Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Well Healed...A night of HOPE!

The annual C.F. Breath of Life Gala this year was definitely a night to remember. With my mom being honored and presented with the Breath of Life award by Robert Beall and my speech, it was a very eventful night. Having so much of our family and friends there made it even more special!
Arriving at the Aviara Park Hyatt

Congregating with some of the Larsen women!

My mom accepting her award, she is my angel!

Giving my speech...

and being COMPLETELY surprised by Harrison afterwards!!

Then being surprised and humbled by Uncle Dallin's generous donation. He is a true hero!

A happy family filled with hope for an incredible future!

My mom bought TONS of raffle tickets to try to win me an Electric Bike. Little did she know...

the owner of Green Cruiser was there that night and already planned to surprise me with a bike!!
(my mom said she attracted it and I TOTALLY believe her!) It was an AMAZING surprise!

The night ended on the dance floor with my little guy. A perfect ending to a perfect night!

Here is a copy of the speech I gave:

Nine years ago I spoke at this very event, the Breath of Life Gala. I was a nervous 22-year-old; partly because my boyfriend and his parents were in the audience. When I finished speaking, my boyfriend started walking towards the podium. I thought he was coming to escort me back to my seat so I was confused when he came up on the stage and took the microphone…until he dropped to one knee and pulled out a gorgeous ring. It was an emotional, magical moment. Of course, I said YES! 

When Ryan and I first started talking about marriage, I remember having mixed emotions and frankly, being frightened. I asked Ryan if he was really okay marrying someone with Cystic Fibrosis. I loved him so much and would understand if he wanted to be with a woman who didn’t have my physical limitations and who would be able to have children. I will never forget Ryan’s words to me that night. He told me that he couldn’t help who he fell in love with and CF was a part of who I was. He told me he loved all of me.
Ryan was right, CF is a huge part of who I am.  

Because of the way I was raised, I learned I can choose how to view my disease. My mom has the most amazing way of finding blessings in every situation. She instilled this in me and so although CF remains my toughest challenge, the lessons and blessings that come from living with a life-threatening disease have not been lost on me. I recently read a quote that struck me so powerfully, especially because I’ve been battling another serious lung infection.
“While you can’t shut out illness entirely, you can make your body a place where health thrives.”  I’ve learned there are many people without symptoms or illness that don’t experience and enjoy true health. Until there is a cure for CF, I can’t shut out illness entirely but every day I can strive to make my body and soul a place where health thrives. 
The irony is that living with CF has actually taught me the lessons that have been so valuable in facilitating healing. Without the perspective CF has given me, I’m not sure I would be so uniquely conscious and grateful for every breath of air I take into my lungs. That awareness is a blessing!
I’m not sure I would love with the same intensity and capacity. I held my little sister Lexi in my arms as she passed from this life to the next after her struggle with CF and transplant and you can be sure I do not take a single one of my precious relationships for granted. What a blessing! 
I don’t know that I would celebrate life as I do now. I’m never going to be one of those people who dread birthdays and fib about my age. When I was diagnosed at 14 months the doctor told my mom encouragingly that I may even live to the age of ten. I celebrate every birthday and want to shout from the rooftops…I am 31! Another blessing! 
I’m not certain I would have recognized all the miracles in my life. Albert Einstein said: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle or you can live as if everything is a miracle.” When I look at my 3 ½ year old son, I can think of all the medical reasons why I should not have been able to carry, deliver and take care of a baby and now an energetic toddler. I am so grateful for the indisputable miracle of not only being alive but of being a wife and a mother. This has been the greatest blessing! 
I might not have the relationship I do with my mom. She is my hero and I love her so deeply. Ten years ago my mom qualified for a trip to Hawaii. I wasn’t feeling 100% and she was hesitant to go, but I insisted. I didn’t want to ruin the trip she had been so looking forward to. However, after she left, my health spiraled downhill quickly and I was admitted into the hospital. I knew my mom was in the air but I left a message on her cell phone so she’d know what was going on. That night I went to sleep wishing she could be with me. When I woke up the next morning she was sitting on my hospital bed. I gasped… I could not believe it, I couldn’t even understand how it was possible! I just stared at her with this amazed, confused look on my face. She leaned over, kissed me on the forehead and while putting a beautiful lei around my neck, whispered, “I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you yesterday…I had to fly to Hawaii to get you this lei.” 
She arrived in Hawaii, listened to her messages – and when she heard mine, went right back to the airport, flew through the night and took a cab to the hospital. This is the kind of mother she is. I have never ever felt alone…she has been beside me during every trial and every triumph.
She is being honored tonight and although I know she is uncomfortable receiving an award for something she says any mother would do, she is so deserving and I am so proud to be her daughter and so grateful to be the recipient of her love and devotion. My relationship with her is another of my greatest blessings. 
As I look around this room I want you to know that each of you bless my life. You are helping me along this journey in ways you might not even realize.
After Lexi received her double-lung transplant she went into rejection and was put in a medially induced coma that left her legs paralyzed. After about three months she was weaned off life support and able to come home but the paralysis remained. The young men and women in our church were going to go on a bike ride up to San Onofre and Lexi was heart-broken that she couldn’t participate. The plan was for Lexi to ride along with some of the leaders in a car. When we got to the meeting point, a dear friend of ours who happened to be a very good cyclist told Lexi he had a surprise for her and pulled a tandem bike out of his van. He said, “Lex, we’re going to do this together!” Lexi was nervous that she would slow him down and be too much of a burden for him but he just helped secure her feet to the pedals and then told her to peddle her hardest and he’d make up the difference. That bike trip meant the world to Lexi and I’ve never forgotten the kindness of that wonderful man.
You’ve done the same for me. Despite all the blessings, the burden of living with Cystic fibrosis can sometimes seem too much to bear. I feel all of you behind me pedaling, pushing, cheering me on. The emotional, physical and financial support you so unselfishly provide give me countless reasons to keep pedaling with all my strength.
I am not cured yet. I desperately want that and pray daily for that miracle for me, for my 9-year-old nephew Ben, for my 6-year-old niece, Lauren and for all who are fighting for every breath. But there is a reason I can stand in front of you tonight with 18% lung function and feel vibrant. I am healed by love, faith and hope. That is what tonight embodies. My cells are abuzz at a soaring frequency with the energy of generosity, determination and pure love in this room. Because of you, I not only see a cure…I can feel it. Thank you for being here tonight and God bless.


Ryan Kaltenbach said...

So proud of you. Love you

The Larsen Family said...

Dear Sharlie,

I just read your talk and I am so amazed by you. You are such an example of love, faith and courage. I wish i could have been there to hear you in person. I want to tell you how much I love you and feel so blessed to be your friend. I am so proud of you. xoxoxo Aunt Linda

Lisa whittall said...

Dear Sharlie,
You are such an inspiration to us all, your life is truly blessed because of who you are! Your speach had me in tears, tears of hope & joy! To be surrounded by that kind of love comes from the love you give out. You are an amazing woman.
Much love & prayers
Lisa Whittall

Katelyn said...

Wow, what a beautiful speech. You were radiating and your dress was beautiful. I am so glad your sweet little boy got to dance with you - what a sweet memory!

tiffany.amber said...

Thank you for reminding us of the things that are the most important. I feel so blessed to have you in my life. You Inspire me daily.
Love Amber

brooke said...

I love you Sharlie! Beautiful speech by a beautiful woman. You are amazing.

Melanie said...

Sharlie, I loved your speech. You are beautiful and inspiring.

-syd said...

What an incredible woman you are and such an amazing evening. I feel very blessed to have been a part of it. You make us all so proud. Still floating from all the positive energy that literally FILLED the room.
Much love,

Wendy Remington said...

I was in the room, and you could feel Sharlie's vibrant spirit touching each person in attendance!! She is so beautiful, in every way! I am so in awe of her everytime I see her!

She and her family are champions for CF!! Thank you to all of them!! I am honored to be in the "CF club".

Keep healthy Sharlie!!

love Wendy

Brandon and Katie said...

Love you shar!! Wish we couldve been there. You're beautiful.

Katrina said...

What a lovely speech Sharlie! Love & Hugs!

LaDawn said...

Dear Sharlie:

I just finished reading your speech. You are just amazing. You have always been such an inspiration to us and have grown into such a beautiful woman. You are truely blessed to have such a special mom. Give her a big hug for us and tell your family hello for us. We miss them all. What a sweet little boy, he is quite the angel.
Love you, LaDawn Painter

kellibelli said...

Tears are flowing....I am so impressed...I love you Sharlie! You make me appreciate my life more...thank you.

kellibelli said...

and what an amazing speech...I love the part about your have an amazing mom and I love her too. And I did not know that Ryan proposed at an event....I already had your love story as one of my top 3 now I think it is number 1 :)!

Judy Layton said...

genessrHi Sharlie,
Just read your speech...made me cry for the way you lead your inspiring!
You don't know me...this was a link on my facebook...I don't remember who it came from a new friend...
I cannot imagine having to give a speech with a lung funtion of 13!!! Mine is 70 and I thought that was low!!
Now I want to give you some encouragement...I didn't know until 18 years ago that I had CF, and I didn't have your strength whenever I got sick. I am now 65!!
I found out I had CF when my nephew was born...up until then I had been treated with all the problems of CF, not knowing I had it. Fought for yearc with dr's because they did not like me being so hard to treat..fired a few!!!
I go to an adult clinic at Johns Hopkins.
You gave me inspiration today. I hope I have given you some...You too can live to be 65 or older!!!

Zachary Ross said...

Sharlie, I am truly blessed to call you my sister. Thank you for always inspiring! We love you,

Zak, Kelli and kids

Katie Harding said...

You are such an great example to me! I love the perspective you have! So uplifting, so inspiring! You take the hard things in life and find the hidden blessings within. I admire your awareness of every passing moment and your gratitude to our Savior for each breath you take! You are amazing. I feel so blessed to have you as a friend. You are truly a tool in the Lords hands for good on this earth. Thank you for being the amazing example that you are! We love you and your precious family too!

The Curtis Couple said...

My name is Elise and I work at the Corporate Office of USANA. I now who your mother is through Amanda Ogaard Fawson (one of my co-workers) and I hear such great things from her about your mother.
I can see that from what I have heard about your mother, you are just like her! I read this post as well as a couple others of yours and you inspire me! It's interesting how each of us is given different trials to work through in this life. I believe that it is apart of our test here on this earth to decide how we will respond to those trials- your positive attitude about life and your situation, although it must be extremely hard, encourages everyone around you to have the same attitude.
Basically all I'm trying to say is thank you for your example to me. I feel like I know you and your family through reading your posts and I can tell you a strong united family.

Cormorant said...

What an amazing night that must have been! Your talk was wonderful and your determination and strength are more than admirable. Keep going! You are an inspiration to us all.

michal jacobs said...

Wow! Sharlie that was a great talk. I wish I could have heard it in person. You are truly blessed and in turn you bless each one of us. You are an inspiration.

May you continue to be blessed with much Love, Joy and Peace

Dr Michael Jacobs

Tom Haupt said...

Sharlie- I am very inspired by your courage and grace as you stand tall to overcome CF. Your message is a testament to the value of support we all need in our daily lives to overcome our challenges. I have only spoken over the phone to your Mom a few times however, her story inspired me to write about it in my book, Time-Out! As a result, any Usana rep that buys my book online, I donate $5 per copy to her foundation. It is the least I could do.
May you have a long and healthy life with your beautiful family!
Tom Haupt

Jayma Malme said...

Shar, as happens many times I read your blog, I am in tears. You have such a way with words and I know it all comes straight from your heart. I love catching up on yoru blog. Love and miss you! xo Jayma