Monday, March 7, 2011

Calling All Survivors

The Voices of Survivors

Many of my friends and family would describe me as a survivor. I agree. I am a survivor.  On February 13, 1997, biological warfare was waged on my body. I lost several battles before I eventually won the war. I lived. I survived. And like many veterans of war, I lost limbs in the battle. The loss of my legs and my right arm, below the elbow were casualties of the Strep A bacterial infection that entered my blood stream, and began eating me alive from the inside out, almost declaring victory. It wasn’t until I regained consciousness, forty five days later, that I realized what had happened to me- the full ramifications of that war left my life reeling out of control, left me a triple amputee, and re-defined me as person.  On February 13, 1997, my life was changed irrevocably- permanently- forever.
If I told you that my recovery was an easy one, that I hit all obstacles in my path head on, and that I was driven by my sunny disposition to get better, I’d be lying to you. Once I became totally lucid and aware of what all had happened to me and what little I was left with, I came undone. I knew I was out of the woods as far as living was concerned, but I had to figure out how I was going to live. I was overwhelmed, I was desperate, and frankly I was holding on simply because I didn’t know what else to do. I became a prisoner of my own war. 
Two events occurred soon after I came out of my coma, which held life altering consequences for me.  The first one came from the doctor who flew with me on the fight for life helicopter. He would stop by my room-still in ICU- and greet me with a cheery “Good morning miracle lady.” I am the first to admit that his words were not connecting with my heart. I was angry that he continued with this daily repartee, because frankly, I didn’t feel like any one’s miracle.
I stopped him one morning, dead in his tracks, before he got his usual greeting out. I asked him why he called me “miracle lady”. He told me that during our flight, my heart stopped twice. When we landed at Porter hospital, and met the ICU team who was assigned to my case, one of my nurses asked him what my prognosis was. Was I going to make it she implored?  And his response was, “If she makes it through the night, it will be nothing less than miraculous.”  He looked at me with the most tender and sincere smile, “and that’s why I call you ‘miracle lady.”’
It was that very moment hearing his words that I felt my life literally do a “180”.  I felt enormous gratitude that I had survived a death sentence.  I had not a clue of how close I had come to not having a life, and came face to face with my own mortality. The full knowledge of knowing that I was fighting the war- even on an unconscious level- was almost unbelievable and certainly overwhelming. This time, however, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge of how close I had come to dying, and overwhelmed with gratitude that I had survived.  Believe me being overwhelmed with gratitude is far better than being overwhelmed by depression. That very morning of that very conversation gave me an opportunity to choose between going forward with a new life or staying stuck, wanting a life that no longer existed.
The second event came shortly after that.  I was having a particularly difficult evening.  Even though I knew now that I was going to live, and I was tremendously grateful for my life, I was still desperately ill.  I began to panic.  Missing three limbs and half of my chest literally stripped down to my rib cage, I was painfully aware of what I had left to work with. I lay there wondering how I was going to manage my two small children, a husband, a home, my job… I began a mantra of “how am I going to make it?”  I was spiraling down that tunnel of fear and desperation.  I had my eyes closed, and my hand resting on my pillow close to my head.  My frantic mantra was playing over and over again in my mind.
And then amidst my panic, I felt something shift.  My fear subsided a little, and my thundering heart began to slow.  I felt the calm in my chest before it reached the other parts of me. I had an inkling of something refreshing like the way the air smells right before a rain shower on a summer’s day, and then I felt it entirely.  An incredible presence in the small confines of my hospital room enveloped me. I sensed a giant hand encompassing my battered useless hand, which was lying next to my head on the pillow. I knew what it was without looking. The words “I am with you” were spoken in my ear. My desperate mantra uttered seemingly so long ago, was replaced with peace, with a settled calm within my soul. As I opened my eyes, I saw an amazingly beautiful Ivory Gold light shimmering right by me.  That light held for me more love, and more peace than was imaginable. I was transcended, and forever transformed within mere seconds.
My nurse came running into my room. She was well aware that something had happened. I was hooked up to many monitors reading my vital signs, and those readings were sent to a central area in the ICU.  When the person monitoring the read-outs noticed that my vital signs were rapidly changing, he alerted my nurse.
“What just happened?”  She said as she flew into my room.
“Oh Sarah,” I was crying now, “I just saw my angel.  
 She had witnessed indirectly what I had witnessed directly. The evidence came from the changes in my vital signs.  My blood pressure, which had been precariously low, had increased to a normal state. My heart, which had been racing, or what the doctors had referred to as “tachycardia,” had slowed to a normal rhythm, and my blood/ oxygen level which had been low increased to a healthy normal level.
She wrapped her arms around me, both of us in awe of this incredible life altering event. I knew without reservation that I was going to live and live well.  I had survived totally, and completely.  I had survived another battle!  And I finally recognized that I could claim total victory over the war! I started anew, and never looked back.
It took me almost six months to get out of the hospital, out of rehab, and back home.  It took me almost a year to reclaim my role as mother and wife.  When I left my family, my baby had just turned a year old.  My oldest son was four.  When I re-entered my life- my home- nothing was the same.  My baby had no idea who I was, and my four year old was terrified to go to sleep every night. He was certain that when he awakened in the mornings I would either be gone again, or dead.  I had a lot of work to do bonding with my little guy, and re-establishing trust with my older son.  To say that it was heartbreakingly sad and difficult would be an understatement, but I dug in and began the work of healing me and my family.
I used every survivor’s tool I had acquired in the hospital for the repairs.  I woke up every morning grateful for another day, with the determination to make it a good one. I recognized that every second with my children and my husband was a gift.  I had desire, I had determination, and I had purpose.  There was a reason why I had been given a second chance, and I wasn’t about to squander it.
 When the other shoe dropped, I again opened up that survivor’s tool box. Because I had lived through my own tragedy and survived, I was much better equipped to handle the events which would once again rock my family.
 A year and a half after I had come home, my husband Michael was diagnosed with stage four, adrenal cortical carcinoma. He died twenty months after his diagnosis. I was devastated, and left to pick up the pieces of three broken hearts. I dragged all three of us back up on the proverbial horse, and we eventually began to ride it. My children and I began our long journey of healing.  Our battle cry was “one foot in front of the other.” We won the war.  And once again my life was changed-irrevocably-permanently-forever.
We still have obstacles to overcome, and sometimes the odds seem skewed and stacked against us, but we continue our battle cry. We move forward, we don’t look back, and we live each and every day as survivors.
I have had a wonderful opportunity to meet many people through different projects of which I have been part.  I meet with individuals who have survived limb loss, or are faced with amputation.  I have facilitated a support group for amputees, and have helped families deal with the effects of cancer.  I run into survivors everywhere I go.  I have heard stories that have raised the hair on the back of my neck.  I have heard stories which have been heartbreaking, and devastating.  But always, the survivors of those stories leave me feeling up-lifted and inspired.
I want to shout these stories to the rafters!  I want everyone to have a chance to hear the stories of survivors, because without a doubt those stories will leave the listener changed, and changed for the better.    So, the question begs how am I going to do this?  How can I share my own story and other survivor stories with the masses?
Here is the answer.  I am asking people from all over, from all walks of life, to share their stories of being a survivor with me. My intent is to compile these stories and put them in a book.  And my desire is to have that book published, and get it out into the world.  I truly believe that the world needs to hear “The Voices of Survivors”.  
I am asking anyone who has a survivor’s story to share, or if anyone knows a survivor whose story needs to be heard, to contact me at  Please put “survivor story” in the reference line.   Each person whose story appears in the book will be recognized as a contributor to this book.
I am asking everyone to share this blog with everyone you know….there are survivors everywhere in this world, who need to be heard.

Friday, December 31, 2010

And The Stories Keep Coming

“For one moment our lives met our souls touched”   
                                                             Oscar Wilde                                             

She was pushing a shopping cart down the middle of the street close to my house.  She was wearing a man’s coat at least two sizes too big.  She wore boots that looked like they had come from a construction site.  She had a baseball cap on her head, and she looked dirty and totally unkempt!   

I stopped my van, right in the middle of the street, and rolled down my window, “Hey, ma’am” I called to her, “I have something for you!”  She had sense enough to move her shopping cart out of the middle of the street and park it in a nearby parking area.  I’m sure all of her worldly possessions were in that cart.  As she started over to my van, I quickly jumped out and opened my back door.  There was a box on my backseat with one Christmas stocking left in it.  I noticed that there was a pink, gray, and black knitted scarf right on top of the stocking.  I handed it over to her, and she smiled a big toothless grin.  “This is great” she said, and in an instant we were hugging each other like the best of friends.  “I’m so dirty” she whispered in my ear.  “I don’t care” I whispered back.  I could smell stale cigarettes and dirt, and the stench of a hard life,on the streets. But, every breath I took of her scent was heavenly! 

 We parted, and with a smile even bigger than before, she thanked me.  There was a track on that dirty face where the tear was traveling.  My smile matched hers, as did the tear sliding down my own face.  “Merry Christmas,” I said.  She waved her hand, already crossing the street.  She was cradling her stocking in her arms.  I jumped back in my van and set out for home.  I didn’t even have to wonder which one of us had received the better gift that day!  

The stocking I gave out to her was one of over 200 stockings given out this year to homeless people on the streets of the Denver/Metro area.  

 Last year, my sons and I wanted to do something meaningful for the holidays.  I remembered a story one of my friends had told me about her cousin.  He was living on the streets in Santa Fe, and he told her to never give money to homeless people.  Being a tender hearted person, she couldn’t stand to pass by anyone in need.  She asked her cousin what she could give to those out on the streets.  He simply stated “food.”  And so she began carrying granola bars in her car.  Now, whenever she sees a homeless person, she hands them a granola bar.  With her story in mind, I thought it would be great fun to stuff Christmas stockings for our homeless folks.  I discussed it with my two sons, and they suggested that we have a Christmas stocking stuffing party at our house.  

I e-mailed my friends and told them of our plan to stuff stockings for homeless people, on the streets.  I asked them to bring personal use items small enough to fit in a stocking, and asked for any “gently used” Christmas stockings they may have “retired” from years past.  I told them that I would feed them “fine” Mexican food, and it would be a great party.  My goal was to fill 25 stockings.  

Much to my amazement, twenty-three people came with their donations and stockings, and we stuffed 83 stockings.   One of our party-goers was a teacher at a local elementary school, and her school got involved making and decorating stockings for the party.  Adorned with glitter, sequins, and cotton ball and glue Santa beards, the stockings were beautiful in every sense of the word.  The party was great fun, and the stockings were stuffed within a half hour of stuffing commencement.   At the end of the party, I asked everyone to take stockings to hand out.  To see what a small gift can bring to someone who has nothing, is a gift within itself.  I wanted the whole family, parent and child alike, to be able to witness the beauty in the giving.

And then the stories started coming in.  Friends who had delivered their stockings were deeply touched by the responses they got.   One of my friends recounted  that when she gave her first stocking out  to the homeless guy at the corner of an intersection, he looked at her in amazement, and asked “Is this all for me?”  She said he had a big grin on his face, and before she could drive away, he was sitting on the curb, looking at every item.  She was quite moved by this encounter.  Another of my friends, who had several stockings to hand out, got accused of being Santa Claus.  He said that there were five men standing in the day labor line, one early morning.  He stopped his truck and grabbed the stockings and started handing them out.  Before he had time to get back in his truck to leave, the men were looking through their stockings and trading items, “just like a group of little boys,” he said.  And the stories just kept coming.  Everyone brought a tear to my eye and my heart…well it was bursting with joy.

I had friends ask me if we were going to do the stocking stuffing again this year, before the Christmas season even began.   I had been planning on doing it again this year anyway, but their excitement and desire to do so sealed the deal. Riding on their enthusiasm, I decided to grow the project. This year, I planned way ahead of time, and gave the stocking stuffing an actual name, and Project Stocking Stuffer was born.  I knew that if we had even one more person than we had last year, I would need a bigger place to host it.  I asked the local charter school where both of my children had attended school, if they would let us use their gym.  They, of course, were happy to do that for us and we were off and running.  My dear friend Mickey helped out with the planning and organizing, and got her sorority involved.  One of the local YMCA mother/daughter groups wanted to help, as did the National Junior Honor Society, at the charter school. 

I began sending e-mail out to friends and family, in early October, regarding the project, and asked them to spread the word.  And keeping with the Mexican food theme, I asked everyone to bring a Mexican food dish for a potluck.  Mickey and I cooked for everyone last year, but we knew this year would be more than we could handle on our own.   I could not believe the response I got.  I was overwhelmed with donations, lovingly referred to as “stuff”, and the amount of volunteers, lovingly referred to as “stuffers”.  The week of the Project Stocking Stuffer party, my living room looked like a warehouse.  I had many people drop off their stuff so I could get it organized, before taking it to the gym.  There was everything from tooth brushes and tooth paste to crackers and foil covered Christmas candies- much to my little dog Lilly’s delight.  I had to watch her closely, as she was certain that all of the food items were for her!  Thank goodness the stuff was only in my living room for a few days before the party, or my dog and I would have both been out of our minds.

On Sunday, December 5th, the glorious event began!  Stuffers began coming with more stuff and their Mexican food dishes. Mickey and I weren’t sure there would be enough food- what foolish thoughts those were!  When we finally got everything organized and the stockings ready to stuff, I stood back and watched as 60 plus people formed the line ready to stuff their stockings.   I could hardly believe what I was witnessing.  Every molecule of my being was glowing, as I watched the love being poured into those stockings.   I was watching it in slow motion, as if under some miraculous spell, and not unlike the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes that day. 

All in all, we stuffed 193 stockings to the brim, and the YMCA mother/daughter group took the ten half filled stockings, and were going to fill them and give them out.  What a wonderful way to start the season of giving. And the best part- the stories began to come.

 Mickey was stopped at a light at an intersection.  Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced at a man standing in the median.  He was an older guy she reported. He was obviously one of our many homeless people, here in the Denver /Metro area.  She rolled down her window, and called him over to her car.  As he approached she noticed that he was pretty grimy.  She told me that he looked like he had been on the streets for awhile.  She took a filled to the brim Christmas stocking out of the stores she had with her in her car.  

As she handed the stocking over to him, his face broke into a wide grin.  “I can’t remember the last time I had a Christmas stocking”.  His voice was filled with amazement as he took in every inch of that stocking.  “You are a nice lady” he said in earnest, “thank you so much!”  

She began to explain that it wasn’t just her, but many people who were involved in filling and delivering these stockings.  “We just want to bring a little joy into your holiday. There’s a card, which will explain it all in your stocking”, she said. 

His clear eyes looking out of his dirt stained face met hers.  “I guess God has given two blessings today.”  “Two?” she asked, not quite sure what he meant. 

He nodded his head, “one for me and one for you.”  The light changed and she wished him a Merry Christmas, and with a “God bless you” on his lips, she drove away.

 When Mickey recounted this story to me, I was deeply touched. I thought about my lady with the shopping cart, and her clear eyes reaching out to me from her dirt stained face.  “This is what it’s all about Mick!” I said.  “Yes” came her emphatic reply, “this is truly what it’s all about!”

Stuffers organizing Project Stocking Stuffer 2010

Every Christmas card in every stocking got this message

Stuffers connecting with each other

And around the corner is another table  with stuff!

Let the stuffing begin!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Veterans' Day at the Y

  Sporting my red white and blue sweater, I swept into the gym at my local YMCA.  I was there to help with the annual Veterans’ Day breakfast hosted by our Y.  With over 100 Veterans in attendance, we had a lot to do.   I sang patriotic songs this year, which was a first for me, hopefully not the last.  I’m waiting to see if they ask me back.  After my Veterans’ Day singing debut, I filled my plate with sumptuous breakfast items, and sat at a table full of people.  I introduced myself to the gentleman across the table from me.  He told me that ne was a WWII Air force veteran.  He was a gunner in an air craft that flew in combat over Europe.  He sported his WWII ball cap proudly, and his stories were regaled with enthusiasm, without hesitation. I then turned to my left and asked the man sitting next to me if he was a Veteran too?  He said that he was, although there was no hat sitting atop his head.  I asked him in which war he had served.  I was guessing Vietnam or Desert Storm, because of his age.  He said that he was in Vietnam.  I asked him what branch he had served in, and where he had served.  Getting that information out of him took all of the finesse of my inner Barbara Walters.  I said that it was interesting to me that most everyone here today are WWII veterans, or Veterans of the Korean War.  He said that it wasn’t unusual.  He told me that relatively speaking Vietnam vets don’t participate in Veterans’ Day events like WWII veterans, and more recent veterans do.  He told me that many Vietnam vets, for the most part don’t publically acknowledge their role in “that” war. It wasn’t said with menace or bitterness, but stated with a bit of sadness, a mere fact.  I asked him if it was hard for him, coming home after serving his 13 months in Nam.  “It’s different today” he said. “I was in the airport last month waiting at the gate for my flight.  Two servicemen got off the plane that had just landed, and people started clapping as they were walking into the airport.  There were cheers and people thanking them for their service.”  He then recounted that after he got off the plane, coming home from Nam, he literally ran to the bathroom to take off his uniform.   He told me of incidents of being spit on and being called “baby killer” by his fellow Americans.   His words again were not hostile or venomous, but matter of fact.  I asked him if he had been drafted.  “The majority of us were” he said, “me included.”  I felt hot angry tears spring to my eyes, and a lump in my throat start to form.  I remember the Vietnam War.  I remember that one of my sister’s high school friends had been killed in Vietnam in 1968.  I don’t remember hearing about what a war hero he was. I remember crowing my anti-war sentiments loud and long to my parents, and feeling pretty good about hating the Vietnam War.  But as I sat talking to this man, a veteran who would rather have not been a veteran at all, I began to understand the word “service”.  It really doesn’t matter what I think about the war.  It doesn’t matter if I believe we should be in Iraq or Afghanistan.   The fact of the matter is we are there, and thousands of men and women are exchanging their lives for service to our country.  As I looked around at the “old guys” smiling and laughing, I turned to the guy next to me and asked “do you think we’ve learned?   Have we grown up a little as a country?”   He shrugged his shoulders, “Oh I don’t know.  But I will tell you this, I was one of the people clapping for those servicemen getting off of the plane, and it helped me some too, knowing that civilians appreciate the risks these soldiers are taking.”    He added that he wished he would have never been ashamed of his uniform.  I looked him in the eye and told him that there were many people in this country who had a lot more to be ashamed of, than he did!    I told him how honored I felt getting to share breakfast with him.  I told him that I hoped he would come next year, and allow us to honor him and his service to our country.  We got up, hugged, and together thanked each other for very different reasons.  As I left that breakfast I felt somber and a little emotional.  I looked across the street at Ft. Logan National Cemetery.  I whispered heartfelt thanks into the air to all of those fallen soldiers, each one a hero regardless of which war they fought or where they lost their lives.  Next Veterans’ Day, I will (hopefully) sing patriotic songs, and get to share my breakfast with another amazing Veteran, another hero.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I'm Glad I Read It

I received an e-mail yesterday.  It was one of those e-mails that you don’t even want to open.  You know the kind, the ones with the cute cartoon pictures that have cute sayings or words of “inspiration” attached.  Cliché ad nauseum!   But I was suckered in by some clever reference made by the sender, and opened it.   After scrolling and reading I sent the thing on to everyone in my address book. The e-mail had a simple, but powerful message, “be grateful for what you have.” I want to emphasize here, that I rarely forward e-mail.   Of course everyone I know “rarely” sends forwards.  So how do I end up with a plethora of e-mail forwards?  It’s a rhetorical question.  Please do not e-mail me your answer. 
After pondering over that e-mail, I was reminded of a copy of a poem my mom had on her refrigerator, for years.  I must have read it a hundred times, but the only line I remember goes something like, “…I was complaining about not having shoes to wear until I met a man with no feet...”  And even though I can’t remember the rest of the poem, the meaning, “If you think you’ve got it bad, just check out the next guy…he’s got it worse.” rang loud and clear.   In recent years, I’ve heard that message over and over again from friends, and acquaintances alike.  My friends and family tend to use me as the “next guy” a lot. 
They even call me to tell me about it.   It comes in the form of someone feeling down, or hurting their back, foot, hand, or some other body part, then followed by, “but when I thought of you, I realized I had nothing to complain about!”   I’m the comparison poster child, the one who possibly couldn’t have it worse than anyone else.  I try to explain that I’m not the person who should be the bench mark for misery.  Frankly I’m not in misery, I don’t feel down often, or have aches and pains out of the norm, for someone my age.   I’m pretty upbeat and pain free most of the time.  I tell them that their pain and anguish is something they need to feel and not feel guilty about, simply because it couldn’t possibly be as bad as anything I’ve gone through.   I often find myself saying “It’s not a comparison.”
The other day, however, I found myself with the proverbial shoe on the other (fake) foot.  I had a call from my Rehab doctor asking me to meet with one of his new patients, a woman who had had both of her hands and feet amputated.  Often times I get calls from doctors, or other medical professionals asking me to meet with their patients who are having amputations, or who are recovering from having just had an amputation.  I do peer support visits with these people.  I am a sounding board for emotional unrest, a resource they can use.  I am there to answer questions about limb loss, prostheses, or try to address any other issue that can arise from losing a limb. 
Being a triple amputee, I understand the world of limb loss!  I feel strongly about lending my support and helping new amputees adjust to their situation. I want them to know that there is someone who intimately knows the challenges, the heartache, and the fear that accompanies losing a limb or limbs.  When I was new to the world of amputation, I had no amputee who came to do a peer visit with me. There was no one I could ask if something was normal, or why I was feeling certain things from a limb that no longer existed.  I had no information regarding resources or support.  Doing peer support visits is extremely important to me, for those very reasons.  I was happy to meet with her.
She was teary eyed and anguished through some of our visit, but she was also brave, and self-assured.  She spoke about her family, her three children, and her husband.  She wondered out-loud if they would be better off without her.  I asked her if her family members were telling her that they would be better off without her.  She said “no” that they were glad she was alive, that she had survived.  I told her she needed to believe them!  After visiting for a little over an hour, I left.  I asked her to get in touch with me if she needed anything, or wanted more information.   As I was walking out of the hospital, and then getting into my car, I was wondering how she would manage to do the things that I do with relative ease, like driving for instance.  I thought, “Wow, I’m so blessed that I still have one remaining limb, and don’t have to deal with having no limbs, like this poor woman.”   As soon as that thought materialized I stopped!  Was I now joining in as a new participant of that comparison game?  Was I doing the very same thing to her, as my friends and family do to me?
 I know that this woman will adapt, and get on with her life, as I have.  She will find her new normal, and after awhile, the thought of whether or not she should have “made it” will become less and less frequent.  In time, that thought will be replaced with a feeling of being blessed that she did make it as much for her own sake, as for her family’s.   
As I rallied around my confidence in her abilities to rebuild her life, my thoughts and feelings directed me to a different perspective.  A new realization dawned on me.  I began to understand that my friends and family aren’t really playing the comparison game at all.  They are giving testimony to my courage, my determination to never give up regardless of my circumstances, just as I have given to this woman.  I have come to understand the poem on my mom’s fridge a little better too.  And like the e-mail I forwarded on, the meaning is now crystal clear.   “Regardless of what you don’t have, be grateful for what you do have.”
The next time I get the call from someone who shouldn’t feel bad about an ache or pain because, after all, look what I have been through, I will thank them for their testimony.  I will thank them for thinking that I am brave and determined.  And after I hang up the phone, I’ll get on with my new normal believing  that all is right with the world, and be darned grateful for another day!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The "RE" of Cindy Charlton

I am new to the blogging world, the website world, and the speaking world.  And although the proverbial "green pea",  navigating uncharted waters, I am nonetheless fascinated as well as fearful of what is to come.

I've titled this post as the "Re" of Cindy Charlton because at the age of 53 I find my self re-defining who I am, re-evaluating what I am doing with my life, and re-living the past thirteen years.

For the first time in my life, I am doing something that I love to do.  I have found that telling my story of survival to others, is healing for me and "inspirational" to them. I have been told by many who have heard me speak, that I "lend hope", and give "renewed strength".  I am re-defining myself as a public speaker.

Within the context of that, I find myself re-evaluating what I am doing.  Am I good enough at speaking to be effective and desirable?  Can I earn enough money doing this to support my family?  But, regardless of the questioning doubt, I'm practicing what I preach!  My three D's have become the hallmark of my life, "Dreams, desire, and determination (the art of never giving up)", as well as my motto.  I will continue to evaluate and re-evaluate all that I do, all that I am.

Over the past four or so years I have been writing my memoirs.  But after engaging in public speaking, writing speeches about parts of my story, I have come to realize that the reason I haven't been successful in writing my memoirs, is because I have simply started at the wrong place.  My life, as I now know it actually began thirteen years ago.  The odds were stacked against me, and I was not given a chance to survive.  So in essence I did lose my life.  But it was replaced with a better, more purposeful, and far more valued life.  And as I write, I re-live events...some good, some not.  But in total they have made me who I am today.

I like who I am....I just wish I was skinnier!