Today I’m celebrating eleven years breathing with a double lung transplant! Even though a decade has passed, this particular day is still overpowered with great emotion for my family and I. The following timeline is unfortunately an accurate account of my life. It was my intention to write only small snippets of happiness.
I am twelve years old when I lose my hearing from ototoxic medication. Over a period of one year, suddenly I am deaf. I am forced to lip read, watch closed captioning, and learn basic sign language. I’m not included in conversations, I can’t speak on the telephone, and I cannot hear the one thing I love most- music. I am also diagnosed with cystic fibrosis related diabetes.
Watching TV makes me happy.
I am thirteen years old when I am added to the United Network for Organ Sharing lung transplant waiting list. I’m wearing oxygen twenty-four seven. I can barely walk across a small room without gasping for air. I am sleeping in a sitting position to avoid coughing every night. I am attached to I.V. medications, I swallow a handful of anti-bitoics and vitamins every day. I am suffering. I am strong, but I am tired. (Matthew 11:28) I have never prayed before, but I am desperate. I ask God to send me Home.
Jesse McCartney makes me happy.
I am fifteen years old when I receive a double lung transplant on March thirteenth two-thousand-seven. Recovery was the most difficult experience of my life. Despite making it this far, I still want to give up. My kidneys are failing immediately afterwards and I am at the hospital three days a week for three hours of dialysis. Four months after my lung transplant I receive a kidney from my mother. I am diagnosed with PTLD seven months after my lung transplant. I am able to bypass chemo therapy after adjusting medications.
My dad makes me happy.
I am seventeen years old and because I missed a significant amount of school from being too sick I am struggling to graduate high school on time with my peers. I feel so far behind. I skipped over the majority of my teenage years. I am lost. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I’m too scared to go to college. I move in with my grandparents – into a house I’m not accustomed to, sleeping in a bed that is not mine, and in a bedroom that is not my own. I am experiencing muscle pain in my back and legs. I’m prescribed muscle relaxers that make me drowsy.
My grandma makes me happy.
I am eighteen years old when I visit a psychiatrist once a month. I am prescribed anxiety medication. I attempt talking with a couple different therapists. This does not work for me. It actually makes me feel worse.
After years of using insulin syringes I finally agree to try an insulin pump to better control my diabetes.
I have never felt so alone before. Who will want me? I am broken. Who will love me? When I’m not sure I even love myself. I don’t know it yet, but this is still not rock bottom. For the second time in my life I am praying fervently- for God to send me love.
My boyfriend (now husband) makes me happy.
I am twenty years old and I am not just broken- I am shattered into a million pieces. I live with survivors guilt. I give up too easily. I have done nothing with my life. I have failed. I am angry. I cry. I am alone. I have no purpose. I am smiling on the outside, but on the inside I’m screaming. I try and try and try to discover my passion. I attempt playing along with my husband’s hobbies, but this doesn’t satisfy me, I try drawing, but this doesn’t satisfy me, I begin making jewelry, but this doesn’t satisfy me.
Nothing makes me happy.
I am twenty-two years old when I lose my sense of smell due to recurring nasal polyps. It’s hard to enjoy food when I can barely taste it. I still can’t find my purpose. I am not getting any better. In fact, I am becoming worse. Way worse. I am thinking, “I don’t want to be here anymore”
Reading makes me happy.
I am twenty-three years old and it’s my wedding day-except I am not happy. For some strange reason my wedding dress is way too tight! I can hardly breathe. I am sitting here with curlers in my hair, make-up on my face, and a lump in my throat. I am staring up at the ceiling to keep the tears in my eyes. Someone very important in my life is not here. They are not dead. They are alive and well. Oddly enough, I am not blaming them. All I can think about is the regret squeezing around my heart. My Regret- I have to live with this feeling for the rest of my life and I will never forgive myself for not having the courage to stand up for what I wanted from this person. I am greatly damaged from this. Even as I sit here typing, I am shaking. I can barely see from the tears pouring down my face. I forgive this person with all the love my heart can hold. (Colossians 3:12-14)
My mom makes me happy.
I am twenty-five years old and I’ve been married for two years. My marriage is struggling. Did I make a mistake? Is this really my soul mate? (Song of Solomon 3:4)
I am at the cardiologist for symptoms of rapid heart beat.
I have completed a sleep study for experiencing daytime exhaustion.
I am seeking God. I go to church, I listen to worship music, I pray, I read the Bible, and join a study group. I am writing in a journal about my spiritual journey. My hobby is “adult” coloring, but this doesn’t satisfy me. I begin a blog showing my art’s and craft’s project’s, but this doesn’t satisfy me.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was baptized for the second time in my life on November eighteenth.
My donor saved my life, but Jesus saved my soul!
Writing makes me happy.
I am twenty-six years old and I’m still here. For the first time in eleven years my smile is real. I am living with purpose. I am a woman of God. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a niece. I am a friend. I am a home-maker, writer, blogger, artist, and leader. I can confidently say I am finally free from the chains that were so heavily bound around me for almost half of my life.
My husband and I are stronger than ever, because when you find the one you never give up. (1 Corinthians 13:13) We are supportive, respectful, giving, and dedicated. Both of us will always recognize that God brought us to each other. If God did that, then nothing is impossible. (Luke 1:37) Maybe it’s just a coincidence my husband has the same initials as Jesus Christ, but maybe not?
I stepped into an unfamiliar church during a brisk October morning two years ago. It was the best decision I ever made. I am surrounded by believers. I am leading my own church group. I love bible journaling. I read daily devotions to keep me motivated. I am encouraging others to Make Their Mark.
God makes me happy.
I do all of these things while I praise the Lord and say, “You did this!” God’s love always prevails! (Proverbs 19:21) He was present even when I wasn’t seeking him. I came knocking on death’s door a few times, insisting I couldn’t handle any more, but he wouldn’t let me in. God has lead me on a journey much different than the one I might have wanted, but I’ve learned he will indeed give you more than you can handle, because he wants you to build perseverance. (James 1:2-3) He wants you to have a reason to live. You can’t be who God wants you to be without going through deep waters. Above all, I’m positive I will never fall again and again, because I have God and that is enough. (Psalm 46:5)
Stay true to yourself. You are not alone. The one who falls and gets back up is much stronger than the one who never fell.
Sometimes it takes eleven years to have that one year that will change your life forever.
Miracles are real. (Deuteronomy 10:21) How do I know this? I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes. I’m living it. God took someone who was completely broken and transformed her into someone twice as strong and beautiful than she was before. He wouldn’t welcome me home fourteen years ago when I prayed and pleaded because he had much bigger plans for me than I had for myself. I am forever grateful for his amazing grace. I am standing tall, full of hope- the anchor to my soul. (Hebrews 6:19-20)
So, here I am. I did it. I won. I don’t know how. After every giant wave that has nearly drowned me I’ve still managed to swim and survive. If your will to live is strong enough you can conquer anything. (Luke 21:19) I may still be here, but I am evolving. I am a work in progress. God is not done with me yet. I am unfinished.
Listen to Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham
If you’re not yet an organ donor, please consider registering. You have the power to add eleven plus years to someone’s life- the greatest gift you can give. If you’re skeptical, read these organ donor myths.