Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another Voice (Guest Blog #1)

First, a few housekeeping details.  For those of you who've diligently read my blog posts since the beginning, you'll recall that I've learned that when I'm ready for them, the universe dishes out some pretty good lessons/reminders.  In my last post, I struggled a bit with this journey.  And then, at a conference, I saw this amazing, AMAZING video. While it certainly wasn't the organization's intention, I received a good kick in the pants about the future BGS. 

So - you've been listening to me talk for months.  I wanted to share another perspective and I've invited a few people in my life to guest blog for re-BIRTH.  So, welcome my friend Annie!  We met through our employer in 2008 and have very complimentary personalities (i.e. we don't put up with each other's BS).  While our lives have taken us to very different places, we continue to share a wonderful, honest friendship.  And she is one of those people who loved my son before he even arrived - which makes her a keeper.  We'll never see each other enough, which means we'll never get sick of each other :) 

Take it away, Annie.

When Rachel and I met in 2008, in typical girl fashion, we had to size each other up for a few weeks before we decided that we were both awesome and we needed to be awesome together. We were working at Habitat for Humanity, my first “real” job, and in just a few short weeks, we became fast friends. 
 Rachel and I bonded over a common goal. That goal was to better our community, city, state and world in whatever way we possibly could. We share a passion for nonprofit work, as well as the very annoying need to keep ourselves as busy as humanly possible. Many times we have talked about combining my creativity and love for planning events with her strong skills in nonprofit management and development; we just know we would be the dream team J.  We have plotted and planned about our dream nonprofit and how we could start it. Some day, I have every intention of realizing that dream.
Throughout our friendship, I have gone through many ups and downs. She has been there for me through my first, second, and third jobs, my transition from a nonprofit to corporate setting (basically a career change in my case), multiple moves, including my final move when I bought my house at the age of 26. And of course, she helped me navigate between break ups, make ups and everything in between. She was always there to listen to my drama of the week and enlighten me with her words of wisdom. Even if those words were, “Oh Annie, stop being a donkey,” which, though it might not exactly have solved my problem, it always put a smile on face and made me stop and take time to realize that whatever was going on in my life might not be as earth shattering as I had originally thought it was. I was so appreciative to be able to lean on Rachel during this part of my life. Over time, Rachel became someone I looked up to, even though she is just a few years older than me.
When Rachel told me she was pregnant with Cameron, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I had been pestering her since the day after she became a “Mrs.” to have a baby. She was going to be my first friend to have a baby, so naturally as Rachel’s belly grew so did my excitement. I got to meet Cameron the day he was born. He was absolutely perfect and I could just see the love pouring out of Rachel and Brian. I felt so fortunate to be there for this very special day. For the next week or so, I enjoyed all kinds of adorable pictures of Cam via text and of course, on Facebook.. 
And then came the day I received an awful text – the day that Rachel re-entered hospital. I was worried, but I just figured it was something that the doctors would give her medicine for, send her home and she would move on with her life.  As we all know, I was very wrong. Even after getting a few more details, I didn’t quite understand what had happened; I just knew that at this point in time the roles in our relationship might reverse, at least temporarily, and that I would need to be there for Rachel to lean on. This was a concept I was not exactly familiar with because as long as I had known Rachel, there wasn’t much she couldn’t handle.
That being said, when Rachel was able to go home and was making her way through the healing process, I watched her become Rachel times 20. Not only did she confirm everyone’s predictions of becoming a wonderful and loving mother to a beautiful and happy baby boy, she went above and beyond to learn everything there was to know about what had happened to her. Armed with this information, Rachel’s passion for improving her community/other’s lives shined through. She located other SCAD survivors, became involved with the American Heart Association (AHA), and made connections on a national level. Watching Rachel accomplish all of this in less than a year was completely inspiring. That wasn’t all though; she also started her blog, planned her very first and successful “Heartiversary” fundraiser, and shared a very personal part of her life very publicly on stage with Brian and Cam (who, of course, stole the show) at the AHA Heart Ball. 
During one of the many “heart to heart”(pun intended!) conversations,  I told her that the reason I never gave her the standard “I’m here for you” or “Call me if your need anything” is because of two things: First, the friendship that Rachel and I have formed doesn’t require me to say that. She knows I will always be around if she needs a shoulder to cry on or someone to tell her stop being a drama queen. Second and most important, Rachel won’t break…not because she feels like she can’t, or she is too stubborn to accept help, but because Rachel has refused to see herself as a victim. She has turned her misfortune into an opportunity to raise awareness for SCAD, has started educating others on the importance of funding research for heart disease, and most importantly, she has been supportive of others when they desperately need it. 
Watching Cam become a little boy rather than a baby, seeing Brian continue to be not only an amazing and supportive husband, but now a caring and loving father, and watching Rachel start to realize her potential as an inspiration to others living with heart disease and/or their families, makes me extremely proud and grateful to be a friend to their family. 
Before this happened to my friend, I didn’t think it was possible for women my age to be affected by things like heart attacks. I thought they were a concern for the elderly and/or unhealthy. Being a part of Rachel’s journey made me realize the importance of supporting heart disease awareness and research AND the importance of taking care of myself. Hearing this story from someone my age makes it real. I look forward to supporting Rachel in any way that I can, and witnessing the huge effect she will have on our community, city, state and world…just like we always talked about!
 "A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same." - Elbert Hubbard

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