One year ago, I did what professionals, goal setters, and self-identified over-achievers do in January of any new year. I looked at the goals I had set in the previous year and raised the bar even higher. Designing how I would achieve my Distinguished Toastmasters, my Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification. As well as, how I will start my Doctoral program, get back to the fitness level I had pre-pandemic, be more intentional about coaching, and get through the next set of books and podcasts. Then there is the list of professional goals I maintain as a Marine and for my team.
Little did I know that a few days into the year my life would change. Everything I had planned would come to an abrupt stop. I was about to test my relationships, failures, successes, experiences, knowledge, and most importantly, my faith. I captured the details of the trial I was about to endure in my journal. While some aspects of it made their way to my other social media platforms. Including countless emails, texts, and phone calls as I reached out for support.
We talk about life balance, goal setting, habits, prioritizing, focusing, and the many other labels we put on to ensure we “keep first things first.” However, that is rarely the case which is why we rely on timeless books with time management models. Such as Steven Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to keep us on task. Despite the best models, nothing could have prepared me for what was about to happen.
My oldest daughter was hospitalized at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii by February and later medically evacuated to Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington with no diagnosis, her health rapidly declining. My guilt and desire to pursue all the goals I had set didn’t change but my resiliency did. I called my relationships into action whether I asked for help or not. I invested in this network years prior with every hello, note, letter, text, virtual connection, prayer group, fitness club, and professional association.
It began with mild symptoms that of course given the pandemic doctors would quickly assume were related. A series of ongoing and countless medical tests followed this. That included images, biopsies, tests, medications, and misdiagnoses as medical professionals did their best to discover what would months later be diagnosed as a rare form of the autoimmune condition juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM). This is a condition that according to Batthish & Feldman (2011) is “a rare, often chronic autoimmune disease with onset during childhood. Characterized by weakness in proximal muscles and pathognomonic skin rashes characterize it. All of which my daughter experienced with no end in sight.
Those goals, books, podcasts, certifications, military requirements, etc.… didn’t mean much anymore but those relationships, my network, my connections, became my lifeline. Today, my daughter is doing much better and learning to live with her “new normal.” As anyone with an auto-immune condition has likely experienced. She has a daily routine of medications and some limits on what’s possible. After having a very active lifestyle before this diagnosis. She has a positive outlook, reducing her medications, and excelling in school. She is finally rebuilding the joy that temporarily suppressed her amazingly strong heart.
From being in intensive care, having lost all functions we take for granted, and with a questionable recovery last Spring, to walking the National Mall and climbing the steps of the Lincoln Memorial this past December. She is on her road to recovery taking each day one step at a time – literally – and teaching me that it is ok to take breaks to focus on what matters in life. It can easily be taken away.
Her sister, the most important relationship, deserves more credit than anyone else for her contribution to her recovery. Family, friends, medical professionals, and people who didn’t even know her also did their share. Through prayers, cards, gifts, and countless ways they showed their support. To be honest, the contributions in so many ways from everyone in my network were humbling and brought me even further to my knees than I knew was possible. Thank You – Thank You – Thank You! Her emotional, mental, and physical journey continues today. I thank everyone who had and continues to have a part in her journey.
Today, both my girls remain my “why” as I begin contemplating what’s next in my life, my career, and my journey.I have built and will discover relationships for which I am thankful. Many ways can define resilience for my personal and professional network. For me, it begins and ends with every connection. Never underestimate the value of a conversation, email, letter, card, handshake, hug, or stranger you met once who may be the key to fundamentally adding to your resiliency. When you need it most or how you may add to theirs. When we hear about the value of networking, it applies to every aspect of our life. I sincerely value each of you for adding to my network. I pray that I can always find ways to add value to yours.