One year ago, as you popped a bottle of champagne, kissed your partner and watched fireworks, I slept. Last New Year's Eve, I left with my father and daughter to head to Dr. Herbert Edmundson's office, my neurologist. They called my name in an empty waiting room, and I walked in alone. I heard fireworks that day, when my doctor said, "You have Parkinson's." Those words ripped through me like a bullet, tearing my flesh, leaving a gaping hole. My ears were ringing, as if the gun was shot in point blank range.
I had just turned 37, gotten divorced two months prior and separated only four months from being diagnosed with a non-curable degenerative disease effecting cognition and movement. Parkinson's doesn't run in my family. I'm a single mom to a young child!
I went to bed last New Year's Eve around 8 p.m. I laid my daughter and I down, and said goodnight to a terrible year. But, when the sun rose New Year's Day, it was a new day, a new year, and a chance for a new beginning. I awoke with the sun, put my feet on the ground and said, "This is not how my story ends!"
For most people New Year's Day is a sign for hope and new beginnings. By Jan. 10, all resolutions are dissolving and by Feb. 1 new beginnings are forgotten. Not me. By hearing that gunshot, by feeling my flesh rip, by bleeding tears, I learned how precious today is.
God began leading me immediately, and I began listening. I said "Yes" when two angels told me to start blogging. I said "Yes" to building a social media network and app free from negativity and built to empower. I said "Yes" when I began socializing with other Parkinson's patients. And I said "Yes" to building a company that helps you feel Lit Within. In July, I said "Yes" to being named as American Parkinson Disease Association's Story of Optimism. In September, I said "Yes" to forming a partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. In October, I said "Yes" to becoming a motivational speaker and also working with the National Parkinson's Foundation. And in November, I said "Yes" to running 7 miles in pouring rain and 50 degree temps, all while completing 30 Navy Seal style obstacles as well as blogging on HuffPost.
On Jan. 1, 2016, Lit Within will officially become a nonprofit corporation, with the mission to empower those with non-curable diseases and their caregivers. I plan to have seminars and retreats. I want to provide makeovers and pamper people, so they feel Lit Within. I want to lift those that can't see past their diagnosis and energize those that are exhausted. Appropriately, I chose New Year's Day to launch my company.
The year 2015 has been a new awakening for me. This year was not only about my story not ending, but about all the beauty and poetry as the ink is written on the pages. I've ingrained each moment into the chapter I am in. I've lived and loved as if 2016 doesn't exist, because nothing is promised. I've laughed until my belly hurts and shed the most joyous tears this year. In 2015, I said "Yes" more times than I could count, yet I had the strength to say "no" when needed. I've forgiven and healed. In 365 days, I've become whole by myself, through my God. I have picked a sentence from my youth and found my mantra to, "Shoot for the stars!" In just one year, my smile has become contagious and my energy infectious. I've spread light and sprinkled sunshine to people I'm not even aware of, and I continue to say "Yes" to daily challenges.
Thank you to each of you I've met this year! Thank you for those of you that made me laugh until I sobbed! Thank you for the love you've shown, the strength I've come to admire and the passion I've adopted! Thank you God for showing me I am limitless! And thank you to anyone who's given me opportunity!
My 2015 is proof that anyone can rise with the sun. Even in the dark of the night, the sun's never far behind. Sometimes we must be shot with a harsh reality to appreciate the sunrise. Just remember, all you can control in life is yourself, your actions, and your thoughts. When you are upset or angry, feel it, just don't live in it. We must consume ourselves with that light within. Try not to wait for the gun shot. Treasure right now! Open your book and write in cursive. Decorate your pages and color outside the lines. Nourish your body, push yourself physically to the limits and never waste a moment.
And may spectacular fireworks happen for you right now and throughout 2016!