Category Archives: Inspiring Biographies
The title of this article should actually say that Claire Wineland was a “Life Advocate.” She was the epitome of MLK’s quote, “It doesn’t matter how long you live, but how well you do it.”
I didn’t know Claire personally, but like so many of her followers on social media, those who read her book or had the pleasure of attending one of her talks in person, she felt like a friend. She had a talent for drawing people in, then she would reveal her truths to us.
Like a teenage philosopher, the Cystic Fibrosis fighter pondered mortality, how to live boldly in spite of limitations, and the depth of the human spirit from her social media pages and youtube channel. She said that her two favorite hobbies were to think and talk, so she put her best gifts to good use!
“I don’t agree to do these talks to tell you how to have a happy life. Life is hard. It’s painful. You can suffer. You can experience what it’s like to be a human being with all of the messy gross emotions that come with it, and still make a life that you are very very proud of.”
Sometimes Claire shared her thought provoking videos from her apartment, or laying in a hospital bed; we once even found her clothed in a hot bathtub!
That was Claire Wineland. She was spunky and full of spirit, never ceasing to surprise or defy expectations!
When she spoke, her wisdom and maturity made you forget that she was only in her late teens– just coming into her early 20’s.
As a young adult, she became a speaker, author, and founder of a non-profit for kids with her condition Cystic Fibrosis called Claire’s Place Foundation. Going on speaking engagements (when she was well enough), afforded her opportunities to see more of the world, to travel, to make friends, stay in hotels instead of hospitals, and gave her new life experiences which she cherished.
Through her professionalism in health activism and being in the public eye, Claire Wineland helped make the work of health advocacy a more respected job title.
She took a strong stance on addressing the way the world infantalizes young people living with illness, something she understood all too well growing up with CF.
She was a rare soul as much as her perspective on life was unique. At times controversial, Claire shared that happiness itself wasn’t the key to life. Instead, she maintained that living out our purpose through service is where we find deeper meaning.
In one of her last videos, Claire spoke passionately about her charity she created she referred to as her “baby”. She spoke on the undenianble worth she believed everyone has regardless of limitations. This had been her battlecry throughout her career, which made her beloved to people living with disabilities of all types.
Her comments section always exploded with thoughtful discussions, as she had a way of eliciting meaningful conversations. People would engage one another on life, death, happiness, and pondering the true meaning of existence.
Claire’s following consists of terminally ill individuals, healthy young people, adults, Cystic Fibrosis fighters, and people with long term chronic diseases like myself. (Even celebrities from Bernie Sanders to Anne Hathaway are part of Claire’s fan club.) You can imagine the conversations she sparked, and the perspectives she challenged!
Claire had fought to outlive her life expectancy, and she overcame near-death several times. Because of her experiences, she believed in demystifying mortality, and used her prognosis to wake us up into living our own lives more fruitfully.
In one of the last videos she shared, she plead for support to get a lung transplant- something she once vowed she would never agree to. Though she belly-laughed and joked through her former talks, in this one, her tears flowed. She shared the possibilities and dreams she saw for herself if the transplant was a success. For the first time in her life, she was looking forward to her future. An enormous outpouring of both financial and heartfelt support followed from her fans.
More than enough funding was donated to cover costs of her medical care. A video of Claire’s genuine appreciation followed in return. She expressed her humility and surprise that so many contributed and reached out to encourage her. The overflow of funds were given to Claire’s Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Because of her online friends, Claire went into her surgery overjoyed with hope, gratitude, and feeling love from hundreds of thousands worldwide.
The people she had inspired and imparted her wisdom to for years were able to send her off to her surgery with well wishes and a flooding of encouragement.
She is said to have suffered a stroke on September 2, 2018. Claire was put into a medically induced coma, and taken off of life support one week post-operation. Her parents say she passed peacefully.
She was 21 years old.
Sincere condolences to the Wineland family. As a long time chronic illness sufferer, Claire touched my life and heart as she did for so many others.
I leave you with my favorite video of Claire’s, one of her most powerful TedX talks. I hope you will watch and share her message… In loving memory of Claire.
It has been Twenty years since RSD crashed into my life and it has been quite the ride. Some moments I have wanted to be over before they happen. Other moments I held onto for dear life because they were all that sustained me through the hours and days of pure physical and psychological torture. At times I was able to be more normal like many of my peers. Other times I behaved and felt as if I were on my death bed. However, if I had the choice to do this all over again there would be nothing that I would ever change. I am not saying I like being sick but all of the gifts that it has helped me to find out about myself in a hurry compared to my “normal” peers has been truly priceless. I will tell a brief side of my tale that has led me to find peace with RSD and my life.
20 Year Anniversary by guest writer, Logan Woods
In February, 1996 I was a normal 15 year old girl who really did not want to go to the dentist, and I got out of it by going to the ER instead. I knelt down and felt like I broke my kneecap in half (I did not). So my mother and brother took me to the local ER to have my knee looked at (I had to be carried, it hurt so bad). They took and X-ray of it and found out that I had somehow knelt on a needle that was now lodged in my lower thigh muscle. They ended up sending me to a different doctor to have surgery on my knee as they could not get it out. The surgery doctor’s next appointment would not be for five days which they thought would give the needle time to work its way up out of the thigh muscle. It worked its way further into the muscle instead, so on that day of the surgery, they took four times as long as they thought they had planned for. After the surgery, the site that they opened up to remove the needle was healing just fine, no complications, no unusual pain, but then on the eighth day after surgery at 4:30, sometime in the afternoon, RSD came into my life. So far has not left, although I keep insisting that she can be on her way now.
So, mid teen years were now controlled by not me, my school, or my mom, but by RSD, and I am just learning how to gain control over the elusive mistress. She swept into my life limiting my ability to go to normal school and participate in normal activities, although looking back at it, she might have saved me from getting too wild and crazy. I hated my ninth grade year before RSD came in the picture but it became even more troubled after. I ended up dropping out of ninth grade because I could not get out of bed due to the intense pain my leg.
The doctors I went to told me was in my head even though my mom kept telling the doctors my leg kept changing colors to this purple splotchy looking thing. My mom believed me but by then it was such a trouble to handle getting told over and over again there is nothing wrong with your leg. So, I gave up going to the doctors and started living with the pain.
I enrolled into a different high school as we had moved during the summer into a new school district. Tenth grade year was magical with the friends that I made and the activities I enrolled in at school. School was great, home was rough, but was do-able. The pain never went away from my knee and I learned how to distance myself from the pain and focus on my life, but there were times that the pain would break past my threshold and I was no longer able to hide it from people.
Eleventh grade I enrolled in dance class at my school and thought that if I was going to “try” to learn to dance I might as well try once more to figure out why my knee still hurt after 18 months of the initial RSD onset. I ended up seeing a doctor whose specialty was RSD though we did not know that at the time. After the initial meeting, within four hours of meeting this doctor, I was officially diagnosed with RSD in my left knee. I thought, okay this can go away with one of these treatments that the doctor wanted us to start trying right away; it was one tough year. So, treatments start, the school year starts, and everything is going ok. I do not know what to tell my friends so I do not tell them a whole lot. They just find me funny that I would become a log when we would have sleepovers; they would use me as a table to put the pizza on.
I started missing more school days but I managed to keep up until the end of that year. I was desperate to have a job, so even though I was not that functional, I got a job for 9 months. It was fun getting the paycheck, but work was fast food, not rocket science. In twelfth grade I ended up having a teacher from my school come to my home to give me school work and tests so that I could graduate with my class, which I barely managed to do.
The pain and treatments that were supposed to help just left me isolated from the world, partly by my choosing and partly because I could not act normal with the raging fire in me all the time, so I turned inward.
I had a boyfriend I loved very much but as time went by we were not a compatible match for each other, and RSD became more of a main focus in my life which I am not so sure that was a good thing.
College time came and I just knew I had to go to college for all those wonderful fun 80’s movies that glamorized colleges, and besides, how was I going to work being sick all the time? I took one class a semester for 8 years after high school. I loved my college years and I made some off-color choices, but hey, I thought isn’t it in college that I can get away with shit? My grades were up and down because of the pain but it gave me the experience of a lifetime- taking my time to learn what I wanted to and figuring out what thrilled me to fight for more than just surviving this illness.
I was figuring out that I had found a passion to learn how to thrive. I was only identifying myself at that time as the girl with RSD, nothing more. It took me years to figure out how to stop identifying myself as that sick RSD woman.
I did, by my hairy son Randy (dog) and my hairy son Orion (cat), my hairy son Siries (cat), and through my hairy sister (dog) who in one form or another was sick. So, I started researching about pet health and focused on pet nutrition as it was something that I could do to affect their health. The love for business, invention, and innovation became my zest for life and I helped me to handle the illness.
It took years to get here- where I can see the future I want for myself, and know that I can have it. I would have what we call the “Lorado” me acting like a tornado being destructive against myself, my possessions and the people I loved. I was unable to control my emotions, and I would get really upset over anything, but really, I was just upset because I was miserable and extremely unhappy.
I was tired of being sick all the time (not like we ever get the choice), I was tired of feeling like the only life I might have is through other people, and tired of myself. So, I had to make a decision if I was going to “stay” I had to change me or more precisely change my thinking.
I read books by people who help people handle their moments in life. I started asking myself what I really wanted in life with or without RSD. I took time to learn to know what I wanted and learned how to stop hating myself and RSD. I would pick a part of myself to like about me and over time I learned to love me and those around me more profoundly and deeply. RSD was no longer my calling card or any way to describe myself. I became Logan, just Logan.
Today, at twenty years, two months, and twenty days into RSD it helps make me, me.
I am becoming a successful business woman by helping to start up a company with my mom and brother, www.Blindsofbeauty.com the one and only company that sells and makes vertical blind slip covers. This is just one of the many companies I will be involved with creating and running. Believe it or not, it is because of RSD that Blinds of Beauty exists, my mom invented vertical blind slip covers as a way to cover the vertical slats that would leave my room even when they were closed blazing hot while I was going through blocks and treatment for the RSD and we were prohibited on our apartment lease from putting holes in the walls. It took a few years (15 years) to start the vertical blind slipcover company but it has been well worth the wait. Blinds of Beauty is giving me the job as the CFO among other responsibilities. Life is pretty great for me now; I just had to find me.
It has been a work in progress to live my life with RSD, ignoring it to the best of my abilities (not always wise), loving the hairy children I have, giving life my whole heart, following my dreams, and having fun. I plan to run companies, adopt a few non-hairy children, have a wonderful partner, live my life on my own terms, enjoy the great moments and breathe through the rough moments.
This week is the launch of Logan’s new website for her company, Blinds of Beauty. Please check it out. It is truly unique! I’m so honored to share Logan’s story here. She is one of the first people with RSD I “met” online over a decade ago, and we have been friends ever since. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and she deserves every good thing this life has to offer!
If you have ever been to a church where they still sing occasional hymns, then your heart has been uplifted by the works of Fanny Crosby. She was a blind woman, an activist, a writer, poet, teacher, humanitarian, and possibly, a chronic illness and depression survivor. Even though she made history by writing nearly 10,000 hymns- more praise songs than any other person, many don’t know the story behind this incredible woman and survivor.
Shortly after her birth in 1820, fever from a common cold caused swelling in Fanny’s eyes. The treatment the doctors used trying to bring down the swelling caused permanent, irreversible blindness. Fanny never resented that doctor, and later, wrote a poem about her blindness being her gift.
Growing up, Fanny was a spirited happy child, despite living in darkness. Her family had roots in the Puritan religion and her grandmother put an emphasis on her Bible education. Young Fanny took an interest in music and creative writing, and she wrote her first poem at age 8. You can already see her early knack for rhyme and rhythm:
Oh what a happy soul I am!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t!
After she graduated college, Fanny spoke at multiple campaigns to raise awareness for blindness education, she was a speaker in front of Congress for political legislation, and she even befriended Grover Cleveland! Even though she had gained popularity in her political writing, was a noted speaker, and was becoming a recognized poet (lovingly called “the blind poet”), in time, she said that she felt an emptiness in this work. This is when Fanny Crosby began focusing more on her spiritual path and writing hymns and praise poems which have touched so many hearts.
She shifted her focus to helping others as she sought a more meaningful life serving the Lord. Just like when she was younger and volunteered teaching blind prison inmates, Fanny set out to help at homeless shelters and was a regular patron at missions all over New York City. Her heart was with those less fortunate; she gained a new type of prominence among a different class of people for being a compassionate, caring soul during a harsh time in America. When Cholera broke out in New York City, she turned her focus to caring for the sick and worked tirelessly at the hospital near her home in Brooklyn. She was very passionate about this effort and many of her songs are inspired by this period in her life.
Fanny and her husband had one child, a daughter, who tragically died in infancy from Typhoid Fever. One of her most popular hymns, Safe in the Arms of Jesus was written just after the passing of her daughter:
Safe in the arms of Jesus,
Safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded,
Sweetly my soul doth rest.
After losing their only child, her husband became a recluse. Fanny began spending most of her time in the church and wrote the majority of her hymns and Christian poems with her minister and often, her co-writer. Over and over, there are records of Fanny not feeling well, being “depressed,” worn down, and having to take time away for health matters. It seems as though this was a regular occurrence over the course of her career. Saying she had a Chronic Illness or a depressive disorder is just conjecture, but it does appear that she dealt with ongoing health and emotional struggles throughout her life. Nevertheless, she held tight to her faith and was a constant source of inspiration to those in her life. Through her encouragement in helping others less fortunate and sharing her very personal poems about her spiritual walk with the Lord, Fanny was always willing to give of herself. She STILL is a source of encouragement and hope to anyone who sings or reads one of her writings.
Fanny Crosby’s blindness did not hold her back from pursuing her passions and using the gifts she was given. She once said that she was happy to be blind so that the first sight she would ever see would be the face of her Savior in Heaven [para]. She had so many hurdles in life beyond her impaired vision, but she continued her writing and always sought out new ways she could be a blessing to others in need of help. She made history with her words. Through her music, she continues to open hearts, and through her lyrics, souls come alive. She is an inspiration to me as a woman, as a writer, and as a disabled person. Fanny Crosby made history with her works of praise songs, but through her actions, she left behind a legacy of love.
Blessed Assurance (Chorus)
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
Pass Me Not Oh Gentle Savior