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Two years ago, I would never have called myself gutsy. I had absolutely no interest in going skydiving, I left the room if Jaws came on, and eating a hot pepper was the furthest thing from my to-do list. No, I wasn’t gutsy; I was a rule follower to a T. I skipped a grand total of one class in college and, much to the dismay of my friends, it took me until the second semester of my senior year to do so. I ate well, exercised daily, took my vitamins, and was known to drive to the store at 10 PM if I realized I was out of floss.

Granted, I have always loved a fantastic gallop down an open field on a speedy horse, but that has never felt gutsy, it just felt natural. There are always exceptions, I suppose.

I was a happy, healthy, newly-wed fourth-grade teacher when my life turned absolutely upside down. A random virus passed along from my students wreaked havoc on my immune system and paralyzed my gastrointestinal system, along with parts of my vascular and musculoskeletal systems. Seemingly overnight I became a young woman on medical disability, being fed by a tube and watching multiple parts of my body struggle to survive, over and over again.

No amount of flossing could have prepared me for this.

In the span of two years, I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis, POTS, Grave’s disease, Cancer, Dysphasia, Raynaud’s disease, IBS, Visceral Hypersensitivity and Vocal Chord Paralysis. I have collected new allergies like baseball cards, eliminating more and more foods and medical options from my diet and lifestyle. I have undergone anesthesia thirteen times in one year alone and often spend more time with my doctors than my friends and family. My limitations prevent me from doing what I love best – teaching, horseback riding, running, singing, enjoying restaurants with friends, and living the life that my husband and I had imagined.

When your life is turned upside down, it can be a very dark and cold place. I could have made the choice to nestle right in on that terrifying roller coaster of a chronic health battle. I could have focused on the long, lonely nights in the hospital or the ever-increasing road map of scars all over my body. I could have let one virus erase who I am and what I stand for, but I said no. I realized that with every obstacle in life, you have a choice. You choose who you are and you choose how you will unwrap what is given to you. I made the choice to embrace my life. I chose gratitude over devastation.

I recently went back to school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a holistic health counselor. I will be certified to work with many wonderful people, but I plan to focus on people who have had life-changing diagnoses, surgeries and/or allergies. I’ve been there. I get it… and I’m ok. I am better than ok -> I am thriving.

I still have the piece of paper from the day I was diagnosed with Gastroparesis that told me to eat only chicken broth, Ensure, Carnation Instant Breakfast, and mashed potatoes. Yep, that’s it. I managed to pull myself out of that deep level of malnutrition and failing health, but it was the hardest thing I have ever done. Now I have the opportunity to pay it forward and devote my life to making that transition to health and happiness easier for someone else. I get to say, “Hey, your life isn’t over. Let me help.” That is a true gift.

My medical obstacles are not a thing of the past, and my doctors and I may never truly understand exactly what happened with that virus in 2010, but that’s ok.

Douglas Adams said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

I am alive. I am grateful. I am doing well. And, as it turns out, I am gutsy.

Love your guts,

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  1. I was blessed in meeting Lydia a little over a year ago. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know a little bit about her and am grateful that she let me in to her life. I have to say, even though the girls guts don’t work, she is the GUTSIEST person I know! Lydia is truly an inspiration to everyone. I am fortunate to have met her. Thank you for posting this.

  2. I have had the privilege of knowing Lydia since she was born. She IS a gutsy girl from a loving, wonderful supportive family. NO ONE could have been prepared for what the past two years have held for Lydia — and no one is more deserving of a bright and wonderful future. She is going to make that happen — no doubt in my mind!!!!

  3. Well i know about u thru ur dad and Gretchen. To hear about ur horrific life changing turn is one thing but to read about it is surely another. GUTS u got and i know u cornered the market on GUTS. U go girl!!! Guess u found ur second calling.thanks for sharing.

  4. As Lydia’s aunt, I saw her demonstrate her gutsy nature at an early age. One terribly hot day in August, when she was either 4 or 5, we sat together in the backyard of her childhood home, watching her older brother by three years, Eric, and his friends, play a mean game of T-Ball. In spite of her frequent requests, they adamantly refused to let her play with them. After a few too many rejections, she quietly got up and went in the house, presumably, I thought, to go to the bathroom. After a few minutes, I heard some racket, and turned to see her kicking open the back screen door and step carefully down the 3 steep steps, balancing a tray carrying a plastic pitcher of cold ice water and paper cups. As she approached the backyard, she yelled, “Who wants water?” Of course, she got the boys’ immediate attention and they rushed towards her screaming “Wow, thanks, Lydia!!” At which point, turning her body slightly away from them and holding her tray of goods out of their reach, replied equally loud, “I’ll drop it, if you don’t let me play!” They stopped dead in their tracks, looked at each other and then to Eric, who sheepishly spoke for the whole group, mumbled, “Oh, okay!” They had been out-foxed. Obviously, she got to play! I remember being so amazed, and proud, of my little niece’s genius, and thought “This kid has chutzpah! Nothing’s going to stop her! ” Little did I know how that scenario, on that sweltering day in August, between Lydia, her brother Eric and his friends, would illustrate her approach to more serious challenges in life!

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