Live Bella Soul

 

I believe in the human race, love, and hope. I also believe EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON! The world can be ugly most of the time. People forget everyone is fighting a battle. People feel alone. They are afraid to open up their hearts, to feel alive, and of things they can’t control.

I did not start living a full life until this past semester. I had my third and hopefully, final surgery this past July. Before my surgery, I never knew what it was like to not be in pain. I never went a day without a stabbing pain in my lower back and abdominal region. I never knew what it was like to eat without feeling nauseated or have a functional body.

Before I begin talking about the future, I should start from the beginning. My life began in Illinois or should I say our lives? My twin sister and I arrived in this world together. We were healthy twin girls. My parents were thrilled. They had been trying to have children for more than ten years.

No one saw what was coming next. My twin sister, Lauryn, contracted meningitis shortly after birth and was then diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She could not talk, walk, or eat. Lauryn was my soul mate; she is and was my other half. Whenever she had a procedure or spent another day in the hospital, I danced for her. In that instance, we became like our natural selves again, smiling babies, her, my smiley angel. Our relationship was different than most siblings, we never talked, we would just sit, lay, or hold each other and knew everything was going to be alright.

Lauryn is the main reason I never gave up and the reason I believe in love! I could look into her beautiful, blue-green eyes, and see the world. I saw someone who was going to be with me no matter what, even if God chose to separate us. I can envision her eyes to this day. I knew her soul, and she knew mine. She is my biggest fan. Lauryn still has every bit of my heart and always will!

Life was very difficult growing up with a twin who was so ill. My childhood memories are of the hospital, holding my crying sister’s hand, or seeing my parent’s horror. My life was not without joy. Lauryn gave something to my family that we can never replace; she gave us peace! It is indescribable but even in the midst of chaos our family was perfect and happy. I am lucky to have felt such real and genuine love. Lauryn died when we were eight years old. I remember saying, “Why is everyone crying so much? She took a vacation, and we are going to see each other again!” I believe this to be true with my entire heart.

Life without Lauryn was an adjustment, but she influences my decisions in life to this day. After she died, I found sanctuary at the hospital. I volunteered in high school and eventually was on the Board of Directors. It was what I knew. Any child who is sick or sibling who is with that child a majority of the time has an entirely different outlook on life. The hospital and life outside the hospital are very different places.

I had a passion for athletics. However in high school, I always found myself throwing up in the bathroom after basketball, soccer games and track meets. I drank water like a racehorse but couldn’t stay hydrated. My cross-country coach said, “I see how much pain you are in when you run. You push through it, but have you gotten it checked out?” I saw many different doctors, but no one could ever explain my pain. The night of my prom was a turning point. My parents rushed me to the hospital in agonizing pain.

A new doctor and an ultrasound revealed the problem. My renal vein was behind my aorta instead of in front. It was being compressed by my spinal cord and aorta that caused internal bleeding, congestion in the kidney area, and lack of blood circulation within my body. I was so grateful to understand what was wrong with me.

The next battle was figuring out how to go from here to there. The doctors at the Mayo Clinic performed the first surgery of its kind to correct my problem. I could barely breathe, walk or eat. I felt my body had been ripped open. I never wanted to suffer like this again, but the pain remained and a second surgery was necessary to reopen my renal vein.

I went back to school after this surgery but was in constant pain once again. While my new college friends were out having fun, I was lying in bed feeling hopeless. I searched to find meaning for what had happened. I asked God, “What was the point of taking my twin away and then having me live every day in physical pain? Is this a joke?” My faith in God was shaken but after my third surgery this past July, I have never felt better.

Lao Tzu said, “People who live in the past are depressed, people who live in the future are anxious, and people who live in the present are at peace. ”

This quote is a favorite quote of mine and inspired me to create Bella Soul and live in the present moment. Bella Soul addresses, supports and provides financial aid and scholarships to individuals in college who have chronic health problems, physical disabilities or disease. Our website provides a home for individuals to connect with others who have similar conditions. Bella Soul wants to help young adults feel in control of their body and situation no matter what the circumstances. Sickness can take away your body, but nothing can take away your soul!

 

 

Shannon Strader

About the Author | Shannon Strader

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