Memories. They can make you smile, laugh and cry. Sometimes memories just make you sit back and reflect. That happened to me this morning, as I scrolled through my Facebook page and a memory from May 13, 2009 jumped out at me. It took me back. On this date in 2009, I went back to work after a month in the hospital and recovery at home. I did not realize at the time that life would never be the same.
As I went back to work that Wednesday morning, I thought things would go back to normal. Little did I realize that my life would never be normal again. Several days after going back to work, I would end up back in the hospital. This scene would play out many times over the next few months. I would work a few days and end up in the hospital for a few weeks. Finally after seeing this Groundhog Day moment several times (Google the movie Groundhog Day), my medical team shared it was time for me to retire and go on disability. Retire? Disability? I was only in my early 40’s. I was not real excited about this new normal. But this new normal was now part of my life. Little did I realize what a crazy beautiful journey God would allow me to experience.
As I have walked this new normal since 2009, I have become a full time Abolitionist, a Missionary and a published Author. I doubt any of my teachers or professors would have ever guessed I would write a book. During this new normal, my faith became so much stronger. My wife Laura and I have experienced so many amazing adventures. I definitely would not have chosen this new normal, but I would not change a thing. My new normal has become a beautiful gift. Thanks Facebook for the memory. ~OC
Good morning! So as I sit in this hospital room, here are some of my prayers and thoughts.
I pray my beautiful bride is resting and wakes up feeling great.
I pray that some dear family and friends who are sick, will experience complete healing.
I pray for all the Caregivers taking care of a loved one.
I pray The Holy Spirit will take over South Florida. Revival come!
I pray I will be the best husband, friend and disciple of Jesus that I can be through Him.
I pray for everyone in the military and all First Responders. And their families.
I pray for peace.
I pray for all the leaders. I pray their hearts and minds would be changed by God.
I pray for the victims of human trafficking. I pray they will be rescued and their lives will be completely restored. I pray for all the organizations fighting this horrible crime. I pray their needs will be met. Most importantly, I pray their hearts and motives are pure.
I pray for all churches, pastors, missionaries and ministries. May they truly be the hands and feet of Jesus.
I pray God will allow me to do more for everyone I come in contact with during the day.
I pray for all the patients, nurses, doctors and staff at Good Sam. Give each the strength they need today.
I pray for our schools, students, teachers, staff and administrators. I pray God would bless and protect each.
I pray I will not get in the way of what God wants to do in my life.
Here are some of the thoughts going through my crazy beautiful mind this morning:
What races will I run in 2020, if God allows me to run again? It has been almost 11 years since I last ran.
If God blesses me with the ability to run again, that means I could return to the workforce. Where would I work? Who would hire a 50 something guy who has not worked in almost 11 years, but has an incredible crazy beautiful story? Would I go on the speaking circuit? Would I look at working at a church or ministry of some kind? Would I work at a school or university? Would I be a Greeter at Walmart?
Yes, those are some of the crazy thoughts that go through my mind a lot of morning’s. I just want to be ready for whatever God has prepared for me. Even if that means never running another race or never being able to return to work, I will be obedient and thankful.
Have a wonderful and blessed day. ~OC
I had to retire early from my career in the juvenile justice field. I was only in my early 40’s. Thankfully, God was not finished with me. In the past ten years, God has allowed me to take on several new roles. Here are some of the opportunities God has blessed me to be part of:
Ten years ago, I could have allowed my health issues to become my identity. But God had other plans for me. I had to make the choice to keep living and thriving. I pray you will make the choice to look past your current circumstances and choose to keep thriving and making a difference. ~OC
During my 17 year crazy beautiful health journey, I am often asked what lessons I have learned along the way. I could probably write a book on the lessons God has taught me, as I have walked this journey. I am not up for writing another book at this time, so I thought I would share a few with you. Here we go…..
Prayer. I knew the importance of prayer way before my crazy beautiful journey started, but this journey has only reinforced the importance and power of prayer. I can look back on multiple occasions when the prayers of many saved my life. Praying for others is a real honor for me. Prayer energizes me.
Choose to Thrive. Dealing with multiple health issues can be overwhelming. The journey can flat out be exhausting. It can be very easy to just survive. To just make it through the day. Who could blame me? But years ago, my wife and I decided Just Surviving was not how we wanted to live life. No, we decided to Thrive in life. That means not allowing my health issues to define us. Thriving means embracing life. Even on those rough days. Choosing to thrive is a daily choice. Sometimes a moment by moment choice.
Finding Purpose. During this crazy beautiful journey, I had to find a purpose for it all. There had to be more to this journey than doctor appointments, unending test and hospital visits. During my 17 year journey, God has allowed me to become a Abolitionist, Missionary, Motivational Speaker, Author, Patient Advocate and Thought Leader. I made the choice to turn a perceived negative into an opportunity to make a difference in life. What a ride it has been.
Laugh Often. When you have been diagnosed with as many life threatening health issues as I have, you just have to laugh. My wife Laura and I have used humor, dark humor most of the time to get through some of the toughest days. I mean when your known as The Man Who Refuses To Die, you have to laugh.
Don’t Sweat The Small Things. Life is too short to worry about the small things in life. My wife often shares with people, “Todd and I do not argue over how one of us squeezes the bottle of toothpaste.”
Find Your 3 am Friends. Who’s in your posse? Who are those friends that you can call at 3am when life becomes overwhelming? Do you have any? I truly believe God brings those 3am friends into our lives. I do not believe they can be manufactured by us. Also, I believe your posse can change over time. And guess what? That’s okay. I believe some relationships are just for a season. So don’t stress out when your posse changes.
Travel. I had never really traveled that much before my health journey. A few trips here and there. But after I started dealing with my health issues, my wife and I decided we wanted to travel more. Sometimes it’s just a day trip up the road and sometimes it is trips to Cuba and Alaska. Traveling has been a true blessing for my wife and I. So plan your next trip.
These are just a few lessons learned along the journey. I pray they will help encourage you, as you walk your own crazy beautiful journey. ~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
When I was diagnosed with multiple life threatening health issues, I made the choice to keep thriving. When I had to stop running, I made the choice to keep thriving. When I had to retire early based on my health issues, I made the choice to keep thriving. When I have been told I should not be alive, I make the choice to keep thriving. Do you sense a theme here? We have to keep thriving.
When my health journey started, I made the choice to become a patient advocate. When I had to give up running, I made the choice to start running a new race. A race to encourage others going through their own crazy beautiful journey. When my health forced me to retire early, I made the choice to become an abolitionist, a missionary, a speaker and a writer. I made the choice to not allow my circumstances define me. This has not always been easy, but it has been worth it.
Today, I encourage everyone to keep thriving. You may be facing some tough circumstances and you are just concerned about surviving. The thought of thriving is not even on your radar. I would encourage you to change your mindset from surviving to thriving. I would encourage you to surround yourself with people who will help you thrive. I realize this might be difficult. Change is never easy. But if we want to live a life of thriving, we will have to make some changes in our lives. I guarantee changing your mindset from living/surviving to thriving could be life changing. ~OC
Over the years when I have faced another medical trial, I have stated “It’s just another bump in the road.” Yesterday, God changed my mindset. He shared with me that instead of looking at my current situation as another bump in the road, I should instead look at my health challenges as another blessing in the road. Pretty mind blowing. I also believe it could be a life changing way of looking at our circumstances. With every “Bump in the Road” has come a blessing. Let me share some examples.
*A Missionary. During my crazy beautiful health journey, God has allowed me to become a missionary at doctors appointments and hospital stays. God has blessed me with the incredible opportunity to encourage others during those visits.
*My Voice. Based on my health issues, I have lost my physical voice. I speak with a whisper these days. I use a voice amplifier to help me speak. But during this time, God has blessed me with the opportunity to speak out loudly against human trafficking, racism and other important issues.
*Listen. During this crazy beautiful journey, God has helped me become a better listener. I always thought I was a good listener until I got sick. It was then that I realized, I tended to listen so I could respond. So I could fix things. During this journey, God has blessed me with the incredible opportunity to just listen. Not to be the fixer. Not to share my opinion. Just to listen.
*Extra Weight. When I got sick again in 2009, I was prescribed the highest dose of prednisone (a steroid), that you can take. I put on a ton of weight in a short period of time. I went from my running weight of 150 to over 200 pounds in less than six months. All the weight went straight to my stomach. Based on the fact I could no longer run or exercise, it was difficult to take weight off. It was very frustrating. Then in 2014, I started losing my appetite. Then from the middle of 2016 to the first of 2017, I lost 90 pounds. Yes, you read that correctly. 90 pounds! That is when I had my feeding tube inserted. That extra weight saved my life. A bump in the road turned into a life saving blessing in the road.
*A Book. In March of this year, my memoir The Blessed Overcomer was published. If not for this “bump in the road”, I would have never written a book. You can find my book on Amazon or you can contact me about getting a signed copy. A little shameless plug.
*This Blog. Once again, if not for this crazy beautiful health journey there is no blog. I do not have a huge following and probably never will, but that was never the point. I am thankful for everyone who drops by and checks out my blog. Writing my thoughts down has been very cathartic. A wonderful blessing.
As I reflect on my crazy beautiful health journey, I have so many Blessings In The Road moments. It took God changing my mindset to realize this amazing truth. ~OC