Welcome to my latest edition of the Laugh Always Spotlight Edition – I am sharing Amy’s story on how she has overcome such a difficult road with Spina Bifida. Read on for her crazy journey and how she lives with it and still lives life to the fullest!
I was born with spina bifida (L5-S1–at the base of my spine) a neural tube defect. Doctors told my parents that if they did nothing I would die shortly of spinal meningitis. Even with treatment they said I would most likely die by the age of 6. And, I would never walk. Well, my parents did opt for treatment and the doctors were proved wrong as I am currently alive and well at age 53, and walking unaided.
It has been a long road of over 50 surgeries ( mostly on my feet and legs, but also on my back, head, and abdomen), bouts of infection, time spent in a wheelchair, feeling like I didn’t fit in, insecurities, and frustrations. It hasn’t been easy. But it’s the hand that I was dealt so I’ve dealt with it the best that I could.
I survived because of the awesome support of my family, skilled and caring medical professionals, and some amazing and insightful friends. I also survived due to my ability to use imagination and humor to get through the tough times.
From the time I was about nine years old, I used my imagination to create a world where I was popular, healthy and successful. Over the years, I “met” celebrities, became an “actor” and “singer.” I was married, I had kids, I traveled all over the world. I was happy. This all took place in my bedroom at home–my sanctuary. In my imagination. That imaginary world became a place where I could do anything. It was a place where I not only imagined that my life was different (better), it was also where I developed confidence in myself through practicing skills and role playing conversations I would be required to have in real life. As soon as I got home from school each day, I scurried up to my room to enter my imaginary world.
I also tried to find the humor in every medical situation. For example, when I was in the hospital for one of many foot surgeries, my roommate was crying because she was frightened of having a facelift the next day. Her husband said she looked fine to him and offered to take her home. But she resisted and wailed that she wanted to look good for bingo. Oh boy! That is one thing I would never do, but that was up to her. The next day, after surgery, she was super sick. Wow! I have never been able to stomach watching someone get sick right in front of me, so I was looking pretty green in my own bed across from hers. When the doctor came in and told her she could go home the next day, she wailed again and begged to stay until she was healed so no one would see her. The doctor said she could not stay. She was so upset. All for vanity’s sake. I just secretly rolled my eyes.
Another time, I was in the hospital for a hysterectomy. The curtain was drawn between my bed and that of my roommate. She and her husband were talking, and I realized the subject of their conversation was me, so I took the opportunity to eavesdrop. The husband asked what I was in for and the woman said she thought I was pregnant. (Ha! Quite the opposite!) The husband then said something like, “Really? She looks about 16! ” I was 36! Thanks for the compliment, sir!
The next day, I was discharged. Before I left I mentioned to the woman that I was going home and that I had had a hysterectomy. Well, the look on her face was priceless. Her mouthed dropped open and she sputtered a bit. Imagine a 16 year old having a hysterectomy! Oh my!
Laughing at our troubles isn’t disrespectful, it’s healthy. Here are some of the health benefits of laughter:
- lower blood pressure
- lower stress hormone levels
- abdominal muscles exercise
- improved heart health
- stronger immune system
- triggers the release of endorphins (natural painkillers)
- a general sense of feeling good all over
It rocks. It can be a life saver. I know that it has saved me from going crazy more than a few times over the years.
Give laughing a try the next time you are faced with health issues or other stressors. Even fake laughing can help ease stress. It may seem weird or silly at first, but keep trying.
Some things you can do to try to get yourself laughing for real are:
- making silly faces in the mirror
- watching your favorite silly videos on YouTube
- watching a funny TV show or movie
- spending time with friends who always seem to make you laugh
- playing a party game with friends or family
- recalling a funny memory from childhood
- listening to or dancing to your favorite upbeat, uplifting music
- going to a funny musical or play
- reading a funny story
- looking through old photo albums or school yearbooks
- going to a comedy club
- observing your pets’ antics
- observing your kids’ antics
- keeping a scrapbook of funny things your family and friends say
- making a Pinterest board of funny things you find online
- posting funny quotes on a bulletin board
- learning to laugh at yourself
- practicing laughter yoga
What I’ve learned from dealing with chronic health issues all my life is that there is always a way to do something if you really want to do it. Sure there are things you can’t do, but there are plenty of things you can do. You may have to make adjustments in how you go about things; you may have to knock down barriers to do what you want to do, but you can do it. I’ve also learned that for every sour puss out there; for every person ready to knock you down, there are many others who are ready to lift you up and cheer you on. Surround yourself with positive people who will be in your corner no matter what. Surround yourself with people who have your back. Surround yourself with people who are there for you during good times and bad. They are out there. Find them and cherish them.
Inspirational quote: “If you can dream it, you can do it.” –Walt Disney
Me with my husband and huge supporter, Jim
Amy Colgan Niemeyer is a life coach specializing in chronic health issues and friendship. She helps people build confidence and trust, in themselves and others, in order to break out of their comfort zone and do things they’ve always dreamed of doing. She lives in St. George, UT with her husband Jim and their six cats and parrot. She enjoys walking for exercise, reading, writing, blogging, volunteering, attending community theater productions, exploring bookstores and thrift shops, road trips, game nights, and spending time with her friends. She launched a program called Identity Perception on November 1 geared toward individuals with chronic health issues to foster confidence and positive self-perception. For more information on this program as well as Amy’s other coaching services, visit her website http://www.acnlifecoach.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you all for reading yet another great story from one of these courageous guest bloggers. For more stories like this, please read through the Laugh Always Spotlight Editions and if you can connect with one of these stories, I would love to hear from you! Here is a link to one here – A Story of a Warrior Diva
Until next time,