Although I met many of my birth family nearly 13 years ago, my cousin Tracy and I have only “met” over the telephone, via Facebook, and through email exchanges. Yet, even though we have never had a face-to-face meeting, we have clicked just like cousins who had the good fortune to grow up together, sharing summer vacations filled with silly little secrets and long walks down Alabama dirt-filled roads.
Over time, my cousin, Tracy, has shared her story with me. Let me just say, Tracy’s story is phenomenal – just like her. I asked her would she be willing to share it with others on my blog. I am a firm believer, like Good Morning America’s host, Robin Roberts says, “Our mess can become our message.” Tracy has had to overcome a lot of “mess” over the last few years, but she has never lost hope or faith that her tomorrows will be better than her yesterdays. So, here is my Cousin Tracy’s story. May the readers of her journey be as positively touched and helped by her words as I have been.
Tracy English Butler is 41 years old and the married mother of six children. Her children range in age from 18 to 10 (the ten year olds are twins). Tracy says she never envisioned herself as having such a large family. Instead, she thought she would be a full time career woman. But Tracy is the first to say she has no regrets and loves every part of being the mom to her amazing, beautiful family.
As a child, Tracy grew up in an upper middle class neighborhood with two loving parents, Edward and Jean English. She has one sister, Kelly English Quirolo, and a whole host of loving aunts, uncles, and cousins. Tracy and her husband, Mario, have been married for 19 years, and when asked the secret of their long lasting relationship, Tracy says, “Running our household and raising six children has been a task requiring endurance, love, compromise, and understanding.”
All of their children are in school full-time and about a year and a half ago, Tracy returned to school herself to get a graduate degree in counseling. Tracy was accepted to a challenging program at her Alma mater, Oakland University in Michigan, and was breezing right along carrying a 3.9 grade point average when all of a sudden she was stopped in her tracks by some devastating news.
Here is the rest of Tracy’s story.
Hi, Tracy. Thank you for agreeing to take our private conversations public. I truly believe your story has the ability to change lives. If you don’t mind, will you tell my readers what happened to you nearly two years ago that brought you and all of your carefully laid plans for the future to a temporary, screeching halt?
Well, Angela, I found out that I had a brain tumor. The technical name for it is a Meningioma. Ninety plus percent of the time Meningiomas are benign which leads many people to think it is not that serious. Well, it is very serious, as the brain is a very delicate and complicated structure and any type of tumor that is pressing on it is therefore pressing on brain tissue or other delicate structures.
Wow, Tracy. So what were the particulars of the Meningioma you suffered from?
In my case, my Meningioma was on the left side of my skull. It was wrapped around my carotid artery and it pressed against my optic nerve. I went through a 10 hour craniotomy and I now have a titanium plate AND screws in my skull. Thank God my tumor is benign, but I have still endured the most difficult time of my life.
What are some of the effects you’ve experienced as a result of this brain tumor, and has there been anything positive to come out of this situation?
Everything about me is different. I have a right leg that slightly drags and it gets worse when I am fatigued. My speech is affected at times and I suffer from a fatigue that is indescribable. Cognitively I am not the same. I skip words when I talk and I forget that I have said things so I will often repeat myself. Yet, all of the changes in me have not been negative. I have conquered and faced many fears I never thought I would be able to. I am more vocal now and am in charge of my medical files and treatment. I realized quickly that doctors are blessings but they are not GODS. I am still healing even a year later as the tumor was removed in July of last year but I am here and able to tell my story and best of all, I am still blessed to be able to enjoy life with my husband Mario, my children, my family and my friends.
You’ve also conquered another great hurdle, Tracy. Every time I hear the story, I am amazed. Would you share with my readers what that great hurdle was?
Well Angela, as you know, over the past year I have lost over 147 pounds.
Cousin, no matter how many times I hear the story, I continue to be astounded that you battled a brain tumor and weight loss…all around the same time! If you don’t mind, please tell my readers how you did it?
Over the years I had tried diet plan after diet plan. Weight loss was constantly on my mind. I wanted to fit in and not loathe going shopping because nothing fit. I spent my younger years being told "you have such a pretty face, if you would just lose weight." The whole weight issue has been a very hurtful part of my life. In school, I was the last to get picked in gym, and through the years, people would not be-friend me because of my weight. Throughout my life, I have been bullied and teased.
Finally, I made the decision to have weight loss surgery called the Gastric Sleeve, whereby 85% of my stomach was removed. I had the surgery done about six months before I found out I had a brain tumor. In my surgery, there was no re-routing of my intestines or creation of a pouch or new stomach. I am now only able to eat about 1/4 of what I used to eat at one sitting. I am not promoting this surgery or encouraging anyone else to have it done, but I will say this about it. The surgery saved my life and I couldn't be happier in this department.
I still have about 40lbs to lose to be at what is considered a normal weight, but to tell you the truth I feel comfortable right now at the weight I am. Some people believe having weight loss surgery is taking the easy way out but I can say with all honesty, it is not! I still must choose healthy foods to eat and incorporate exercise into my daily routine.
Tracy, you are truly an inspiration. Although you haven’t mentioned it yet, you have other health issues that have slowed you down some. What are they?
I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chiari Malformation, and chronic anemia caused by a deficiency in the blood called G6PD. I also suffer from osteoarthritis and two bulging discs in my neck. I know it sounds like a lot of health issues but I am just trying to manage things one condition at a time.
And Tracy, let me just say, you are doing a phenomenal job managing everything, including, a new career. But Tracy, let’s be frank. A lot of people would have said, after dealing with just one of the things you have dealt with, "Okay, I give up." But you never did. What kept you motivated to not stop?
I have had many, many days when I have just wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out of it. But, I keep my mind busy by reading each day and speaking with and keeping in contact with friends and classmates from school. I gladly accept help from my family and others who offer. But most of all I hold my head high. On the days I am in a lot of pain I pray, spend quiet time outside in nature by walking slowly around my neighborhood and I pray some more. And, as you mentioned, I have even begun my own business. I am an Avon representative! Running the business is helping me in the cognitive areas that I am struggling with and it also allows me to stay engaged with others. Lastly, Avon is providing a secondary source of income for my family, despite my disabilities.
But why Avon? What drew you to that particular company?
Avon is a company that has successfully been in business for over 100 years, and Avon representatives have the flexibility of running a small side business or build something larger. I love that the prices are reasonable and I personally use many of the products myself. Also, I love working for a company that sells itself. Everyone knows Avon!
My memories of Avon representatives are those ladies who used to come door-to-door. Has Avon changed from that model at all?
There are still representatives who operate their business door-to-door only. But then there are those representatives who prefer to run their business online. Either way, running an Avon business requires getting the word out; whether it is through passing out brochures or establishing a web presence. I try to do both. Each campaign, I try to canvas my neighborhood with books and I try to reach new clients online. Recently, I began a Facebook Business Page called Avon Beauty. For example, even though you and I are in different states, separated by hundreds of miles, I am still able to be your “Avon Lady” through my website. The online component of Avon is what has taken it from being your grandmother’s Avon to what it is today, not to mention the fact that the products have also evolved over time. All in all, Avon is the same in some ways, but different in all the ways that count.
Well, I must confess, cousin. I do love getting those boxes with all of my neat Avon products every few weeks. Especially the products for my feet!
(Laughing) Yes, I know.
Well, Tracy, thank you for sharing your story with me again and with my readers. As I said before, your story is remarkable, and I would say that even if you weren't my cousin. I truly believe others will be as touched by your story as I was and continue to be.
Thank you, Angela.
Readers, if you would like a chance to win some incredible Avon products, leave a note for Tracy below and automatically, you will be entered into a drawing for a gift bag valued at $25. The winner of the gift bag will be announced on her Facebook Avon Beauty page on September 22, 2013. I will also announce the winner here on my blog. Click here to subscribe to her Facebook page. If you have additional questions about Avon or Tracy’s story, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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