Musings From Our Facebook Members
I wanted to create a section in this newsletter that recognizes some of the amazing women we have in Style Your Way To Success Over Fifty. I’m so humbled to be in the presence of some of the most beautiful, interesting, and stylish women from all over the world. I’ve included some personal stories that may surprise and inspire you, shout outs to the most popular posts, and att-a-girls for some of our new selfie posters!
Let’s begin with a very personal story that I learned recently. I am getting to know one of our beautiful members, Michele Wiley Callahan. You may recall that recently Michele posted a selfie lying in a hospital bed on her way to surgery — and she looked GORGEOUS! I mean, full makeup, hair perfectly coifed, and most importantly, a beautiful big smile! Well….I thought, I need to get to know this woman!
As luck would have it, Michele booked one of my free 15-minute style consultations and I started learning about her amazing story. Then, she purchased my Love My Colors! program and I got to know her even better. When I heard what Michele had recently experienced I asked if she would allow me to interview her so you could hear her story, too. She said yes…
Michele, let’s start with telling us a little about yourself.
Thank you, Linda! I’m 56 years old, and I grew up with a military father so I have traveled all over the country. I went to eight different schools by the time I graduated from high school. I went to college in West Virginia where I met my first husband, had my daughter, and then got divorced not long after that. I worked for AT&T for 24 years when I had to retire. Now, I’m married to my second husband, Mark, for eight years in April, and my daughter lives in Savannah, and my husband’s two children, whom I call my “bonus children” live in the Atlanta area and we have one granddaughter who just turned one year old. We do a lot of FaceTiming!
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
People are always surprised to find out that I’m ill because with a lot of illnesses you can’t see them. Unlike someone who walks with a cane or is in a wheelchair where it’s obvious, but a lot of people tell me “wow, I would have had no idea that you’re sick or that you went through that…”
Your attitude is incredible. How do you stay so positive?
Well, thank you. It has a lot to do, my doctors tell me, with getting better. Although what I have is not curable, my attitude has a lot to do with getting better and how I feel every day. It’s a choice — I have good days and bad days. I try overall to have a positive attitude.
Do you want to talk about your illness? When did you first become ill?
I had signs…they say that the symptons of a heart attack are different for everyone. I was perfectly healthy until 2014. I never really exercised, I was a size zero, full of energy, worked hard and volunteered, and, oh, I loved to shop — I could shop eight hours a day and not get tired! I was a shopper!
Then one day I was at work in 2014 and I had chest pain. I just felt strange. I had this crushing, crushing pain, like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t get the crushing feeling to go away. I tried lying on my back, on my stomach, but the pain was still strong. My husband and I both worked from home at the time, so my husband called 911 and they took me to the hospital.
Within a few hours the pain was gone. The doctor came in the next morning and said we’re going to take you into surgery because you’ve had a heart attack, and we’re going to put in a stint. Twenty minutes later they rolled me back into my hospital room and told me I had no blockage in my arteries, so they didn’t have to do the surgery. This was a good sign! They sent me home, and I was feeling fine. I didn’t have any more pain.
Three weeks later to the day, I was cooking dinner for our neighbors to thank them for helping us out after my heart attack, and we were enjoying ourselves out on the patio and I had another heart attack. They called 911, and back to the hospital I went!
So now I’d had two heart attacks. No blockages. They can’t figure out why I’m having heart attacks! I went for a second and third opinion over the next year, and got all kinds of different opinions, but no one could say for sure what was causing them.
My husband really wanted to get me into the Mayo Clinic, which is in Jacksonville, Florida, so we moved to Jacksonville in August, 2015. And I did really well for the first few months while we were working to get me into the Mayo. Then in January, 2016 I got really, really sick. I waited too long to go to the hospital because it felt like the flu, but I had no energy and even getting out of bed to walk to the bathroom was overwhelming.
Turns out I had heart failure. So, they put me on the heart transplant list. Finally I got approved — and believe me, it’s not easy! You have to take psychological tests, they dig into your finances because it is very expensive, and you have to be fairly healthy because they want to make sure you’re going to take care of yourself after the transplant. They don’t accept smokers, drug users, and if you’re overweight they make you lose weight. You have to have the right attitude about it. Basically they are trying to make sure you will take care of this gift once you get it!
They sent me home to wait on the heart. I was on the list for nine months. You have to always be within three hours of the Mayo Clinic the entire time. We had to put our lives on hold for that nine months. We couldn’t travel, go on vacation, or visit our kids. I was taking a lot of medications including prednisone, which it turns out, saved me. But it has made me put weight on. My face is puffy and even though I’m not big, I feel the extra weight. I joke about my “chipmunk cheeks” all the time. But they were able to take me off the list as I don’t need the transplant anymore.
What is causing my heart attacks and several other issues is called lymphocytic myocarditis, which is an autoimmune disease, where my body attacks itself. My immune system attacks my heart, causing my heart to swell. Sometimes it attacks my skin and gives me bad psoriasis, or it has attacked my head where I had alopecia where my hair falls out in clumps. So I got shots and my hair grew back. Next thing you know it causes joint pain, and it can attack my organs, like my heart.
With everything you’ve gone through, and are still going through, how did you get your passion for fashion and life, in general, back?
When they put me on the heart transplant list and I couldn’t work anymore, I just kind of lost my enthusiasm and my passion for things I used to love, like traveling with my husband or shopping. I went for a year and a half without going into a clothing store — I just didn’t have the energy to do it, or the interest. I had lost interest in life. I stayed in my pajamas all day, and I didn’t want to get dressed, and didn’t want to do anything with friends because at the last minute I would get ill and have to cancel, and I didn’t want to do that to anyone.
I can’t remember how I came across your Facebook group, but I’m really happy I did! It has really helped me see that there are other women out there who maybe don’t have the same health issue, but their bodies are changing, too, and they all want to dress nicely and feel good about themselves, too. I really love sharing ideas and I love women helping other women. That has always been important to me. We’re not competing with each other — we’re helping each other. It’s very positive. It’s really help me to get up and get dressed every day, put on makeup, learn something new about fashion and take some selfie pictures. This group has renewed my interest in life!! I’m also learning so much I never knew about style because I signed up for your style course. I’m only through the first week, but I’m already addicted, and looking forward to finishing my homework and starting the next week. You (and my Style Sisters) have helped me get my passion for fashion back. I’ve even started getting out and walking every day to try to lose some weight.
Thank you so much, Michele, for sharing your inspirational story…