What does fortitude mean? How do I find my own fortitude? What is the Pink Fortitude story? I can’t tell you how many times I get asked those questions. Today, I’m taking you behind the scenes and sharing not only the fortitude story but also how you can find your fortitude in the midst of life’s chaos and storms.
We’ll start out with an amusing story and then we’ll get into the down and dirty of fortitude:
- 8 Laps to Fortitude
- Mamma Fortitude – The Original
- How I Found My Fortitude
- How I Found My Fortitude Version 2.0
- The Pink Fortitude Story
- How You Can Find Your Fortitude
8 Laps to Fortitude
When I was in high school, I joined the track team to help me stay in shape for field hockey, which was my “real sport.” Ok, I confess, the real reason I joined the track team was a cute boy in his gym shorts. A runner I was not. But it was fun to be on the team. In my four years on the track team, there was one race that stood out.
I remember the race like it was yesterday. It was an April afternoon, it was freezing cold, and it had started to snow. And not a happy snow – it was one of those freezing cold bitter snows. We wore our uniforms over our sweatshirts and sweatpants to stay warm. Most of the track meets were fun. Because of the adverse weather, this one was brutal. We all wanted to go home.
To say I was the slowest runner on the team would be an understatement. My race was up – the two-mile run. The gun sounded, and we were off to a fast start. Eight laps around the track with the snow storm becoming worse each lap.
Everyone had finished the race ahead of me… by a good half lap. No surprise. I rounded the corner on the last quarter lap and sprinted to the finish line. The race was over and standing at the finish line, I was mentally already inside the warm school bus heading home. The official looked at me and said, “You have one more lap to go.”
“You finished seven laps. You have one more to go.” I looked at my coach hoping for a bailout. Did I mention it was freezing cold and snowing? I couldn’t even feel my hands or feet at this point.
“Well, get running!” No sympathy from the coach. Sigh.
I put one foot in front of the other and ran my final lap. By myself. In the snow. With everyone watching.
I finished the race with pride and dignity… icicles growing on my hair and snot dripping out of my nose. My mother congratulated me for having fortitude. It was a rough lesson to learn, but one I never forgot.
Little did I know how much my life’s trajectory would change in the years ahead. And how much more I would need to learn about fortitude.
Mamma Fortitude – The Original
My mother was the one who taught me all about fortitude. She was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease when she was pregnant with me. Addison’s Disease is a rare Autoimmune Condition where your adrenals glands don’t work and you need to take Cortisone to keep you alive. To this day, it still puzzles doctors, but back then, it was a complete mystery. They told my mom that she would never deliver me to term. They said she wouldn’t live past 30-years-old. She proved them wrong… and then some.
Throughout her life, her health has continued to worsen but she never let that get the best of her. “It builds fortitude,” she always says. The Addison’s has caused her health to progressively decline over the years and she’s been in and out of the hospital more times than anyone can count. She’s had many years of good health. And many times of failing health.
It never mattered to her how bad she felt, she was always full of love, happiness, and gratitude. She lives every single day to the fullest because she doesn’t know when it’s going to be her last. She never lets her sickness get in the way of her enjoying life and being with those she loves the most.
One of my favorite memories was when Mamma Fortitude was in the hospital with Pancreatitis. She and Dad were scheduled to drive to the beach the following day. Let it be noted for the record that the beach (any beach) is her Happy Place above and beyond anything else in life. She told the doctors that she could not stay in the hospital and be sick because she was going to the beach. They strongly advised her against it. But she literally busted out of the hospital and went to the beach. She told them that if she was going to die, it was going to be at the beach and not in some hospital. That’s Mamma Fortitude.
Mamma Fortitude lives each day to the fullest and is grateful for everything she has, despite knocking on death’s door more often than not. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten that dreaded phone call from Dad and dropped everything to drive to her side in the hospital. A few years ago, after one of those trips, I showed up to her hospital room. She was barely conscious and the “Do Not Resuscitate” form was still on the table by her bed. Mom looked up at me and said, “The doctors told me I was supposed to die last night. They don’t know who they’re dealing with.” That’s Mamma Fortitude.
How I Found My Fortitude
It’s a mantra that my mother passed along to me, and it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with breast cancer did I fully understand what it meant. After a month of tests, I received my breast cancer diagnosis on my 39th birthday. Happy birthday to me, right? Oh and PS – my then boyfriend, Carter, proposed 48 hours later.
Little did I know that running those 8 laps back in high school in the freezing cold and snow would foreshadow those 8 words – “You have breast cancer” and “Will you marry me.”
It was a lot of boo-hoos and woe is me. I had to go through all of the stages of “grief” that is completely normal after receiving such a life-altering diagnosis. But then, after about a month, something happened. I felt a peace about everything. I can’t explain it. And I had no idea what it meant. But I knew deep down that breast cancer was my gift and that I was not only going to be ok, but something amazing was going to happen because of it.
I’m very introverted by nature. One day at treatment, I started talking to fellow patients in the waiting room. “Hi, I’m Holly. I have breast cancer. Whatcha in here for?” I was floored at the response. People who had these sad faces that looked like they were ready to give up; suddenly had life. They engaged. We chatted. They smiled.
It was then that I realized the true meaning of fortitude. It’s not just about soldiering on in times of trouble. It’s being full of love and happiness. It’s being grateful for everything you have even in the middle of the storm.
AND IT’S SHARING THAT LOVE AND HAPPINESS AND GRATITUDE WITH OTHERS.
How I Found My Fortitude Version 2.0
One year after breast cancer treatment ended, my health was worse than it was during treatment.
Routine blood tests came back “normal” and my doctors encouraged me that all of the changes (chemo, menopause, Tamoxifen, etc) would take a toll on my body and take time to recover. I pushed and pushed and after way too many blood tests, I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disorder, where your body attacks itself. It was a one-two gut punch to my health.
But even after diagnosis, I still never recovered. Five years after cancer treatment ended, I was still sick. Every. Single. Day. My Endo kept tweaking my meds, but nothing was working.
I woke up so tired, I felt like I hadn’t slept in several days. The fatigue was so bad it was painful. It literally hurt to stay awake. The migraines would be so bad, I could barely see. The brain fog was so bad I felt like I was on a different planet. My stomach was in a constant state of nausea and there were days that it was normal to take four to five trips to the bathroom to launch a space shuttle.
Going through cancer treatment brings people to have a lot of empathy for you. People go out of their way to be kind to cancer patients, especially when you are bald from chemo. Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder is isolating. No one cares. No one understands.
Still being sick after your AI diagnosis – there is nothing worse. The perception is that you are always tired, faking it, lazy, depressed and making excuses. The reality is that you are sick. And alone. And frustrated. And scared. My health hit such a crisis level that I had to resign from my job. My 6-figure income was gone and overnight we lost half of our family’s income.
I started reading books on root cause healing. I couldn’t get enough and I couldn’t put them down. I read one book a week. I wanted to digest as much knowledge and become my own health hacker and my best advocate. I took classes and became a Certified Natural Health Professional.
I refused to give up and kept trying until I got dialed into a protocol that FINALLY worked.
The Pink Fortitude Story
I’ve since embraced this philosophy so much that I created Pink Fortitude as a platform to help inspire others to find their fortitude.
Rewind a bit back to those days going through breast cancer. My childhood friend, Garnet, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the same time as my diagnosis. He started a blog to keep people informed about his treatment and he put so much humor into it – it was hilarious. I mean, brain cancer isn’t hilarious of course. But Garnet… well you just had to know him. He could make anyone laugh about anything. He also encouraged me to blog about my journey as well.
We quickly became like dueling banjos. (And cancer is a bit like Deliverance don’t you think?!?!?). We had the same friends following us and cheering for us and we did our best to make cancer as funny as possible and to out-do each other with humor.
Garnet’s brain cancer went into remission for a while, but then it came back, and after a long and courageous battle, we lost him in 2015.
It was about that time that my old blog “Coconut Head’s Cancer Survival Guide” was just that… old. I went from cancer blogger to mommy blogger and after several years, nothing seemed to “fit.” I was going through my own journey and trying to reclaim my health and realized that I needed to rebrand to fit my lifestyle and my passion and my calling.
Hubby Carter helped me with a brainstorming session and it didn’t take long to give birth to Pink Fortitude. Pink is the nod to women and breast cancer. Fortitude was to honor my Mom and all of the life lessons that she taught me. It was time for me to introduce FORTITUDE to the world.
There are a ton of health and wellness blogs out there. Many of them are very sterile.
I wanted to create a space where women (and men too) can find inspirational articles on healthy living. I wanted to create a space where you can read an article and leave not just informed but inspired. I wanted to create a space where talking about health and wellness is like getting coffee with your best friend. I wanted to create a space that is judgment-free and with the understanding that we are all on our own unique journey.
Spring of 2017 was a very painful time for my family when I had to resign from my job. But it gave me the opportunity to turn Pink Fortitude from a hobby blog into the enterprise it is today. Once again… the trials of life have turned into something truly amazing. I get to share fortitude with the world every single day.
How You Can Find Your Fortitude
How can you find your fortitude? How can you find that inner strength and grit, even during the most difficult of seasons?
Gratitude builds fortitude.
We have some amazing resources here at Pink Fortitude to help you get started:
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What about you? How are you finding your fortitude? How are you using gratitude to build your fortitude?
Be sure to tag us @pinkfortitude on social media (use @pinkfortitude1 on Facebook) and use the hashtags #pinkfortitude and #gratitudebuildsfortitude
I can’t wait to see what you are up to and how you are inspiring others!
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Love, hugs, and finding my fortitude.HERE.