I was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth Disease when I was five. This is a progressive neurological condition that destroys the neural pathway from the brain to the muscles, causing atrophy, weakness, pain and numbness as well as lack of balance. It primarily affects the arms and legs but in some cases, it can also affect breathing and swallowing.

When I was diagnosed, it was predicted that I’d be in a wheelchair by the time I was 20. I far surpassed that, but things have progressed over the past decade to the point where I’m now falling and breaking bones. It’s gotten to the point where I need to rely on a motorized wheelchair to safely get around. That’s been a challenging fact to absorb. I’m 46 and should be in the prime of my life and instead I struggle to walk across the room.

Thankfully, the kindness of others, a lot of them strangers, has shined brightly and helped me see the light in my bleakest days.

In December a team of local volunteers built a handicap ramp on my house to enable me to access my yard. To know that complete strangers would donate materials and labor and come here to fight the blustery cold weather brought me to tears. I’ve struggled for years to safely climb the steps to my porch and having this ramp will finally enable me to get a wheelchair in and out of the house and I’m extremely grateful for that. It’s brought me one step closer to regaining my freedom and independence, and that’s priceless.

‘I’m constantly asked how I stay so strong and how I cope with these tremendous challenges. Well, the best ways I’ve found to curb my own depression are to focus on helping others, to immerse myself in creative hobbies, and to spend as much time in nature as I possibly can.

Eight years ago I started a Facebook page called Words of Kindness. I was going through a particularly dark time and started reading inspirational stories and quotes just to get through the day. I realized that they became my lifeline and that if they had the power to lift my spirits, I needed to share them with the world. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and every week people around the globe are reaching out to me, often with inspirational stories of their own, and telling me how much the kind words have helped brighten their day.

Please join me at Words of Kindness where we can continue to promote kindness, compassion and inspiration. We’re all in this together, and sometimes it takes a village.
– Susan Giftos Kegerreis 

Visit Words of Kindness to follow Susan’s journey and read about the amazing eight-acre food forest she is building. 

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