He Loves Me This Much

The days seem to be getting longer and the walls around me are a bit smaller. This year has been long. It’s not over yet.

Every morning I kiss my three man boys good bye and I turn and look at my dogs. We sort have this stand off and I have this looming lump in my throat hoping the hours while the kids are at school will pass quickly. The house will be too quiet and I will be alone again. This has been my routine for nearly a year now. Laundry, cleaning, dishes…pretty boring. I almost put up the Christmas tree last week. I thought that was pushing it. A year… I have learned so much about myself and my God in this last year.

As God as become my constant listener and best friend, I have heard Him too. He loves me this much that He allowed epilepsy to rest on me. There is no answer to why. There is no answer to what will happen next. There is no real reason to fear, because God is always in control, and God always loves me. He will never, ever leave me. Don’t get me wrong, this disorder hurts, the isolation, fear of the next seizure, or straying too far from home all scare me, but with God’s help I try to overcome these things as much as possible. God is sovereign.

Our whole family must rest in His sovereignty or we wouldn’t survive. How would my husband get through a workday without trusting God to care for me? How do either of us get through any day at all with our son on the road now without trusting God to watch over him? I venture out alone because I have to feel some independence. Is there some danger? Sure. Is God in control? Absolutely. Ultimately, in my deepest being I believe God is a kind and loving God and He wants me to depend on Him with all that I am. I think epilepsy is the only way I can do this…grrrr… So he loves me this much. He chose this for me. So my choice is to love Him back, trust Him, and depend on Him for whatever comes next.

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Honestly this last year has beat me down that I’m too exhausted to creatively and energetically spread the word. That frustrates me too. Johnny tells me I’m too hard on myself, but 1 in 26 have this and 60,000 in the US will die from Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, so this still needs a voice. Locally, Mayor Swain signed a Proclamation declaring November as Epilepsy Awareness Month in the Town of Huntersville. My son is having the annual Purple Day at Huntersville Elementary on Nov 14 and Mayor Swain is even stopping by to visit the classrooms and help spread awareness that day. Would you wear purple on Nov 14 to support Hunter’s Purple Day too? Our family is in purple everyday this month, but for one day, that would be pretty cool. Johnny and I were in Charlotte Sunday night to see the Duke Energy building shining purple over Charlotte. More people are talking, less people are whispering, more research is being done, and maybe one day we will have a cure.

Until then, I rest in the peaceful knowledge that God loves me this much, He didn’t give me this and then forget me.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, November 2014

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Almost There, But I Wouldn’t Change What I Learned

I’m wrapping up two weeks of vacation in my favorite place on earth. My family has had laughter, rest, time to catch up with family and best friends and a lot of good food while we celebrate the 4th of July and then some.

As these last few weeks have passed I have thought about the first few days since December 2nd when Mom started her cancer treatment and I pushed the button to wait to cross the street on Morehead and woke up later in the ER. I could not have dreamed the scenario that would unfold. Goodness, it seems like years ago. Months later, Mom is so healthy now. She is strong, full of life, and full of strong blood cells!! I too am much stronger, shaken, but stronger, deep down, in ways people can not see, in ways you can not touch, but in ways that I know I can reach when in need.

I have learned that God is there, always listening, my partner in everything, ready, always on call, in ways I did not fully recognize previously. In my loneliness He can comfort, in my weakness He is my strength, when I am dizzy, He straightens my path, when my words are lacking, He finds them, when my days are too long, He gives me rest, when confusion is too much, He gives me my husband, my sons, my Mom or my best friend to explain on my behalf, when danger may linger, He sends a stranger to call for help, when in need, He has surrounded us with a crowd of sacrificial friends willing to help with rides, food and anything else we have needed. God IS our provider, in every sense of the word.

I have missed my Grandmother and thought of her every single day since she died. Many of those days have felt like my life was spinning out of control and yet I was glad she wasn’t here because I knew it would be too painful for her to be here and see the pain our family was going through. It made me thankful again that God took her when He did to relieve her of that burden. God is so good. Just another reminder of how He has comforted me even through death.

I still have 5 days before I can hold the keys to the car in my hands again and I am cautious as I wait for that day. I know anything can happen between now and then. The difference is, if it’s bad, it will suck, we will survive, as a family, with the help of our extended family, because our God will carry us through anything we ask Him to help us through. I’m still processing the reality that I will deal with epilepsy and the possibility of seizures for the rest of my life, but I will continue to use my filter-less mouth to bring as much awareness to this disorder as I can. There has to be purpose in this brain trauma somewhere, right???

So if you had not been able to drive yourself anywhere for 7 months where might be the first place you would go? Good question right? I have several doctor appointments next week…boring. My oldest needs supplies for his upcoming mission trip…big stores and I don’t have a good record, plus he has to do that with me. We need groceries…boring. Well, just so happens I have an amazing brother and sister in law who keep me stocked in massage gift cards! SCORE! I have already booked a Wednesday morning massage! What better place to drive for my first day out, right? A little pampering for me! Yay for my awesome bro and sis in law who know how to spoil me! Can’t wait!

I wish I could thank everyone that has helped us but I know I would forget someone and I have a terrible fear of leaving people out. So please know that if you have helped us in any way, you have been prayed for because of the gift you gave our family. You made what could have been a horrible 7 months much easier for all of us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

© Gatewood Campbell, July 2014

It Matters

We are just a couple of days away from the start of National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Our family and I have been working together to come up with original ways to incorporate Epilepsy Awareness into each day of November. We will be headed to Charlotte on Friday November 1st to see the Wells Fargo Duke Energy Building in all her purple splendor. The Epilepsy Foundation of North Carolina is thrilled that this building will again light up purple to show support in Charlotte. The following day our family will be attending the Epilepsy Foundation of NC Annual Fall Stroll at UNCC. Hunter and his friends are making purple Rainbow Loom bracelets to sell with all money going directly back into the foundation. The Town of Huntersville has jumped on board and Mayor Swain signed a proclamation making November Epilepsy Awareness month right here in town.

Amidst all the excitement, today I opened Facebook to read about a life lost too soon. A beautiful 27 year old woman from Maryland, taken by SUDEP (Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy).

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I paused, for a long time and looked at her picture, thought of her future that is now lost and I thought of her parents. It reminded me to keep talking, keep sharing and keep pressing on with my purple ambition to let people know why it is so important that people simply know the facts about epilepsy.

I have seen so much change and conversation in the few years that I have become involved with Epilepsy Advocacy. It matters because people matter. Please start off November right by wearing purple and TELL people why! Email me if you want a ribbon to wear and we will mail you one homemade by the Campbell family.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, October 2013

About Me

It has taken me a long time to find the strength to update my bio without including my role as a granddaughter. I grasp the concept that my Grandmother no longer answers the phone when I call, but her voice, her wit, her style and her legacy are with me each day. My days with her changed my life forever and she would want me to use that for good, for myself and for others. So, here it is….the updated bio about me…

Call me a wife, call me a mom, call me a daughter and call me a friend. I’m closing in on 40 and have reached that point in life where we look back at where we thought life would take us, compare that to where we are and focus our sights on what is next. My future holds the fast paced life with a high schooler and a high energy elementary student. Our boys keep us expecting the unexpected with their love of life and desire to divert from the crowd and be themselves. I am one proud mama!

I’m self-sufficient, independent and I don’t like change. I prefer the organized to the unorganized and I like to have a plan. Ten years ago, with 2 beautiful boys, our family was complete. I was ready to take on the next chapter in my life. I made my health a priority and rid my body of an unnecessary 75 lbs. I had a goal, I had a plan and I lost the weight…and I have kept it off for 9 years. After that, I decided to run a half marathon. I had a goal, I had a plan, and I ran 13.1 miles. Ready for more of a challenge, I decided to run a full marathon. Goal, plan, 26.2 miles; done. Clearly there was a consistency in my approach to life. I moved on in my career too. I was finally developing and running my own programs. I felt like I was on the verge of really blossoming in every area of my life. And then…I had to run an errand for a project at work. I walked into Target, and was later taken out on a gurney. I slipped and fell in the store. My head suffered the impact of my fall. I woke up in the hospital. That was the first of several ambulance rides that year. That fall was over 8 years ago. The results of my errand to Target will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and eventually developed Post Traumatic Epilepsy, both due to a simple fall in the trashcan aisle.

Since then I have learned to live without a plan. I have learned to live with the unexpected. I have learned there is power in asking for help and there is power in accepting help. There is a greater power in taking the difficult experiences, turning them right side up and paying it forward in a positive way. I’ve learned that adjustment is a necessity. Since that day in Target, I walked away from my career and embraced a life that is full of all that matters most. I flow freely between wife, mom and daughter. I have completed 9 half marathons and 4 full marathons. Through many of those races I raised thousands of dollars to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Epilepsy Therapy Project. I’m evolving into an advocate for epilepsy awareness by sharing my own experiences and learning from those who have been where I am.

I have a brain injury and I have epilepsy but they will never define me and they will not limit me from setting big goals. I have learned to adjust and I have learned to change. Change can be eternalIy powerful if we use it correctly. I have learned the positive value of embracing change and remind myself to be thankful everyday for the gift of seeing the sun in the sky and walking (even running) on my own two feet.

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© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013

One to Wear, Three to Share

It is November 1st! I have waited 11 long months for Epilepsy Awareness Month to arrive again! Last year was a new adventure for us and I was just getting my feet. It was only the beginning of letting people into my world. My family supported my efforts for 30 days by wearing purple, wearing and sharing purple ribbons, holding purple days their schools and encouraging me to be proud to be me; epilepsy, brain injury and all.

As I sit here now in my purple shirt, purple shoes, purple earrings, purple bracelets and purple ribbon, there is still a part of me that wants to gulp when people ask why I’m wearing a purple ribbon. Will it ever be easy to say “I have epilepsy”? Will I ever stop fearing the response or the stares? Will I ever stop that twinge of madness I feel when the alarm on my phone rings and I know it’s time to swallow more pills that will upset my stomach, confuse my mind, slow my speech and make my hair fall out? Will I ever stop fearing that SUDEP will take me during the night? If I’m completely honest, probably not. But living in fear is not living. So I’ll choose to live in awareness and share what I know and what I have learned, because I can’t let fear win.

Six months ago I decided to celebrate Epilepsy Awareness Month by joining the Epilepsy Therapy Project and running the Philadelphia Half Marathon on November 18, 2012. I knew I could run 13.1 miles. I assumed I could convince my Mom to go with me and make a complete nuisance of herself by decking out head to toe in purple and yelling my name all over Philly and pretending to be Rocky on the steps of the famed Art Museum. I even thought I could convince a friend or two to go and run with me. I truly had NO idea my friends would jump on board like they have! Seven other runners teamed up with me and have helped raise a lot of money for the Epilepsy Therapy Project. A lot of generous people and businesses have supported our cause and dug deep in their pockets. The outpouring of financial and emotional support has warmed my heart and given me great hope for the future of treatment for epilepsy.

This morning everyone in our house pinned on purple ribbons. When Justin left for school at 5:55 am, he had on his ribbon. When Johnny left for work I pinned a ribbon on his shirt. When Hunter got ready for school, one ribbon just wouldn’t do. “I’ll take three to share please.” Most people would put them in their pockets. Not my Hunter! He proudly pinned them all over his shirt, ready to tell the world “my Mom has epilepsy and that’s just fine. Here’s your purple ribbon!”

It’s November, and it’s Epilepsy Awareness Month! I am excited about a month of fun adventures, including seeing Charlotte uptown light up purple on November 15 when Wells Fargo’s Duke Energy building turns purple for team Shaken, Not Stirred! We are all wearing our purple ribbons and we have more to share!

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Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, November 2012

It’s a Small World After All

Last Friday Shaken, Not Stirred had our first fundraising event for the Epilepsy Therapy Project at sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt. The owner’s, Steve and Sandy Anto graciously welcomed our crew and even brought in entertainment and games for the kids. Their son, my son, and another young man who works at sweetFrog play in a band together. I dreamed up the idea several months ago to have a fundraiser and have the band play. The Antos were all in from the start and with a debut date on the calendar, it was all business for the band.

I’m from the non-profit world and I did a LOT of event planning, way back when, but I’m a bit rusty these days. Thankfully, this time I had a full team of people to call on and the work was spread out with hands grasping for more. This is a special group of people and they not only see a task, they just take it and roll. We used every resource of labor we had available, including child labor. Sharon’s daughter, Addyson, spent one entire day making purple Epilepsy Awareness Ribbons. I apologize now for every hot glue gun burn and pin stick she has, but you should know we gave away every ribbon she made! We got donations from Taco Mac at Birkdale, Hickory Tavern at Birkdale, Chili’s in Huntersville, Longhorn in Huntersville and Carolina CAT and my kids assembled 150+ kids’ goodie bags to give away. Each business was overwhelmingly generous and not a single one turned me away!

I didn’t know what to expect on the day of our event. I had advertised, our team had advertised and sweetFrog had advertised, but you just never know. It’s not so much about the money, OK, well yes, it is about the money that we are raising for the Epilepsy Therapy Project, but I want people to have the chance to learn about something that is so misunderstood. For years I flew under the radar because I was afraid of being misunderstood. I was embarrassed by how I had changed and my inability to cope in certain situations. Is that going to keep me from living my life to my fullest? It shouldn’t. I’m learning that. I’m learning to embrace change. That’s what this race in Philadelphia with ETP is about; stepping out and being a face of epilepsy and brain injury. I hoped we would have the chance to share with people.

The people, oh the people, the flood of people, and the endless flood of tears and emotion that I felt all night. It’s been a week now and I still can’t wrap my mind around it. The show of support spoke volumes. Every set of eyes came to see and to learn about what we were doing. These eager faces wanted to understand. Faces from my childhood, from my husband’s days in elementary school, faces from my high school, from college, from our wedding, my mother’s former colleagues, families from our small group, our devoted RUN-agades, my TEAM in Training Coaches (including my Coach who saw me fall in LOVE with running in Nashville back in 2008), my neighbors, from our church, my Mom (also our Shaken, Not Stirred head cheerleader), my Mother-in-law and Father-in-law and people I had never met that read about us and came out to support our efforts. In a very busy big world, on a Friday night in August, all these people converged on sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt. For six straight hours, there was laughter, friendship and celebration among the hundreds of people who made time to stop by. Having grown up in a small town, I often feel the strain of the quick growth of our area. Friday night showed me, it’s a small world after all.

Friday night I met a woman and her family who came out because they read about our event online. She introduced me to her 11 yr old son. He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 3 years old and she was 8 months pregnant. For the last 5 years she has been working (I would say slaving is a better word) to secure a seizure dog for her son, and just last week they brought their new dog Chip home with them! I cried tears of joy with this mom as we watched her son play with Chip and I knew the immediate sense of relief she felt. This was an event worthy of celebrating!

I tried my best to share my gratitude and most importantly the reason Shaken, Not Stirred came together. My thoughts were so raw and discombobulated I couldn’t even get people’s names right. As I looked on the crowd and no words could come from my mouth and only tears could flow from my eyes, my very small world was a loving world, an understanding world, an accepting world and the silence was ok.

The night was a tremendous success! It was everything I had envisioned with music, fun and frozen yogurt all night long! I’m proud of my family for working so hard on this project with me and I’m proud of this team for running away with the vision and pressing on to raise $1000’s of dollars for the Epilepsy Therapy Project. I’m thankful for the generosity of the Antos and sweetFrog Frozen Yogurt for supporting our cause.

We have already raised over $8,000 and it’s only the beginning! We got some very exciting news just today that we will be sharing soon! We are SHAKEN things up, purple style… You just wait and see!

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, August 2012

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Shaken, Not Stirred

Shaken, Not Stirred

Philadelphia Half Marathon 11.18.12

Life is always more fun with a friend, so shouldn’t we all surround ourselves with a bunch of great friends?! I’m feeling like the luckiest girl in the world to be surrounded by a dedicated group of friends who are committed to Team Shaken, Not Stirred! We think big and Team Shaken, Not Stirred has set our sights on raising $10,000 for the Epilepsy Therapy Project! We need your help to make that happen! If you want to know why this is important, keep reading more of my blog. If you want to learn more about the Epilepsy Therapy Project visit www.Epilepsy.com.

Donating to ETP and supporting Shaken, Not Stirred is super simple, just click this link https://epilepsytherapyproject.myetap.org/fundraiser/2012PHLMarathon/team.do?participationRef=3917.0.251389978 and you can select to sponsor any runner or make a general donation to sponsor the team.

Thank you for taking the time to read about my journey and more importantly for supporting  Team Shaken, Not Stirred

Gatewood Campbell