As I continue to walk through this crazy beautiful health journey, I pray my journey will continue to encourage others to never give up. Even when the race gets overwhelming, people will inspired by my journey. But more importantly, I pray people will realize that whatever strength and insight I have comes from God. Only through God can I continue to walk through this marathon called life. Anything good you see in me comes from God. He is the one who has turned my health journey into a crazy beautiful adventure. I pray this journey never becomes about me. ~OC
When people meet me, they are always amazed how positive and upbeat I am. I have been asked more times than I can count, why I am not depressed? Doctors love asking that question. I guess people just think I should be hiding under the covers and living in pure devastation. Obviously they have never met me.
No, I have decided to live a life full of adventure and gratitude. It is a choice I have to make on a daily basis. Sometimes a hourly basis. I made the decision early on in this crazy beautiful health journey, to not allow my health issues to consume me. Not let it become my identity. I made the choice to be grateful for all the blessings I have experienced on this journey. That has truly been a life changing choice. Choosing to live with a heart of gratitude has allowed me to remain upbeat and full of joy. Yes, there are still some very tough days, but the blessings far outweigh the negatives of this journey.
I have also found that writing and talking about my journey has been very healing. It has also given my family and friends permission to ask about my journey. That has been important for everyone.
Humor has also been positive. If you know Laura and I, you know our humor tends to be on the dark side. And we do not apologize for it. Laura and I have been given the stink eye more than once when it comes to our dark humor. Our humor is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for us. Hey, if you don’t like it, go get your own life threatening health issues.
This crazy beautiful health journey has taught me that when I am truly living, I do not have the time to worry about the negatives this storm brings.
During this journey, God has also revealed his purpose for my life. It’s pretty simple. My purpose is to encourage and love others. Not just people who look and think like me. No, that would be easy. No, God has called me to encourage and love everyone He brings my way. That is not always easy, but the blessings have been unbelievable. I love this crazy beautiful journey God has me traveling. I would not change a thing. ~OC
This blog post is a letter to my younger self. To that younger me, when my crazy beautiful health journey started. You are welcome to join me on this journey.
Dear 2002 Todd,
Hello 2002 version of myself. You are about to start a crazy beautiful journey. Today, you cannot see the beauty. At this moment, you are in shock. You and your bride are trying to process everything the doctors have told you. Did that doctor really say I could be in a wheelchair in five years? Or worse. How could this be happening? So many questions. You are definitely not seeing the beauty at that moment. But hold on. The journey is just starting. You have no clue what a journey it will be. That is a good thing. You would not be able to handle it. Your life is going to change dramatically the next 17 years. Yes, 17 years. And counting. Just a quick side note. Everything is going to be okay. I promise.
Yes, the journey will be a long one. But hey, it’s 2019 and your still not in a wheelchair or worse. Oh by the way, you and Laura also fired that doctor. You two will get pretty good at being patient advocates. And not just for yourself. That will be one of the blessings birthed out of your journey. Believe me, you are going to add a lot of job titles to your resume the next 17 years. You will also become a Runner, Abolitionist, Missionary and a Speaker. Just to let you know, you will not be paid financially for any of those titles. Those will all be passion projects. And guess what? You will love it! But in 2002, you cannot even imagine how God could use your journey. That is a good thing. You would be overwhelmed by it all. At this moment, you are just trying to get back to a normal life. You will experience many “new normals” along this journey. Those will be tough to understand, but God will walk you through it. You and God are going to have some amazing conversations at 1am over the next 17 years. You might not appreciate those 1am discussions at first, but you will come to cherish them. I promise.
Hey 2002 Me, this journey is not going to be easy. Your body is going to be beat up beyond what a person can take. But remember you serve a God who is bigger than any storm you will face. There will be times you will doubt that, but God will still be faithful. I promise He will never leave or forsake you. In those dark moments you will face over the next 17 years, God will constantly remind you of His loving presence. Remember those 1am conversations with God I told you about? Those conversations will help you get through those dark moments.
I am going to let you in on a little secret. During this crazy beautiful journey, you are going to be blown away by your bride. Laura is going to become a total rockstar. You have no idea how strong she is. But believe me, you will be blown away by her strength and love for you. Do not ever take her for granted. Do your best to love her well. Your marriage will become stronger during this journey. You will see other relationships crumble under the pressure of health issues. So make sure to thank God for your bride every morning.
The 2002 version of yourself, is also going to be blown away by the friends that are going to walk beside you during this journey. You have no clue how loved you are. I am not joking. There will be multiple times over the next 17 years, you will face death. During those moments, you will have people from around the world praying for you. You will have so many friends surrounding you and Laura during this journey. You will learn the meaning of true friendship along this journey. Sometimes those lessons will be hard because some of your friends will walk away during the journey. Don’t worry, God will help you during those tough moments.
During your journey, God is going to bless you with a beautiful medical team. They will become like family. They will save your life on more than one occasion. Make sure you always treat them with love and respect. Because you will learn first hand how hard they work.
You cannot see it now, but there is going to be this thing called Social Media that will explode upon the scene. You will reject it at first. A lot of people will. But you will come to embrace it. You will not only embrace it, you will use it to tell your story and encourage others. Oh yeah, your story. Let us talk about that.
You will go from not wanting anyone knowing about your health issues, to sharing your story with the world. Guess what? You and Laura will even write a book about your journey. I know! You of all people will write a book. And your mom will not be the only person buying a copy. Your story is going to encourage so many people. Promise me you will never think the story is about you. Make sure you always give God all the praise and glory. Promise.
There will definitely be some sad moments along the way. You and Laura will both lose a parent during this journey. I promise God will get you through those tough moments. I pray you take the time to properly grieve during those times. Do not be afraid to asked for help when needed.
There will be some amazing moments during your crazy beautiful journey. You and Laura will decide to truly embrace each day. You will learn to love well. You will learn to think outside of the box. You will be forced to step out of your comfort zone more than once. You and Laura will take adventures that you are only dreaming about right now. You will be given the incredible gift of truly thriving in life.
Dear 2002 Todd, this journey will not be easy. Part of me is sorry about everything you will face the next 17 years. But a bigger part of me is so excited to see everything you are going to experience. The person you will become. Do not get comfortable with the 2002 version of yourself. In the next 17 years, you will not recognize him. And that is a good thing. I promise all the pain and loss is going to be worth it. Just keep your eyes on God and see what He is going to do. Plus you are going to get some really cool nicknames. Enjoy the ride!!!
Todd “OC” Shoemaker 2019
I made one of the best decisions of my life twenty years ago. I had the honor of marrying my best friend Laura West Shoemaker. Oh, what a journey it has been. So many amazing moments and memories.
Laura and I met in January of 1999 and were married by September 1999. Crazy I know! I am sure a lot of people thought we were crazy when we exchanged our vows. Remember, we had only known each other for nine months. But we knew God had brought us together, to walk this journey called life as husband and wife. Of course, we had no idea what a crazy beautiful journey it would be.
Imagine being just a few years into your marriage and your life changing forever. That was what Laura and I experienced in 2002. Finding out that my body was beginning to betray me was life changing, but not in the way you might think. My health journey has been a struggle for both of us. At the same time, the journey has been an amazing gift. A gift Laura and I have decided to embrace with enthusiasm. Most days.
From the very beginning, Laura and I decided that my health struggles would not define us. Our story would not be a sad one. No, we made the choice to keep living. Not just living, but to truly Thrive in life.
Our faith has been a major part of our marriage. From the very beginning, God has been the center of our relationship. We did meet at church after all. God has walked with us every step of our crazy journey. Through the good times and the challenging times
From the highs of exchanging wedding vows twenty years ago to the continuing challenges of dealing with life threatening health issues in 2019, the journey has been one amazing ride. I would not change a thing. The good days and the challenging days have brought us closer together. This journey has been filled with so many amazing memories. No day or moment taken for granted. Each day celebrated. Each moment cherished. I am grateful God has allowed us to walk this crazy beautiful journey together. Let’s keep living this adventure and making amazing memories together. Love you girl! ~OC
Today I choose to listen more than I speak.
Today I choose to speak words of encouragement.
Today I choose not to judge others.
Today I choose to love the immigrant.
Today I choose to look at the best in people.
Today I choose to speak out against injustice.
Today I choose love over hate.
Today I choose to love the unlovable.
Today I choose to love those that look different than me.
Today I choose to love those that worship differently than me.
Today I choose to love those who vote differently than me.
Today I choose to love those with different opinions than me.
Today I choose to speak truth.
Today I choose to check in on my friends.
Today I choose not to give up.
Today I choose to embrace adventure.
Today I choose to have a positive attitude.
Today I choose to spend time with God.
Today is all we have. Tomorrow is not promised. Yesterday is a memory. How will you choose to live today? ~OC
When I think about true love, I think about my beautiful bride Laura. If there was a picture of true love, her picture would be be front and center. This is not just a husband bragging about his wife on Valentine’s Day. Let me share a little love story with you. A young man meets a young girl while rollerblading in Palm Beach almost 20 years ago. This young couple gets married in the same year. I am sure a lot of people thought what crazy kids. In year three of this beautiful love story, the young man gets sick. Maybe just a little bump in the road. No, that little bump would become a crazy beautiful journey that would still be going on in year 20 of this love story. So what does this young girl do? She steps up and becomes the young man’s cheerleader, health advocate, caregiver and get in your face kind of protector when needed. This young lady has been my champion. That young couple could have never known the journey they would travel. But they decided to make the most of all the hospital stays and doctor visits. Many Valentine’s Days spent in the hospital. That young couple has always found a way to turn a negative into a positive. They have always decided to run, sometimes limp through this crazy beautiful journey together. Always together. ~OC