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My Lemon was that doctors told me I would never walk again. My Lemonade is that with the power of God and my positive attitude, I am able to inspire many others with my journey and story.
My story begins in 2008. I had been living in Atlanta for 8 years and was caught up in the wrong crowd and addicted to drugs the whole time I lived there. I ignored the signs that I had been sick for a while. I weighed only 120 lbs., I had no energy and my face was so emaciated that I looked like death. I reached a point one night when I decided I had had enough, so I called my mom in Florida and she was there the next morning to take me home. That’s when I said “bye” to the drugs and never looked back.
Living at home at the age of 35 was humiliating. My parents told me that I looked and acted like I was very sick and that I should see a doctor. The problem was that I had no insurance. Luckily there was a branch of the Duval health clinic right down the road, so I started going there. Little did I know that they would be placed into my life by God to save my life. They tested me for everything under the sun. They kept asking me if they could test me for HIV and I kept refusing them. I used to think there was no way I could have HIV. HIV was for dirty people not for me. I was in complete denial.
During the year of 2009, I suffered three TIA’s (mini strokes). The last one was the worst one. Then I gave in and let them test me for HIV. I also had an MRI to see what kind of damage the TIA did to my brain. Both results were told to me the same day. I was told that I had AIDS and the MRI showed that the virus had made its way into my brain and damaged my cerebellum. It was so much told to me at once that I was numb. I didn’t know how to react. Then I had to go home and tell my family.
It was the hardest thing I had ever done. I sat on the couch when I got home hugging my knees. I started to cry. All of the sudden my mom came up to me crying and she yelled at me asking, “DO YOU HAVE AIDS!!?!” I solemnly answered yes. She cried and then told me, “you know you’re going to have to tell your father when he gets home from work!”
To shorten things up, after I told him and my sister, I was treated like I had leprosy. No one could use the same bathroom as me and I had my own utensils to use. I wasn’t even allowed to get upset about things because they believed that “you brought this on yourself so deal with it”.
I started my first HIV med and the side effects were horrendous. It was one pill a day. As I took it, I started noticing that my walking became more and more difficult to do. The doctor kept me on that medicine until I broke out with painful blisters all over my body. I now know that it’s called Stevens-Johnson syndrome. The doctor took me off of the medicine and put me on Prednisone to help clear up the blisters. When I woke up the second day of being on the Prednisone, I couldn’t stand up at all. I had completely lost my ability to walk.
I had to wait six long months to get my first appointment with a neurologist. I had been waiting a long time to find out exactly what went wrong and why I couldn’t walk. I went into his office. He did a couple of strength tests and memory test then told me “you’re not going to be able to walk again”. He only spent about 15 minutes with me after I waited 6 months to see him. I just knew I would find out at least something about why I couldn’t walk. All he said was that I had brain damage. I was infuriated with him and I was immediately determined to prove him wrong.
I remember praying about it because this was out of my hands. Before I knew it, I was starting physical therapy at the best physical therapy center in Jacksonville. I went in with the most positive attitude and the willingness to work as hard as I could at every session I had. I believe that God put my physical therapist in my life. Ms. T. cared so much about my recovery. She worked me hard and she knew how determined I was about walking again. We made a great team.
Now is when the happiness starts. One day in therapy, Ms. T. had me walking on a treadmill using a harness that held me up as I walked. She came over to me as I was walking as she said, “I think today is the day you have been working for, today you’re going to take your first step on your own.” She took me over to the parallel bars and instructed me to stand there and close my eyes. Block everything out. When I was ready, pick a spot in front of me and when I felt ready, “Take your first step”. I not only took my first step, I took FIVE steps that day. I will always remember how I felt that day.
After I settled down, I immediately felt the desire to create a website for people who have illnesses that need encouragement and I needed to spread the power of positive thinking. Attitude is everything. I just knew I would call that website: wewalk2win.org. I knew nothing about designing a website, but I was up for the challenge. I would face any hurdle, as long as I could help at least one person. Wewalk2win means that even if it takes small steps to reach your goals we keep walking to win.
So many wonderful things have happened in my life. I think that having a disability and seeing where you were and where you are now makes you appreciate the small things in life. In 2010, I met my now husband. I used to think I would never find someone who would date a guy with a disability. He has been so supportive and an integral part of my recovery. He always pushes me when I doubt myself. The greatest thing I’ve done, because of him, is when I walked the entire length of the local mall all by myself. Now if that doesn’t prove the doctor wrong I don’t know what would.
I now tell my story to anyone who I feel needs to hear it. I hand out wristbands that say wewalk2win as an encouragement tool. When you feel like giving up, just look at your wrist and hopefully you will pick your chin up high and keep trying. I feel like I was given a second chance at life so that I can help others by inspiring them about the power of being positive and to never say “I can’t”.