Lola Belle

It’s no secret that I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’m 11 days on the other side of a life-altering and life-saving surgery with a lot of perspective to share. So much of my life was wrapped in dysfunction that as I move through recovery, I’ll be figuring out what healthy and normal actually look like for me. Tracing the roots of disease back through my life, there are choices, people, and things that are responsible for my ability to celebrate my 33rd birthday and beyond.

Lola Belle

When I first adopted my little ray of sunshine from an animal shelter in Arkansas, I was a hot mess of a college student. I was staying out too late, drinking too much, and many other things I won’t dare type because I know my mom is reading this. Right around the time I was first diagnosed with PCOS, my life was in utter shambles. I couldn’t get out of bed, leave the house, and was frequently suicidal. Now I know that my hormones were bouncing all over the place, but at the time it was frightening to be in such a state of dire depression. The only thing that kept me from turning those feelings into action was the question of who would take care of Lola if something happened to me. She’s now 13, living a spectacular New York life, and still one of the very best things to ever happen to me.

A customer service agent from the New York State of Health Marketplace

I wish I knew the name of the woman who helped a very frustrated me in late 2015 try to buy health insurance from the marketplace. In 2014 I searched for coverage, but the search based on income returned results that were far too expensive. When I finally found a plan during the enrollment period that I could afford, I was confused by the website and turned to the customer service hotline for help. Not only was the agent kind and supportive, she pointed me in the direction of plans that were even more affordable. It was that insurance coverage that quite literally saved my life, but I never would have discovered it without that very kind and very patient woman.

Dr. Dorothy Fink, aka Angel Doctor, and all of NYU Langone

Before I shopped for insurance plans, I searched and searched for someone who had a special interest in PCOS. That’s how I found Dr. Fink, and I selected my plan based on the types she accepted. After seeing her for a couple of months and observing how I reacted to treatments, her theories led to the discovery of my cancer. Of course the other members of my doctor squad are incredible, but her theories encouraged my next doctor to keep searching, and for that I am forever grateful. None of this would have been possible without my friend Cannon, who loves her doctors at NYU Langone so much that she encouraged me to stay within the system. The staff is incredible in more ways than I can express.

Lipstick

I’ve always been “too big” or “too tall” to participate in most trends. It’s a sentiment that anyone who lives outside the narrow boundaries of society can relate to and certainly not unique to my experience. Lipstick was a form of expression utilized by all of the women in my family, so wearing bold color became natural very quickly. As the reality of being unable to wear the latest trends became more and more commonplace, so did my love of lipstick. It was always there. It always incredibly accessible and it always fit. Lipstick never betrayed me, even when it seemed like my body seized every opportunity. In many ways, lipstick is forever.

Fat ladies of the internet

Growing up in the woods of Arkansas (literally), the feeling of isolation was ever-present. I learned to take what I could from the censored YM magazine I’d get from my mom, the two tv channels we could receive, and my boundless imagination. It wasn’t until my weight became a serious concern in high school that I started to grasp exactly how much I wasn’t like everyone else. It took me a long time to seek out and connect with other fat ladies online, but once I did a whole new world became available. Without this world, I wouldn’t have a career, or 75% of the clothing in my closet, or the security that comes from knowing that I’m not alone.

This list could be endless, but I have to save some content for 34, 35, etc, etc. Thank you to everyone who made my birthday so incredibly special this year and my unending gratitude to the friends who selflessly took care of me over the past couple of months. I appreciate you so much than you’ll ever know!