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.
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.
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.
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.
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.