MY BABIES ON ELLEN!!!

Ellen laughing after watching the video!

Ellen laughing after watching the video!

A video of my babies was on The Ellen Show today!!!  The video is now going viral and man...what a boost for my spirits!  

What Ellen doesn't know is the reason this clip ended up on her show.  

We called it "Shoeboxing" and we called each other Ju-ju.  I met Kelly Dawkins, then Kelly Winters, in high school.  Like peas and carrots we bonded strongly and could be found at the mall at Hallmark laughing our butts off reading the then very popular Hallmark "Shoebox" cards. Laughter was our mission and we found it every place we could. 

We lost touch as many do as we married and started families of our own.  But we had been brought together those many years ago for a reason, we would need each other for the rest of our lives. 

I was diagnosed with an incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, in 2008 at the age of 28.  Kelly was diagnosed with the equally incurable, degenerative auto-immune disease, Multiple Sclerosis in 2003 at the age of 24. We reconnected 2008 and we were shocked to find out we both had been battling such difficult diseases.  It was the new beginning of our once in a lifetime friendship.  

Kelly is my rock, my eternal source of hope and her grace in dealing with her challenges inspires me every day to be a better person.  She is always there for me day or night with a calmness that quiets my soul.  

Kelly earned her wisdom the hard way.  Her diagnosis of MS was just the beginning of her challenges.  Kelly lost her first child to premature delivery at 19 weeks.  Her second child Adelaide Hope Dawkins, 14 weeks early and weighing only 1 pound 14 ounces .  The NICU became her second home for 11 agonizing weeks until Kelly was joyfully able to bring her baby girl home.  Addy is now a vivacious 7 year old, full of life and laughter with no deficits from her early birth. 

In 2011 while pregnant with her third child, Kelly learned at 19 weeks she had a 95% chance of going into labor at any moment.  What was worse, she also learned that her unborn son had a severe heart condition.  The doctors told her that if he was born before 33 weeks he would die. Being the warrior that she is, Kelly refused to allow herself to go into labor and at 36 weeks the doctors decided it was time for Gabriel Clark Dawkins to arrive.  Kelly only got one brief glance at her son before he was rushed into the first of two critical heart surgery within his first 72 hours of life.  Super Gabe earned his nickname by astounding his doctors with his quick recovery.  He is now 3 years old and giving his sister a run for her money.  

Both of Kelly's parents as well as my mom have battle very aggressive forms of cancer in the last 3 years giving us yet another way to bond and another opportunity to support each other. 

This is my story...live people live. 

While Kelly was overcoming her challenges, I was facing my own.  My family moved to Texas in 2007 for a job opportunity for my husband.  2008 turned out to be one of the most challenging year of my life.  With my diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, I was unable to return to work. My husband was laid-off during the 2008 market crash and that forced us to start our own business to try to pay our bills and the quickly growing mountain of my medical bills.  In the process our home went into foreclosure.  

The medication to treat my Ankylosing Spondylitis began to create problems of their own and I underwent an emergency surgery for a hemorrhagic cyst.  In 2011 my husband and I lost our business and then our home both due to circumstances beyond our control.  Then a year later, I had abnormal discharge from my right breast and again had immediate surgery to remove the ducts and check for cancer.  Thankfully we had caught the malformed cells before they had a chance to evolve into cancer.  

Both of Kelly's parents as well as my mom, have been battling very aggressive forms of cancer in the last 3 years.   Giving us yet another way to bond and another opportunity to support each other. 

It was during these most trying moments of our lives that Kelly and I began to made sure we were laughing, staying hopeful and coping.  Our "shoeboxing" went digital and we sent each other furies of funny pictures, texts and videos to help each other through the most challenging times.  

My son Christopher and I made this video for Kelly's mom and every other warrior fighting out there. 

Send this message of hope to any Warrior that is fighting cancer, auto-immune disease, physical limitations, mental illness, or life struggle to show them that they are STRONGER than they think, they can DO this, they cannot be defeated, they can only grow stronger. Life takes Warrior Willpower.

Which brings us to Ellen.  Both Kelly and I started new medications in the last 3 months.  While offering hope of slowing the progression of our diseases they do not offer a cure and barely an increase in the quality of our lives.  Mostly they bring serious side effects that make us feel like crap!  Some days its very hard to know if the medications are really worth it.  

Kelly described to me what her new medication would be like...like a round of chemo with nausea, extreme exhaustion, flushing and otherwise crappy stuff.  So I asked her, "what can I do to help?".  She said, " watch a clip from Ellen everyday for at least 20 minutes and laugh."  So that is just what I did.  

We sent each other our favorite clips and laughed.  Even on the crappiest of our days Ellen's bits and humor made us laugh and gave us a break from our issues.  

While sharing these clips, I noticed that Ellen was starting a new website called, "Ellentube".  I had a very funny interaction between 2 of my 5 dogs, Kayla and Lillie from a while back and I posted it to her website.  I posted the link to the Ellentube video to my Facebook page with the hopeful comment, "My Kayla is in her last months of her battle against breast cancer...LET'S MAKE HER A STAR ON ELLEN! Watch and share this video on EllenTube and she will live forever" After a couple of days it only had 62 views and I honestly forgot about it.  

After a very crappy day yesterday, I decided to check in and see how it was going and the video had 50k views.  I was shocked.  By the time my husband came home 20 minutes later it had 90k views!  Out of curiosity I watched Ellen's Ellentube video from the day and started shrieking when she said, "oh this video is hard to watch...it's a pug..."  I was in complete shock and disbelief.  

Even though it was 10:30 on the east coast I texted Kelly and shared the outrageous news. Much laughter followed.  Then this morning when the views topped 150k I told her lots of good Ju-ju was on the way to help her.  

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We have vowed always support and be there for each other through all of life's tough struggles. We are praying that we get to celebrate more than overcome in the future. We have also made a pact to make a Ju-ju trip just for the two of us no matter how long it takes even  even if it means her scooter is pulling my wheelchair! 

We are forever grateful to Ellen for helping us laugh even through the toughest of times and we hope that Ellen gets to know the whole story of how my video ended up on her show.

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Rachel Winner

Rachel Winner...hmmm I think I can only be explained as creative. " My creativity likes to combined my ideas using several types of media. Graphite watercolor, pen and ink, illustration, portraiture, woodworking, documentaries, mixed media, sculpture, textiles and digital illustration is some of the tools I use to express myself. Wife, Mom, Sister, Daughter, Friend, Ankylosing Spondylitis Warrior, Advocate, Artist, Small Business Owner, Geek, Animal Lover, Horsewoman, are just a few of the titles I could carry at any time. So when others ask what I do...I simply say, "I am c[r]eative." Please enjoy and support my work! Check back often or subscribe to the interactive Creative Chaos emails.