“I’m Brooke, a woman in her late 30s, married to Ben, mom to two amazing kids. Living the dream.”
That’s the bio I often want to write. Instead, here’s the one you’ll see:
“Hey y’all, I’m Brooke. I’m alive today because I received a life-saving liver transplant 17 years ago.”
My story really starts with a sudden diagnosis of autoimmune hepatitis at age 20 that quickly turned to liver failure and a transplant within 6 weeks. I was never sick before. The whole thing caught me by surprise.
I’ve had 17 bonus years of life where I’ve gotten to do some pretty incredible things. I’ve sung at the US Transplant Games & Donor Memorial Service. I traveled all over the US visiting friends and raising awareness about the need for organ donors. I graduated from college, taught music, married my best friend, adopted our 2 kids, got my Master's degree, and had an array of jobs I loved. My current adventure is my platform, The Bonus Years, where I’m blogging and podcasting all about chronic illness, mental health, and transplant.
Of course, there are things that I struggle with. I’ve had my own battle with migraines, a few liver rejection episodes, and ongoing depression and anxiety. I believe some struggles are to be overcome, and some are just a part of our life. When I spend my time wishing away pain instead of acknowledging its presence, I find that I hurt more. I see a counselor regularly, and I meditate, journal, and do yoga as a part of my self-care.
I’m incredibly grateful for the strong support system I have in my family, close friends, and transplant team. I rely on them for encouragement, seeing things I can’t see, wisdom, food, and childcare.
There are hard days and easy days. There are hard months and easy months. Every year post-transplant is a bonus year. We need community and support. We need someone to ask hard questions to, a safe space to process our feelings, and people to walk with us on this journey. That’s what I’m hoping Youth Circle can be for you.
So I’ll tell you what I tell my daughter every day: this is hard, AND we can do hard things.
Why don’t you join us?