if you ask me. I feel guilty that I have no long term physical or cognitive side affects from my Stroke. I see other stroke survivors struggling and my heart breaks, I know why my out come was different than there’s and it kills me inside to know that if they had received TPA there outcome most likely would have been like mine. I am forever in debt to my Woodwinds care team, One question saved me, if the doctor never paused to ask “are you on a birth control,” my mom would have picked out my urn instead of my 27th Halloween themed birthday cake. Woodwinds will always have a place in my heart, because its where my second story began.

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Looking back my second story has been a beautiful disaster. A disaster that is mine and mine alone, I would not trade this journey for anything in the world. On October 22, 2009 I had no idea that one moment would lead me to give a speech on the capital steps in front of members of congress. I had no idea that I would be come a You’re the Cure Advocate and lobby in Washington D.C., I had no idea that I would be a voice that would help get the MN Stroke System of Care passed and funded. I had no Idea that I would be a Go Red Spokeswoman who shined on billboards and a public service announcement. Money doesn’t matter, using your story to make a difference is how you fight back, fighting back is what matters. Merck may never have to admit their wrong doing, but I can tell the world what happened to me, through my story I can save another woman’s life. I can get her to think about her heart health, her risks, and get her to ask her doctor questions, questions that will lead to answers that will improve her quality of care and ultimately her quality of life.

I am who I am because of Merck and the Nuva Ring, they will always be apart of me. In one moment of disaster I found my purpose and I am never leaving my soap box. But the thing is behind every thriving survivor is an amazing village of supporters. I am so grateful to have the worlds greatest best friends, Sherri, Jilliann, Lisa, and Tara never left my side, on the bad days they picked me up and pushed me to go a little bit further. My parents, they are the rock in which I build my house upon, they gave me strength when I had none. My Mama always looked over my INR numbers and medication lists to make sure the doctors were treating me correctly. My Dad and I are like two little old men sitting on a porch discussing chest pain and the days gone by where we could run and fight to live another day. Now we just sit in our rockers and watch the world go by, running is for the young folks and well neither of us would win a fight. My dad has rescued me from more tight spots than I can count, he’s never seen the ocean, he made damn sure that I traveled the globe not once but twice, so I am paying it forward, I am taking my Dad to the seashore, I want him to feel the mist and to stand on the edge of the world.

I got a chance to be the Auntie that I was always meant to be. Sophia and Jack could be learning about me from old photos and their mama’s memories. Because of early intervention and research their Auntie was saved, they get to hold her hand. The day I became an Auntie is the day my heart healed, Sophia and I have been bonded since day one, little Jack is learning all about super Auntie. Those two have my heart and there will always be a surprise for them in my purse. Sophia and Jack are why, there tomorrows are what I am fighting for. Both of them deserve to grow up in a world free of heart disease and stroke.

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Second Chances are far from perfect. Lucia was to be the sun after my storm. Instead God had other plans and just as before the winds of change blew through and I had to sail the waves of grief. Losing Lucia allowed me to put myself first, I called it quits and walked out of my loveless marriage. Divorce was not an end, it was merely a beginning. I traded the ex-husband in for a little muppet like dog, which is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. You can never go wrong with a dog. On a hot August day a small white dog with a big gray nose rescued a human and he never looked back. Cullen became the glue that kept me together, as long as I had him at my side, I was never alone. Together we took on uptown, strolled through the parks and picked up glass on the beach. Cullen has provided me with endless laughter, he makes the bad days brighter and life is more fun with a muppet like dog at my side. Cullen was the love that my heart needed.

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Love found its way in, Charlie will always be apart of me, I think that in away Charlie knew that he was not my forever, only a mere moment. He allowed me to be, to heal, and to find myself. Charlie allowed me to believe in love again and when he died, my heart broke. Yet I knew Charlie wanted me to carry on with living and not be stuck in the land of what if. I had to break before I could shine. Jay fell into my in box at the perfect time, my heart it was ready to love again. Jay’s love was the glue that my heart needed. With each date I began to fall for him. In Jay I found home, he has my heart and I have his. Jay joined me on the tail end of the Nuva Ring law suit journey, I am glad that he is at the end, because together we can turn the page and walk away to start a new chapter. Because this is only the beginning the best is yet to come.

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There were moments where I wanted to throw in the towel and give up this fight. But then I looked in the mirror, I faced a woman who lived through the worst day possible. She never thought the birth control she took would almost take her life. She was weary and weathered, yet she still faced the sun. Her womb carried children she never met, yet she still has faith that one day she will hold a baby in her arms. Her heart was broken and jaded, yet she still manages to love. Little did she know, she just had to break before I could shine. I am living on borrowed time, my life it is a beautiful disaster and each day I am standing above ground means that the best is yet to come.

Merck you may have won this battle, but the war, it rages on. I will not give up until there are none, because no woman deserves to fight alone.

{Happy Birthday} Goodbye 32, Hello 33

  
I of all people know that with trial comes triumph. We cannot have the good moments without the bad. It’s how the world turns, no one’s life is meant to be perfect. A perfect life is a life not well lived. Mistakes are lessons and trials are our teachers, with each trial we gain strength. 

32, was a gosh darn great year. I have finally found my stride and I’ve come to terms with the fact that “life goes on.” In February I graced billboards, bus stop posters, and the TV screen raising awareness for women’s heart health. Being part of the Go Red Campaign was a privilege and an honor, I got to meet some amazing ladies that I now call my friends.

From billboard to DC, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be giving a speach on the Capital Steps next to Nancy Pelosi and other members of congress. The American Heart Asssociation, gave me the opportunity to share my health insurance journey with the nation. I got to thank members of congress for securing my healthy tomorrow.

Life, it goes on and love, it finds a way in. Never in a million years did I think year 32 would be the year I fell in love, again. I let myself fall, fall for a man who loves me for me and accepts that our life isn’t meant to be perfect. 

On Mother’s Day Jay and I found out that we were expecting. I was terrified the impossible just became possible. Jay was excited, he spent time looking up baby items online, we started to plan out our nursery, picked out named, and I slowly let myself love our baby. Only to have my dream dashed. 

Our baby, baby E was not meant to be. Right now I should be 6.5 month pregnant, I’m not, our little sac never formed a fetal pole. Two sperms, they said fertilized the egg and a pathology report said it was a partial molar pregnancy. It just wasn’t meant to be, someone needed a baby more than we did, motherhood was so close yet eluded me in year 32. I have faith that my 3rd and Jay’s second pregnancy will be the charm, mother is a job that I desperately want. 

In July it became official I was no longer a single girl, I was engaged, I belonged to someone and that is what I’ve always dreamed of, I wanted to belong and not be alone.

My nephew Jack arrived in July and I fell in love all over again, he has his auntie wrapped around his little finger. Sophia is getting bigger by the day, she is turning into a sassy little lady. I love those two littles with all of my heart, the greatest title I have is Auntie, there is no better job than that. 

32, was my teacher, it taught me to never lose faith and that if I believe in myself anything is possible. I will walk away from 32 knowing that my body is still capable of creating life, my heart she may be weak, but she beats on, and that I am more than a dollar sign. Merck will always be apart of me, year 32 is the end of the Nuvaring’s chapter, life it goes on.

With my muppet like dog by my side, my life quietly fell into place. I have a man that I adore,  I got a new job that I love, and I’ve got hope for a very bright 33.