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Episode 54 – Mindy Rees, Hope on the Horizon

Hope on the Horizon
Posted: March 12, 2020 at 5:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Accidental Influencer

“I never intended on sharing anything”, says Mindy Rees, “for three years the only people who knew he was sick were family and close neighbors.” After deciding to seek answers at the Mayo Clinic, Mindy finally posted on social media that she needed the prayers of others to help them find a diagnosis. That's when the flood gates opened and people were interested in their story and how they could help.

Soon after her husband Wyatt's diagnosis of ALS (amytrophic lateral sclerosis), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Diesease, Mindy said she would post short but powerful updates and it was at that time a friend encouraged her to start a blog. Blogging was popular then. Her friend said, “every time you post on your page it means a lot and people would like to know more.” Mindy said, “I realized that I liked to write and it was helping me to get all of these feelings out.”

The December after starting her blog in 2017, East Idaho News visited them with a surprise from Secret Santa. They told the story and then directed people to the blog who were interested in learning more about their story and about ALS. Mindy felt like it was perfect timing as the blog was already set up and going when they suddenly had the spotlight directed toward their story.

“There's nothing special about us,” Mindy Rees says as she relates the journey of her family and their challenges with ALS, “I started realizing it was helping other people. You don't realize how other people are going through something hard and saying ‘if she can do it, I can do it.'” Mindy explained that the blog helped her to visualize her blessings and think about all the positive in her challenging circumstances.

Mindy has been positive throughout this journey, “I'm naturally positive, but I saw so many other people going through things and so I never thought ‘why me'. I knew my own capabilities and I knew I could do it. This [disease] doesn't make Wyatt any less of a husband and father. I was determined that I would try to make things as normal as I could.”

Wyatt did not have a diagnosis for three years and there was no resources to help him. “I had to figure it out,” she says, “there was no one there to help us.” Mindy feels that her life experiences living on a dairy farm and being a gymnast taught her tenacity and problem-solving. “I've always had the attitude of if I'm going to do this I've got to figure it out.” That problem solving was what got her through when she had to get him in and out of cars and showers and other things they had to problem solve along the way. “I realized what I was capable of doing, I can do this.” Once they received his official diagnosis things got easier, resources were there and adaptive equipment gave him some freedom.

Despite the challenges of being a caregiver Mindy never considered placing Wyatt in a care center. “We all have our own threshold of physical, emotional capabilities of caring for somebody. My kids were little and even though they didn't have their dad in a normal way, they could run in after school. Everything we did was in my bedroom. I hope for my kids they saw that taking care of each other was how [we] loved each other,” she explained. The kids helped with caregiving activities including suctioning, feeding, and keeping blankets on him.

“The thing that gets you down the most is when you start feeling like you're the only one that knows what this is like. Even when you are at your lowest point or when you are going through something hard you have to be strong enough to still reach out and find somebody. I still had to reach out and find my tribe,” she said about others going through trials. “I had to find people I could relate to. You form a relationship and you get support.” This is another thing that the blog did for her, it helped her find her tribe. “When he passed away it was a sigh of relief. I'm not going to let this keep dragging me down. Yes, he's gone. Yes, it's hard. But he's better now,” she said.

Mindy recognizes that she made plenty of mistakes being a caregiver especially with not taking care of herself. Looking back she's not sure she'd do it differently. She does admit that it took a toll on her and she could have been more emotionally healthy but there are no regrets in how she took care of him. “I know I did my very best. I did all that I could do.” She sees how every situation is different and each caregiver has to do what is best for them and their loved ones.

Mindy's future includes nursing school, something she's always wanted to do even before Wyatt got sick and writing a book. Mindy starts school in the Fall. She's recently started on the book. “I think it will help me in my healing.”

Mindy recognizes that ALS will always be a part of her life. During this journey, she has met many people and has great empathy for other's struggles. “I hope it makes me a better person. To not judge, just love people for who they are.” She believes that the lesson in this journey is to be a more loving and compassionate person and to teach her kids that although life isn't fair you shouldn't give up and there is always hope on the horizon.

Information

You can find Mindy's blog at https://hopeonthehorizon6.wordpress.com/.

To learn more about ALS visit the ALS Association website at http://www.alsa.org/.

Thank you to James at Disruptive Productions for editing the show. You can learn more at http://www.disruptiveproductions.com.