Never Stop Trying to Move Forward

“Julie” has had many ups and downs in life, but her faith has always given her the strength to keep fighting. At the age of 25, while working in corporate America, she felt a swollen lymph node and visited the doctor to see what it was. To her astonishment, she tested positive for HIV. In seeking answers, her husband received testing. They learned he was HIV+. Together, they began taking the various medications being used to treat this new virus, but they both were having complications. With a more advanced virus, and other difficulties in his life, her husband began experiencing worsening health conditions. He died of kidney failure in 1995.

While mourning the loss of her husband, Julie stopped taking the AZT when it became toxic to her body. She continued working throughout her illness, though, even starting a new job. Her boss was very supportive, providing extra time off with pay when she was ill. After several years, new medications were on the market. Her Pastor, two closest friends, and brothers all encouraged her to try the new drugs. This support network—and her faith that God had a plan for her to survive to help others—carried Julie through the worst of times. Trying times were still ahead.

Ultimately, Julie was too weak to work. After 16 years of full-time employment, she turned to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as her sole source of income. Her job became taking care of herself, so that she could regain her health and strength.

She first learned of DOORWAYS when she was having difficulty paying her bills. The DOORWAYS Subsidy program provided rent and utility support to prevent homelessness for those affected by HIV/AIDS. “I was so grateful for that financial assistance,” explained Julie. “It is a blessing to have access to services like those offered by DOORWAYS when you are sick and not able to make ends meet.”

Although she was still ill, she was stabilizing and seeing small improvements, but, in March of 2012, she began losing weight and losing hair. A second devastating diagnosis was about to change her life again:  Julie had Stage 4 Lymphatic Lung Cancer, but the doctors were hopeful. Six rounds of treatment should get the cancer under control. Already weakened by HIV, after three rounds of cancer treatment, Julie suffered a mild heart attack and mild stroke. Not even 50 years old, she moved into a nursing home, because she didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.

Julie recalled how sad and hopeless life felt in the nursing home. She had no privacy, no independence, and began feeling depressed. “But God showed me there is always hope. In August 2012 I learned I was cancer free. My Oncologist calls me his miracle patient,” smiled Julie, who was re-energized to continue her fight thanks to that doctor, as well as her infectious disease specialist who remained steadfast with her healthcare efforts.  In fact, after October 2012, Julie received the good news that the HIV virus was undetectable. She then focused over the next three years on her speech therapy and physical therapy, until she realized it was time to leave the nursing home, but she had no money in savings since all of her SSDI income paid nursing home bills. She heard about Cooper House, which is managed by DOORWAYS—a familiar friend that had been there for her before. In 2015, Julie visited Cooper House and was impressed with the 24-hour nursing care, the private apartment-style rooms with their own bathrooms, the 24-hour security, plus the dining and food services. It was also very affordable as an income-based service provider, which would allow Julie to save for a future move to regain her independence. She decided to move to Cooper House as her next step to regain her life.

While Julie felt the facility was wonderful, it was the staff at Cooper House that had the most impact on her. It was clear to her that the goal of Cooper House was to help her transition from the nursing home to independence. “The nursing staff along with trained medicine supply employees working alongside them showed me how to take my medications correctly. They made sure I ate enough and knew the right foods to eat. The social workers, case manager, and many others at Cooper House were very kind and helped me to stay motivated to move forward. I felt everyone really cared about giving me a better future.”

Due to Julie’s personal conviction, she grew stronger and more confident every day. After a couple years, she was ready to find a place of her own, and earlier this year, she did just that. Julie now lives in an apartment and is ready to help others who are struggling without hope. She knows God blessed her in many ways throughout her struggles, and the people in her life were His greatest gifts. She is grateful for her Pastor and his wife, her church family, her beloved three older brothers, her relatives, her circle of friends, plus DOORWAYS and all the other people who have joined her on her journey back to stability, health, and independence.  “I’m here by the grace of God. He has worked so many miracles in my life. I hope telling my story helps people see they should never stop trying to move forward—no matter how many setbacks they have.”

 

Through support from generous donors, DOORWAYS now celebrates 30 years of service to people in the City of St. Louis and 117 counties in Missouri and Illinois. Last year we provided a new beginning to 3,100 individuals. For more information, contact Karen Carpentier at 314-328-2704 or kcarpentier@doorwayshousing.org.

 

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Click here for more information on the Cooper House Program.

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