Ten years to discover strength in faith

Soul Surfer, the movie and book, had a profound affect on my life and my MS.

Young Bethany Hamilton loses her arm to a shark off the coast of Kaui. True story about her journey before and after the incident. Throughout the story weaves an unfathomable ribbon of faith between her and God. Through her Christianity, young Hamilton faced challenges not many of us have seen or in some ways comparable to what we've seen, just told in a different way.

At first viewing I was overtaken with emotion as this young girl faced her challenges, one by one with more strength then before. What was driving her to find a healthy and wonderful existence despite the incident? What was providing that comfortable feeling that all is right in the world? And why did it feel so familiar?

Faith. Bethany's faith in God and her Christian family and community was represented well by Hollywood but just watching this girl speak once will tell you that she is genuine. The movie may be enhanced by special effects but Hamilton is enhanced by her faith.

I remember that feeling of having a peaceful, spiritual existence between myself and God especially as a child. The relationship has always been there but never had I given my faith in God the credit it deserved. While sitting in church one day, okay maybe several times, the message was clear: Caroline, the girl with MS, get your story told. You're not getting any younger or healthier!

So here I am. My fledgling start at getting the story out.

Folks kept asking if I was scared. I was traveling through Guatemala with some friends for a month. Backpacks, chicken buses, hostels, the works! Part way through the trip my vision started going screwy and my balance was way off. Nausea hit and survival came from licuados, coffee, tea and beer. Some med students recommended that I take some nyclezene as my symptoms were similar to an inner ear infection and motion sickness. I never felt like I had an infection. Those can usually be felt or tasted in the body. I just looked drunk and was getting worse. But persevered we did and traveled throughout the country seeing many wonderful places.

The folks of Guatemala were amazing. Helpful in every way. And the tourists. We would see the same folks across the country in different towns reminding us how small this country really was. For a few days I was on my own. I was deteriorating quickly. Staying in the quaint town of Livingston on the Atlantic side, a crab jumped out of my backpack. Unable to focus I climbed up on a chair in the corner of the room and watched it swirl around as shades of vertigo went through my mind.

The crab eventually wandered off. Then came a knock at the door and friends from around the world whom we had met would come and lead me to the licuado stand. Walking unassisted was becoming the norm.

As I was leaving the country, wall-crawling along the airport for balance, the sudden reminder flashed by that Guatemalan chocolate was requested by a family member, in honor of the Johnny Depp movie, Chocolat. Handing my last few quetzales to the merchant and slipping my chocolate in my bag, the comment "Americanas y drugas son loco" made me realize how bad of shape I was really in.

So, I hopped on the plane and headed back to Los Angeles. Interested to see what will come ahead, but I was never scared. Deep down I knew God would have the answers for me. I didn't realize this strength came from my faith and a loving Christian family and community until I watched Soul Surfer. Talk about a slap in the face after ten years of this disease. Doh!



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