Perception is interesting…. We all live our lives day by day but we don’t often reflect on how we impact our friends, our family or someone’s path we cross only for a brief moment. Our importance sometimes seems insignificant like we are just there going through the motions, but to others our presence means more than we will ever know. I call myself a friend. A friend that will listen, shed a tear, laugh, encourage, celebrate and say the words “this isn’t fair or life sucks sometimes”. To my friend Randene, I am all those things but most of all she thanks me daily for not only being a friend but her “supporter “on her concussion journey.

Randene is an educated, kind, beautiful, strong and an amazing human. When I met Randene I knew we would be friends for life. Our friendship developed fast and we were inseparable after meeting. We both worked in professional careers, but we were happy when our days off coordinated so we could spend time together. We were running buddies, the kind that kept you accountable to train even when you felt like watching Netflix and napping that day. I was new to running, but Randene had full confidence I could meet my goals. She encouraged me to run the half marathon I had desired to accomplish and in November of 2013, with the bright Vegas lights we crossed the finish line hand in hand. Some miles were easier than others, but the security of knowing my friend was beside me was the best feeling in the world.

November 2014, Randene had an accident and was diagnosed with a concussion. I wasn’t sure what that meant. A bump on the head? Symptoms that would be short term? Texting was difficult for her and she spoke softly on the phone so I grabbed our go-to drinks from Starbucks and went to visit. We laid in her bed with the lights off. We didn’t speak a lot. Soft tears rolled down her face as she explained her head was pounding. She couldn’t drink the coffee as it would only have contributed to her headache. I was worried. This routine continued for weeks. I would stop by and she was always laying in her dark room. I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better so I didn’t speak a lot. Sometimes we just laid in silence both hurting. Her physically and me emotionally mourning for my friend, wishing her pain would go away. When she spoke, I listened and I listened hard. I heard her. I felt her pain. She was trapped in a body with extreme light sensitivity, headaches and experiencing vertigo. Her mood altered and frustration spiked as she wanted to be healed and so badly desired to stop struggling with tasks that were once routine and easy. After witnessing the exhausting never ending symptoms of Randene’s concussion, I understood why depression is so common amongst suffers. Thankfully Randene is well spoken, she articulates her thoughts clearly, she knows how to explain her symptoms and she isn’t afraid to ask for help. I admire her for her strength and the ability to share the way she has. Even on the days she was not sure if she could move forward, she took the next step.

Time passed and progress was made. Sometimes Randene couldn’t always see what she had accomplished. I was happy for her when she could grocery shop in the busy aisles with the bright lights, I recognized when we walked an extra lap around the lake and brought to her attention the task she had completed and noted it was less strenuous than the time before. Some days were not so good so we discussed why the bad days were present. We talked about how much to push and recognizing when to pull back. What were the triggers to those bad days, could we see them coming? That’s what we did and still do. Celebrate the wins and work through the setbacks.

We could no longer run together but we started attending yoga classes. Randene began to improve her balance and hand-eye coordination. I joined her at meditation and day by day I could see Randene’s spirits lift. I began to see her big smile and listen to her belly laugh once again. Healing was happening.

Today we are grateful. Grateful for the progress Randene has made on her road to recovery with her tribe of supporters by her side. I am a true believer that every victim of concussion needs support, love and a personal army to help them fight through it. My advice to a supporter would be to trust and believe. Feel honored if someone is reaching out to you, trust the words being shared and believe the symptoms that are invisible to our eye but are so very real. It is okay not to know the answers. Just be there and ask “what can I do to help”? Their request might be as simple as dim the lights or to simply drive them somewhere.

Life looks a little different now. The world can change in an instant. We are grateful for what we have, where we came from and who we are with. Our friendship is closer than ever and we are connected on a deeper level. I help Randene and she helps me. Whether we are running or battling a concussion I want Randene to know…

It will always be “we” and “us”, on this journey or ones to come, and you my friend, are never alone.

Love your proud supporter and friend, Carmen xo

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