Overcoming CHF

I’ve told my story of cancer numerous times. A defining season in my life, cancer and my journey to overcoming the fatal disease has led me in large part to where I am today. It inspired a spirit of overcoming. It took me down a road of forgiveness. It showed me the strength of my character and unveiled more truth of my identity. It launched new careers and introduced me to health, fitness and the idea of authentic wellness. I have no regrets for the five painful years in which the season lasted for it has transformed my life and continues to do so today, now 15 years later.

But there is more to the story, something I have not openly spoken of.

Last year, May of 2010, I was pushing all the limits in my life. I had surrendered an unsatisfying career, began to build a new business, moved across the country, and was training as if for fitness competition. The stress was enormous and there were more factors that would soon add to the already heavy burden. In June, I was in the midst of a divorce as I finally came to terms with something I had tried to deny for more than 30 years. My spouse knew but overall it was secret that had worn mean down. I was exhausted and weary from trying not to be what I knew I was. I was tired of pretending; of attempting every cure available; of begging God for forgiveness and healing; of living a lie. I was gay.

Soon an intense pressure was building in my chest.

I couldn’t sleep. I developed an inexplicable cough. At night I felt as if I couldn’t breathe; a feeling much like the panic attacks I felt when I had cancer. My legs began to swell. Initially these episodes lasted for 3-4 days with a quick, almost abrupt recovery. I, along with most people in my life simply thought the stress was to blame. Little did we know there was an underlying problem that was threatening my life.

In late July, two days prior to my departure to South Africa, during a visit from my sister, she insisted I go to the hospital as my condition had not only worsened but had now persisted for more than a week. Neither of us was prepared for what we would soon discover. Congestive Heart Failure as a result of chemo drugs administered 15 years earlier and exposed by extreme stress was the diagnosis received within hours of my arrival in the emergency room.

Carl at Hospital

Immediately doctors told me that any pursuit of fitness was a thing of the past. They demanded I cancel or at least postpone my relocation for 6 months to a year minimum. In other words, as far as I was concerned, they were taking the last bits of my life and hope away. I refused to surrender. Instead, I set my sites to prevail and overcome.

With my sister’s tenacious assistance, we negotiated a 2 day delay in my air travels.

Those two days were miraculous. We laughed like school kids. We cried and we got angry. We fought against the odds. We prayed and we overcame. She was strong when I was weak. She bound me up and prepared me and the way for my new journey, even while her heart was breaking. It was one of the most precious and memorable times of our lives.

Four days after diagnosis, I began my journey to South Africa. I can still see the look on the doctors faces. They had never imagined it could be possible. Accrediting my extraordinary degree of fitness, nutritional health and my commitment ot an authentic life, they now had to admit that I could indeed make the journey. With their blessings I set forth. With only what I could pack in three suitcases, I board a 29 hour international flight to Cape Town. Throughout the journey, I was appointed angels from strangers in nearby seats to flight attendants each one making my journey comfortable, each one encouraging me, each one celebrating new beginnings and exciting opportunities. One even helped me haul my luggage, 3 large suitcases, a computer bag, and a duffle bag, through the Johannesburg airport in order to make my connecting flight. Another that I met on the nauseating puddle jumper flight to Cape Town stood by my side, held my hand and refused to leave until I had found my now husband. I was blessed. Incredibly blessed.

It has been a year today.

Since my arrival, I have made a full recovery even now surpassing my former fitness performance; nearly doubling it in fact. I take my meds though always seeking alternatives and relying on whole foods nutrition to fuel and empower my body. I’ve adjusted to a new world; one vastly different from the American lifestyle I had always known. I’ve begun building an online business to help people worldwide become OVERCOMERS. I’ve built a marriage, knitted a family together and begun to integrate into the South African culture. And I’ve done it all in wellness.

It seems my life has been a long journey of overcoming.

I suppose to some degree that is true for us all. But the good news is simple. We all have within is us the God given strength to overcome whatever we face in life. Yes, we need sisters, friends and angels to hold our hands, bind us up, mend our wounds and fight on our behalf when we are too weak to do so. And frankly, that is why I founded Elements of Wellness. I am here to be your friend, to be like a brother, to be an angel to see you through to the victory you seek in life.

What are you facing that you seek to overcome? Is it excess weight? An illness? A physical weakness? Maybe a lost or hidden personal goal? Do you need a helping hand to see you to victory? You can and will overcome just as I have. I’m here to see to it. Just click one of these links, Element of Weight-Loss, Element of Fitness, Element of Coaching, and discover an opportunity for your authentic wellness. Let’s partner together and celebrate victory!!

What do you say?