That We Might Have Joy: Emily's Story

I have a vivid Memory of New Year’s Eve 1997.  It was 10:00 pm, and I was alone in my grandma’s basement in Salt Lake City, hearing the grandfather clock tick, tick, tick. A few days earlier we had been driving from Colorado to Utah for my cousin’s wedding and hit some black ice on the road and got into a terrible accident near Evanston, Wyoming.   My Dad had spent the last 2 days at the Salt Lake hospital with my mom, who had broken her neck in the accident, trying to decide which procedure would be the right thing for her.  He hadn’t slept in days and had gone to bed.  My grandma, who had sustained injuries in the accident including a dislocated shoulder, had also gone to bed.  We had buried her husband just a month before, after an unexpected heart attack.   I am the youngest of 4 and my two oldest siblings were on their missions—my sister Allison in Russia, and my brother Zach in the Philippines.  My older sister, Lindsay, just 2 years older than I, was gone.  She had died in the car accident, on the cold windy plains of Wyoming.  I had never felt more alone in my life then I did that night.  And at 10:00 pm, coming to grips with the situation, with the ticking clock as my only companion, I didn’t feel like it was going to be a very happy new year.  I looked at the rows of family pictures running up and down the basement hallway at my grandma’s house and cried and cried and cried.

And then, I reached up to Heaven.  I prayed.  And I opened the scriptures and began to read.  And kept crying. As I read and prayed and pondered, one particular verse came with great power into my heart.  I read in Mosiah chapter 5, verse 4: “And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.”  The words resonated in my soul, and the Holy Ghost brought exceedingly great joy to MY heart.  I looked again at all the family pictures lining the walls and felt grateful for such beautiful memories and such wonderful people in my life, and the Spirit communicated to my heart with absolute certainty that families really can be together forever.  I felt, through the words of that verse and through the power of the Holy Ghost, that the gospel principles I had learned throughout my life were true and powerful and important and vital to my success in navigating through what lay ahead in my life.  And my faith, on the things which my Great King had spoken to me through the scriptures and all the prophets, brought me to a great knowledge, that allowed me to rejoice with exceedingly great joy.  And so at midnight on that quiet, solitudinous New Year’s Eve— after praying, and journaling, and reading, and crying,  I was able to have hope for a happy new year—knowing that my Great King was aware of me, that I was not alone, and that my faith on His words would be connected to exceedingly great joy for the rest of my life.  That experience was truly a gift.  It didn't take away the sadness, or the struggle, or the buckets of tears that I would cry in the days to come over losing my sister, but it helped me understand that even in the darkest, loneliest, saddest of times, there is joy.  And that the Prince of Peace has never left us comfortless and that He can wrap us in "peace that passeth understanding" if we turn to Him.

***Also, check out Emily's website about finding joy HERE and listen to her beautiful original song about finding joy below.


That We Might Have Joy: Charlee's Story

My name is Charlee. I am 24 years old, and believe me I have had my fair share of medical issues. When I was 18 years old, about to graduate high school, I was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes a few weeks before my high school graduation. This was in May of 2011. This was extremely shocking and changed my life immensely. I have been through ups and downs with disease, and it is extremely hard to handle, but it has also introduced me to some incredible friends!

In April of 2017, I had been soooooo sick! I was exhausted. I would come home from my job as a teacher and fall asleep before dinner, wake up to eat, and go back to sleep for the rest of the evening. I had lost weight and was having terrible stomach problems and anxiety. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Hashimotos Hypothyroidism and borderline Celiacs disease. Hashimotos is something that messes with your thyroid. Your thyroid controls your hormones. When this is compromised, you can become very emotional, exhausted, anxiety ridden, and overall out of whack.
I began taking medicine for my thyroid and stopped eating gluten. I started to feel great again, and life went back to normal.

It was summer. I had just finished running a race called “The Bix”. It is a 7-mile road race in the middle of the summer. It is physically grueling and emotionally challenging. I ran the race and never felt better! I felt healthy and like I could conquer anything!

Fast forward a few weeks. I started school to pursue a career change. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education, but I wanted to be able to teach in a different way. I was on my path to becoming a diabetes educator, and I was loving it! I loved all of the things I was learning in my classes, and I was making plans to run my next race in the Fall. About two weeks into school starting, everything changed, and I soon felt like my world was crumbling around me.

I had been having some numbness on the left side of my abdomen since June. I initially brushed it off thinking it was strange, but it didn’t hurt so it must be fine, right? As the months went on, the numbness started to spread to more parts of my stomach and down my left leg. I decided it was time to get it checked out. I went to several doctors who had no idea what was going on. I was then referred to a neurologist. I went to the neurology appointment just like any other doctors appointment, expecting it to be nothing serious.

Boy, was I wrong.

I was at the appointment for several hours, and finally, the doctor said that they were transferring me to the local hospital for further testing. I knew this wasn’t a good sign, but he still had not told me what he thought was going on.  I called my husband and told him the situation. He was in class but went home to get my things and came to the hospital right away. That night I had an MRI of my lumbar and thoracic regions of my spine and TONS of blood work. I stayed in the hospital that night and the next morning the doctor said that all of the tests came back clear. I thought this was great news…

The second day in the hospital, I had more blood work as well as an MRI of my cervical spine and my brain. The nurse said that she would let me know when the results came back and that she would call the doctor about them and I would probably be able to go home. About half an hour after the MRI, she came back in and said the doctor was on his way to discuss the results with me. Now anyone who has ever dealt with medical issues knows that this is generally not a good sign, especially when she is telling me this at 11:30 at night.
The doctor came in and was very hesitant. Little did I know, the next four words he would say would change my life forever.

“You have Multiple Sclerosis.” Excuse me what???

This is the moment where I broke down. I felt the room spinning, and all I could hear were the sound of my screams and my husband’s worried sighs.

How was this possible? Aside from a little numbness, I felt fine!

I left the hospital that night to try to process the news of being diagnosed with my fourth Autoimmune disease. My husband and I went to a friends house to pick up our dog, and we told them the news. The night was filled with many tears and an abundance of prayers. How was this happening? I was at a point in my life where I felt like my relationship with God was stronger than it had ever been and then this happened. I am not proud of it, but this diagnosis definitely shook my faith for a few weeks. It was extremely difficult for me to accept. Way harder than the other diseases I was dealing with.
The weeks that followed were filled with pain, doctors, and hospital visits multiple times a week, and sadness. I felt numb. It was a strange feeling, and I was not sure how to accept this new life-altering diagnosis.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis is defined as, “an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body.”

This disease causes vision problems, nerve pain, numbness, weakness, memory loss, brain fog, fatigue, and many other symptoms. This was my current situation and my future.

I spent the coming weeks trying to cope with all of this all while dealing with an allergic reaction from steroids that were supposed to help my symptoms. I had never been so sick in my life.

One Sunday morning my husband and I got up and got ready for church like always. I still felt numb and angry, but we went anyways. We got to the service, and I did not expect what I was about to feel. The worship band started singing a song titled “I Am Set Free."

A wave of emotions came over me, and I cried. I broke down sobbing in the middle of the church service and sang through my tears. I was letting go of everything I had been holding in for the past few weeks. I let go of the anger and the blame and the misery. I felt a sense of love and hope come over me, and for the first time since my new diagnosis, I felt like I would be okay.

Since that day, I still struggle, but I am doing my best to cling to God and know that He has a plan. I am no longer in school, simply because I could not keep up between all of the doctors’ visits and sick days. I work part time as well as working from home selling cosmetics and skincare which has been an incredible blessing. Maybe one day I will start again or maybe not. Right now I am just trying to get healthy and rely on God for strength and encouragement.

If you would like to continue following Charlee's inspiring story, you can visit her blog HERE.


That We Might Have Joy: Jennifer's Story

I used to be a singer, dancer, & actress.  Previous to college, I travelled Europe and sang in the cathedrals. I also performed on the Disney stage at Walt Disney World.  Later, I went to BYU and received a bachelor's degree in elementary education with a minor in music. While at BYU, I was on the Ballroom Dance Team, in the Women's Chorus, and in an A Capella Group. After BYU, I was an elementary teacher for 1st grade, 2nd grade, K-5 music, I subbed all the grades in the elementary classrooms and in P.E., and I was a K-12 math tutor.

By 2004, I was married and had 3 kids, 1 boy & 2 girls.   I was a very active mom.  I was 30 years old when I had a severe brainstem stroke in 2004, losing the ability to speak or move.   (I am in a wheelchair, I have double vision, I no longer have control of my emotions, my left side doesn't move, and I barely move on my right side.)  My kids were 2, 4, & 6. Naturally, I was devastated!

While it hurt to be unable to sing or dance, the stroke has helped me to simplify my life & re-arrange some of my life priorities. My family brings me the greatest joy in life, & the gospel allows us to be a forever family!

I continue to enjoy life & find ways to still do the things I love.  I love to scrapbook, & I have taught both digital & traditional scrapbooking.  (There will always be a "teacher" in me!) I even had a digital scrapbook page published! I still love music, but  I find enjoyment in other ways--like learning to play the guitar, piano, and autoharp (though I still attempt to sing)!  I love to write, & I also have had an article published in The Ensign, a church magazine. I would like to publish a book someday. A website was started in 2004, to share my stroke recovery with friends & family.   You can read all about me there!


That We Might Have Joy: Anonymous Story

Two years ago, right before Christmas, I lost all hope. I felt so emotionally broken that everything hurt physically. It felt as if it took all my strength and effort to even breathe. My will to live had vanished. It was an impulsive decision. I had not planned it. I didn't say any goodbyes.

That evening, alone, I attempted suicide.

A friend brought me to the hospital. I was admitted and stayed for one week. There I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder type II. I was started on medication, but it was a long road to stability.

When I first came home from the hospital, I felt like things would never be okay. I was scared. Scared that my life had changed forever. People treated me like I was made of glass. I just wanted to be normal. I wanted to be treated like me, not as if I could break or snap at any moment.

Slowly, I began to get my spark back. I went to therapist appointments weekly. I saw my psychiatrist once a month. We adjusted medication. Changed medication. We worked hard to find a combination and a dosage that worked. I still see my psychiatrist every three months; I see my therapist every other week. I work hard at home by exercising and trying to find other healthy outlets for my emotions.

I still have bad days. I have days where I am frustrated, days where I am sick of feeling different from everyone else. I am scared of the judgment from other people. I am not like everyone else. I take three pills a day just to feel okay.

But, after two long years, I have finally reached a feeling of stability. The suicidal thoughts that used to invade my thoughts daily are rare and fleeting. I don't spend all day everyday worrying about how I will feel tomorrow or if I will want to hurt myself again. I feel more stable than I have ever felt.

I hit rock bottom. But with the help of friends, medical professionals, and hard work, I feel okay again. It takes time and work, but I promise that you will climb back up. Rock bottom isn't forever. It's a place to start over.