In high school, I ran cross country + was in shape for most of the year because of it. I loved being part of a family-like team + finding my fellow weirdos who made running tolerable + enjoyable. My love for my own health struck me right before my junior year of high school when it was almost compromised.
In July of 2013, a tumor the size of a walnut was found on my brainstem + left me hospitalized for almost a month when my first surgery was unsuccessful. After that first surgery, my body was so incredibly weak — I couldn’t walk for nearly two weeks, I couldn’t support myself, ++ I felt like I had no control over my own body, which was what made my journey so difficult. I wanted to get up + move + get back to being with my team so badly, but my body would not comply. Another side effect of my journey was the Bell’s palsy that I gained due to nerve damage from that first surgery. At 16, I had brain cancer, a face that only half worked, a scar almost the entire length of my head, as well as a need for extreme caution during any activity. What kind of a life is that? Because of my still extensive sensitivity after surgery, my neurologist also ordered that I didn’t run for at least three month, taking away another important aspect of my life.
A month after my first surgery, I went down to Memphis to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s surgical branch + endured a second surgery after we looked for a second opinion on my case. After 14 hours in surgery, 90% of my tumor was removed + I was declared cancer free. The day after my surgery, I was on my feet walking around my floor in the hospital + only a week after surgery, I was discharged. I motivated myself this time around so I would not allow myself to be in a hospital for another month, miss out on everything going on around me, + lose my autonomy of my body once again. Only a week after my parents + I arrived in Memphis, we were already on our way back to Michigan. Experiencing the inability to govern your own body once is enough to never want it to happen again, so I took my recovery into my own control. Mind over body, as they say!
It took awhile for me to fully recover. I have no restrictions for physical activity now + have almost all of my facial function back, which I could not be more grateful for. Many prayers + intentions of those around me contributed towards my recovery + that’s something I can never forget. This whole journey has increased my awareness of the importance of being in control of my own body and treating it like the temple that it is.
I’m currently a sophomore majoring in Nursing + am part of the CHAARG chapter at Grand Valley State University. I enjoy large cups of coffee, dogs, + perfectly relaxing nights of watching movies. Though I have so many lazy ideals about me, I also love participating in great workouts such as hot yoga, pound, or going for long runs.
I chose to join CHAARG halfway through my freshmen year of college because my roommate forced me into it + I couldn’t be more thankful that she did. I went into college wanting to find a sense of community + love, but wasn’t exactly sure how to find that. The fact that I got to workout + focus on my health on top of finding those things is a huge plus!
CHAARG has helped me by being a beacon of light for my own empowerment. Through CHAARG, I have the resources to discover new favorite workouts, have fun in the process, + also have a huge new support system pushing me to do and be my best self. I have made friends that lift me up through laughter, motivation, + sometimes a mutual struggle of getting past a tough circuit. The relationships + happiness that I have gained through the CHAARG community is truly one that is irreplaceable, especially in the tough college life. It has really helped me recognize that I am strong, beautiful, + capable of anything I put my mind to.
I am now #inCHAARG by being in charge of my own life + the way I approach + appreciate life. I now take control by empowering myself + others to take care of ourselves + stay positive. My favorite quote is from Maya Angelou —
“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.”
Life is full of dark times, but it is within our power to let those dark times strengthen us rather than overcome us. Never let a bad day convince you that it is a bad life, for the brightness within our lives can overpower the darkness if we allow it to.
#CHAARGJourney highlights our members’ amazing journeys through CHAARG — physically, mentally, emotionally. Continue to follow Laura’s CHAARG Journey on Instagram . We love you, Laura, ++ are so thankful to have you a part of the CHAARG Community.
++ Mary K