No one thinks it's going to happen to them. It's the optimism principle. We watch as all these horrible things happen to those around us but never think the shoe will be on the other foot…until it is.
My mom flew in to meet me at the hospital, that's why I knew it was serious. I remember the nurse grabbing me to ensure that I wouldn’t fall as they watched my heart monitor skyrocket when I stood up. Standing. It was something so simple you never thought it would be hard, babies even do it. Why, after 24 years of life was that changing?
I cried alone in my bed that night after my mom turned the lights off. I had spent hours dizzyingly googling all the things I could find about this thing called POTS syndrome. I looked through the articles about how some had these insane stories of hope and people growing out of it and others ended up on feeding tubes and couldn’t live their lives the way they wanted any more. Others quit their jobs and ended up permanently disabled. I prayed I wouldn’t end up in those last two categories.
I couldn’t end up in that category. I wouldn’t.
I mean, I had my whole life. I was a photo editor, a climber, an outdoors enthusiast. My whole idea of fun involved running trails, scaling mountains and traveling to foreign countries to climb and adventure. Weren't things like this supposed to happen to people who were lazy? I was the kid whose parents friends deemed them the crazy wanderer, one of them even bestowing me with the nickname Gypsy Jo because she never knew which state I would be in next. I took care of my body. Why wasnt it taking care of me?
My life became different after that. I could no longer cover football games because it was too long to walk without passing out. Grocery shopping became this timed sport to see how fast I could get in and out before the clock struck 12 and I would hit the floor and I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs without stopping half-way through to sit and try to regain my balance.
Worst of all I was mad at God. I remember ranting one day asking, haven’t I had enough? A year prior I survived a rollover accident that left me with damaged muscles that never came back. Doctors told me I wouldn’t climb like I used to, but I climbed harder, came back stronger. I began to wonder if that was even possible this time. I began to doubt it.
I know this post is supposed to be about being chosen. But the truth is, we are all chosen. We can look at so many places in the bible and realize that. God did choose us despite our flaws. He chose Rahab, a prostitute, Peter, who denied him three times, Paul, who persecuted Christians, and Martha (who like me) worried about literally everything. At the end of the day, though, those people chose God. I knew that despite my anger, I needed to do the same thing. Trust and faith are two very different things. I had faith, but did I really have trust?
No matter what, there will be trials in your life, and sometimes they feel like they keep rolling through like an April thunderstorms in the south. But that choice to choose him back is all ours. And I think that's really beautiful.
I have a small tattoo on my wrist of a heart and cross intersecting which I got after a Bible verse in Philippians kept popping up in my life. “Though my flesh and my heart may fail, God is my strength and my portion forever." It has become my reminder to trust, to keep going and only look back to realize how far I have come.
For whatever reason, God placed some of the most beautiful people in my life who wouldn’t let me give up. God gave me Weston, who helped me hike again, even though it required him to stop every 5 minutes and carry both his pack and mine. God gave me Rachael who got diagnosed with the same syndrome and we struggled together, building each other up until we could climb smaller things then bigger things. God gave me parents and a sister and friends who would go to the ends of the Earth to be there for me and make sure I had the best medical care we could find for a syndrome that not a ton of research has been done on. And God gave me the most understanding work staff who gave me the time and the encouragement to continue the job that I had worked so hard to achieve.
It has taken nearly a year, and I am still nowhere near where I used to be. But in two days I leave the country to go attempt my first climbing expedition again outside Paris and in Switzerland. I take anywhere from 6-10 pills a day to function and I still struggle…a lot. Thankfully I rarely have to use the handicapped parking sticker that was given to me and most days I try to walk a little father and go a little longer. But giving up is never an option. Maybe I won’t be that same climber I was before. Maybe I will get stronger. Maybe I won’t, nothing is guaranteed except maybe the amount of hard work it is going to and has taken. But I have the best people in my life, and I have God. And for that, I live chosen.
Sammy Jo Hester is an editorial photographer currently based in Utah. All photos copyright Sammy Jo Hester, The Daily Herald in Provo, The Saginaw News, The Flint Journal, and US Army Cadet Command. (She is also one of my former students and I couldn't be more proud of her.)
See more of her awesome work on her website.
I hope that this past month of #LiveChosen stories has inspired and encouraged you. No matter where you are or what you are going through you have purpose...YOU ARE CHOSEN. Thank you for joining us this month, and this is your last chance to enter the GIVEAWAY!