How and Why I’m Happy Despite Being Sick

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Someone inboxed me today and asked the following question: “What makes you so happy? What changed your life? Please share…”

Here was my reply, which I thought I’d share:

I have no reason to be unhappy. Other than my health problems (admittedly of which there are many) my life is wonderful. So I choose to focus on the good. It’s an active, ongoing choice, and not always an easy one. But my health issues are just a part of me, not all of me. We only get one life and I’m not going to live it wallowing in sadness over the unfortunate hand I’ve been dealt with my health. To me, that would be a waste of a beautiful thing. Everyone has problems, and I firmly believe that how we deal with them and how we cope are what makes the difference between happiness and unhappiness. I have bad days like anyone else, but my life is overwhelmingly good and joyful despite my health problems. So I choose to focus on those things instead.

Of course, my own body gets in my way sometimes and I do get down… I’m human. But happiness, I firmly believe, is a CHOICE. And it takes dedication and commitment just like any other important choice in life. But it’s so, so worth it. I think that going through something as scary as brain surgery, watching my brother lose his best friend to cancer at age 23, knowing a couple who in their early 30s are dealing with ALS, etc., have also put a lot of things into perspective for me. My faith in God and getting in touch with my spiritual side have helped, too, as well as writing/journaling and doing good for others. When I try to focus on helping other people or animals with their problems, it makes me focus less on my own.

People have said I must not be that sick if I’m able to be happy, but if they are saying that, they have no idea what I’ve been through. That’s almost insulting to me! But there wasn’t one pivotal moment that changed my life. A lot of little things, a lot of lessons learned, books read, sermons taken to heart, quotes that have inspired, people who have changed my outlook, events for which I have been grateful and so on.

So, that’s my answer in a nutshell. There was no magic pill, magic wand or magic remedy. I just made a choice to not let my health problems bring me down. Physically, I made a choice to cut back my medications. For awhile I did things 100 percent holistically and all-natural which served me better and put me into clinical remission. Now, I’m thinking of slowly reintroducing just one med for maintenance purposes and to prevent dangerous complications. But other than that, my answer to your question, “What makes you so happy?” is this: the GIFT of LIFE. I hope this helps. And I hope you don’t mind me sharing this anonymously because I’m sure that others wonder as you did.

Thanks for reaching out. Best wishes and be well! Choose Hope. Choose Happy. Stay Positive.

This post originally appeared on Arthritis Ashley’s Facebook page.

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Custom-Made Shoes Help Kids Trek Through Life’s Most Difficult Journeys

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A child walks into a hospital for his first day of chemotherapy. Another has already been in that hospital for weeks, receiving treatment after treatment for her rare illness. In a different wing, a teen is relearning how to walk after an accident. They’re all on different, difficult journeys they had no choice in embarking on.

425486_406256686120039_740780384_n And if they’re going to make it through, they’ll need a good pair of shoes on their feet.

Better yet — they’ll need a magical, custom-made, one-of-a-kind pair of shoes. That’s what Madison “Peach” Steiner thinks, anyway.

About three years ago, the 23-year-old artist from Farmington, N.M., founded “Peach’s Neet Feet,” a nonprofit where volunteer artists paint shoes for kids and teens living with diseases, disorders and disabilities.

“We use the shoes as a way to celebrate people,” Steiner told The Mighty. “We say, ‘Hey, these are yours and only yours.’ Kids with cancer may view them as their fighter shoes. A nonverbal kid may see them as a way to show their identity.”

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Steiner estimates that her 30 volunteer artists have painted 2,000 shoes to date. To apply for a pair, parents can [email protected] with their child’s name in the subject line. Steiner then sends an application, most of which are approved. The artists sometimes even visit the kids to make sure they get the design right.

“We want the shoes to come out as unique and individual as possible,” Steiner explained. “They’re a part of the kids that represents who they are. From the beginning, I’ve hoped these shoes would become more than just shoes.”

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Kids outgrow, wear out and get shoes dirty. Kids step in puddles and spill drinks on themselves. Steiner knows this — she hopes that when they’re ready, these kids and their parents will view the shoes as a keepsake, a symbol of a long, hard but maybe beautiful journey.

On one occasion, Steiner delivered a pair too late — the shoes arrived on a customer’s doorstep days after their daughter had passed away from cancer.

“It was a situation where I froze and thought, ‘This is going to be a bad thing or a good thing,'” Steiner recalled. “They’ll view the shoes as something negative or they’ll see them as something to cherish.”

This couple chose the latter. They contacted Steiner to let her know they’d always take the shoes with them — in the car, on errands, on trips and to a memorial service at their daughter’s school, where a tree was planted in her honor.

“They were going to carry the shoes with them wherever they went,” Steiner said. “They were going to continue their daughter’s journey for her.”

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Visit Peach’s Neet Feet’s website and Facebook page to learn more. If you’d like to cover the costs of a pair of shoes for a child, head here.

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