Backpacking through life! My hike...

Hi, I am from France and this is my hike through life. I have been told so many times that I should write a book but I am not sure that's my intention. I thought writing away would help me ease some of the pain I still carry around, it would help me unleash some of the sadness locked inside my mind and may help with the body pain I suffer from.

Here is a simplified timeline:

1966: Born

1978: Dad got sick

1978 - 1988: Dad ill

1982: Sexual assault

1987: Moved to the U.S.

1988: Grandpa died

1988: Dad died

1988: Married

1990: Daughter born

1993: Car accident (rear-ended)

1993: Separation

1995: Car accident (rear-ended)

1996: Divorce

1997: Car accident (rear-ended)

1997 - 2002: Kidnapping of daughter

1998: Met John

1999: Engaged

2000: Married

2001: Started suffering from widely spread body pain

2001 - 2011: Missed diagnosed for 10 years

2002: Welcome daughter home

2004: Broke my lower back

2004 - 2007: Many surgical procedures and 3 back surgeries

2005: My brother in law died (45)

2006: My sister in law died (41)

2006: 2nd miscarriage

2006: Massive internal bleeding

2007: Treatments in Mexico

2007: Detox and Rehab

2011: Moved to France

2011 - 2013: Bedridden

2012: Diagnosed

2013: Thailand

2013 - 2015: Bedridden

2016: Moved back to U.S.

November 1, 2016: First day at work after being off work almost 6 years due to excruciating and ongoing pain.

We lived in the south of France until I was 4 years old and then moved to the suburbs of Paris until I was 11 years old. In 1977 we moved to Brittany, the west coast of France. My dad had a job opportunity as a Director of an oil refinery company. He was a petroleum engineer. They bought a manor, La Marechalerie, in 1972 and it took 5 years to remodel it. I remember spending most of our weekends at antiquity shops and often driving to Brittany to drop all of the antiques, tiles, stones, fancy sinks and faucets...that my mom had bought over time. It was a 6-hour drive that we would do on weekends. My life was nice and easy until I was about 12 years old. Although my mom had been very sick when I was a young child, my parents always found a way to maintain stability, affection and a sense of normalcy in our household. However when my dad had his first heart attack and open heart surgery that year at the age of 42 it changed our life forever. Everything became about keeping the house quiet and lower the stress to a minimum. He was very sick and so young. To see him so diminished was heartbreaking. He was an intelligent, successful, handsome, clever and someone gifted with a great sense of humor. Overnight he was reduced to stay at home days in and out to take care of his health in the hopes that he would stay alive as long as possible. He had worked his way up from starting as a mechanical technician in the Navy. He joined the military when he was 17 years old. Although a lot revolved around my dad's health we had a great family life. My parents are kind, genuine people who have done a lot of humanitarian work over the years. They live by what they preach. They also enjoyed the finest things in life so they gave me a taste for working hard in order to afford the things that I like. Nothing was ever given to them, they work very hard to arrive at a lifestyle that satisfied them. I can say that my parents are the best role models I could have hoped for. They taught me right from wrong and also taught me the importance of work ethic, integrity, kindness, loyalty and fairness. Overall until I was 16 years old my life was good. I grew up in an environment where we talked about everything. There were no taboo subjects. Life in our household was joyful, busy and there was a lot love going around.

One evening, back in November 1982 my mom was away for a few days when my dad and I had a major argument. I decided to leave the house in the middle of the night and hitchhike to Paris, some 350 miles away. Now you have to remember this is France in the 80's when a lot of people hitchhiked to get places. I was 16 years old and full of life. I never felt "popular" but I had good friends and I came from a stable and loving family. I just did not get my way during that yelling match and was going to get dad was very ill with heart disease and during that argument I told him that I wished he had died when he had open heart surgery. What I did not know at 16 is that a single argument with very harsh words and the decision to escape would affect the rest of my life. I packed my stuff, sneaked out of the house around 1 am and started walking. It was in November, I was so cold but determined to go somewhere, somewhere far away from my dad because I was right and he was wrong and I had to get away because this was the worst thing that had happened to me....little did I know....Eventually I got to the highway and was picked up by a guy, average Joe, nothing special but he seemed nice enough. We spoke for a while and then he pulled out a knife. The next 4 hours were hell. He did not rape me but what he did instead was so much more cruel to my eyes. I know it is easier to wish to go through something one has never gone through because we don't know what it feels like and at the time "rape" felt like a easier thing to go to because what he made me do was just so horrible that I wished during those long hours and many times after, he just had killed me. Instead he put a knife to my scalp and made me give him blow jobs over and over and every time I did not swallow he cut my scalp and had me taste my blood just a reminder of what other cruelties he could do to me if I did not comply with his requests. Once we arrived in Paris he threw me out of his car like a piece of garbage. I was so lost and in so much pain physically. I remember feeling every bone and muscle in my body. I was aching so badly and so deeply. That day I discovered what mental, emotional and physical pain was and also what it was to have a knot in my throat and stomach. This is one of the experiences that shaped the rest of my life. I was a virgin, never even kissed a boy and always dreamed of meeting my prince charming. My parents had a very good marriage with real life ups and downs, they taught us how to resolve conflicts and move on and there was a strong display of adult love. They taught us how to demonstrate emotions, express disenchantment and talk about our feelings. It was one of those household that was real and although they protect us from the world inside the house it was very real. From a young age I disliked how parents did not teach their children the foundation necessary to keep a relationship alive and healthy. I felt that they did a disservice to their children by pretending that all was well when indeed there were issues and confrontations between the parents behind closed doors. I used to go to my best friend's house and when I was there everything seemed so perfect. But later I learned that her dad beat up her mother and her oldest sister and her. This experience made me want to be open about my feelings and always be honest, sometimes a little too much. In our household we talked about everything. All subjects were welcome! I had never seen abuse, mental or physical, but I had seen my parents arguing and making up. Part of growing up in my household was about learning how to give back. They taught me a lot about humanitarian work and make others' needs a priority as well as how to make a difference in people's life. Not once it ever crossed my mind that something like what I endured during that ride to Paris could happen to me. But it did and it changed me forever. I spent the night in the subway and was surrounded by homeless and druggies...I was petrified. The next day I called a friend of my parents who picked me up and took me to her home. She eventually put me in the train and returned me to my parents. When I arrived my dad was in the backyard and asked me "do you want to talk"...I said no....we had dinner and I closed that chapter until I reopened it 31 years later while living in Thailand.

The next five years were pretty uneventful. I bumbled my way through high school and eventually got a AA in International Relations and Tourism....basically I learned to walk with high heels, a phone book on my head, looking straight ahead and talking to people about everything and anything. I lived in various places like England, Spain and the French Alps, the Loire Valley and other areas in France and realized how much I loved to move and explore areas. I came to realize that moving for me was a way to escape my problems until much later I realized that my problems followed me everywhere. It took me close to 30 moves to finally accept that I cannot escape from the heartaches and problems that are part of my life. Although I have always been a fighter, someone with determination, someone who believes in the power of the mind, someone who never gives up and will fight to the end, for some reasons I thought that packing my bags and moving would make things better. It was very hard when I came to term with the fact that I had been wrong for so many years and seriously all my moves had affected the people around me. I felt like a selfish bitch.

In 1987, I had the opportunity to move to Orlando, Florida and work for Epcot Center at the French Pavilion. Considering it involved another move and my love for travel, I jumped on an airplane and arrived in the U.S. for one year. I remember arriving at the airport with my 2 luggage and thinking "ok, I am 21 and I am in America but what do I do now?". I got an apartment with roommates, worked during the day at Epcot Center and eventually I got a job at night as a waitress in a club...I remember it like it was yesterday. It was called Off the Wall and it was on OBT, Orange Blossom Trail. I had a lot of fun that year, I mean I was 21, nice looking and French, which believe it or not, was a great asset! I did bathing suit modeling to earn extra money, worked as a bartender at a strip joint and an after hour club. Yes back then we had those clubs open from 2 am until 7 am and the tips were great...I had the time of my life and felt that I was a very lucky 21 years old. During that year I had the most fun. I was single and had so many opportunities to meet people, take trips, go out and have loads of fun, it was a year I will never forget. But I was also very lonely because I was far away from my family and although I lived with French people I could not find stability. After all stability was always the thing provided to me in my house. And although I was a teenager who loved riding motorcycle and wearing leather outfits, at home I had a very traditional life. Yes I grew up with two parents sick but one of them usually was healthy when the other one was sick and was able to provide that security that most adolescents crave. So I decided to get my own apartment and live on my own. If I was going to do it the right way I had to do it my way, well that is what a 21 years old think. So I move in to my own apartment and got furniture from rent-a-center. I still laugh about it. I had my own apartment, I was driving a black Ford Crown Victoria LTD 2 doors and was renting furniture - I felt on the top of the world. Life could not get any better than that. I was living the American dream. But still I would get lonely so often I would have a few drinks after work and then I would get even more lonely so I would call my parents "PCV", which means collect call, and when my dad would pick up he would tell the operator " you tell my daughter if she has enough money to drink then she can pay for the telephone calls"...I used to get so mad. Of course years later I understood what he was trying to teach me but back then I was furious. So I decided not to call them anymore. I know my mom was very sad. She would write to me often and so did my dad. He was just trying to teach me that life is about making the right choices and although I was having the time of my life I was probably making the wrong choices at times. As an example, my parents came to visit me in November 1987. I had explained to them that I wanted to move back to France and go to Law school. Life in FL was great but I really missed not being able to communicate freely as my English was not fluent and I missed my family and my country. Seriously my life in Orlando was about having a good time and work, it was not about making the right decisions and preparing my future. My dad had found out that I was working at a club and was beside himself. He was very scared for his "little" girl however he had told me on no uncertain terms that I was to complete my one-year contract at Epcot center because in our family we were not quitters. We were not the type of people who just walked away because we did not like something. One evening I went to work and my co-workers told me that my dad had had a long conversation, he spoke English, with the owner of the club and it seems pretty intense. I told them that they were mistaken and left it at that. Years after my dad passed away my mom confided in me that my dad had met with the owner of the club and had had an verbal exchange about me being a waitress for his club. Apparently the owner promised him that he would keep an eye on me and indeed I was accompanied to my car by a bodyguard every night when I left the club. My parents stayed for a month and when on to travel to San Francisco for an International convention for the Lions Club. My dad was charter president of a Lions Club in France. It is an international service organization that improves lives in communities by hosting fundraising for the blinds, the homeless and running other charity events. Before they left my dad and I had a nasty argument. Although we adored each other we were both had a strong personality and were stubborn. He did not agree with the lifestyle I was living and frankly he was just scared that something was going to happen to me because of my carefree lifestyle. But back then I could not see that. I was 21 years old and was working for a living without receiving assistance so I was going to continue to do as I pleased. They traveled to San Francisco then came back to France. Three months later my dad had another open heart surgery. Two months later he was hospitalized and received a full heart transplant. He never left the hospital and the worst thing is that we were both so stubborn that we never talked since we had that big argument before they left for San Francisco. This is another event that has affected my life tremendously. I never got closure therefore whenever I have been in an argument with my husband, a friend, one of my has affected me negatively. I can't go on with my life, I can't sleep and I can't function because I am so scared that it will be the last time I will see the person I have a disagreement with and won't be able to make amend. It took me years to understand why I would spend days crying after John and I would argue. We are very different and in that type of situation he would not feel the need to talk about it. He would pout and stop talking to me for hours sometimes days. You see, we were raised polar opposite and that alone has been very difficult to overcome and eventually meet in the middle in order to have a healthy relationship. I am happy to report that we are celebrating our 19th anniversary together this year and we have met in the middle - life with John is great, for the most part, lol! His family is more about "sweeping things under the carpet" and definitely not wearing their heart on their sleeve. Don't get me wrong, they are wonderful people, just a little bit more superficial and less talkative when it comes to real life. It is more about "let's not talk about it therefore it doesn't exist" but when it comes to my family we have hours long conversations to talk about our personal lives, feelings, experiences and other things that happen in life.

In May 1988, a year after I arrived in Florida I met someone and we marry 3 months later. It was the most romantic courtship any girl could have dreamed of. I had met my prince! He lived in another State so after spending the week we met together he went back. Two weeks later he sent me a bouquet of roses that must have cost him his weekly pay, and asked me to move in with him. I packed 2 luggage and put the keys under the mat, leaving my apartment fully furnished, with not a care in the world. I also left my car in the parking lot with a note that said "free"! All I could think about was to be with that person and I knew it was mutual. It was a story from a novel, so romantic and fun, spontaneous and adventurous, we were so in love. At the time he was in the Navy and I got a job as a cocktail waitress in the town he was station in. We had no money. I remember we had a little VW "rabbit". The windows did not work and of course neither did the air conditioning so riding in the car was so uncomfortable but who cared, we had no worries, we adored each other and nothing else mattered. I become very close to his family very fast and since I was without family in the U.S. it all made sense, everything fell in to place. Back then, in 1989 I was 23 life was simple. Although without money we found ways to make each other happy and what mattered the most were the little things. I was so happy, content and carefree! Well the little things came in a big package sometimes. Christmas 1988 he bought me a St Bernard. I had always wanted one. The 2-month old puppy was huge. I quickly got attached to him but in February 1989 we were robbed and Brandy was taken away with all of my clothes and jewelries. Only my stuff, which was weird, but we found out 3 months later that it was his old girlfriend who had orchestrated the robbery. Although I was very upset because one of the items was a ring that my dad bought me for my 18th birthday and since then he had passed away we had decided against pressing charges. Already back then I was aware of how short life could be and I had understood to make the best out of bad situations...this was a good lesson and it has helped me stay positive and strong while struggling during difficult times in my life.

About 9 months into our relationship my ex was involved in a major event that shook the military world and the nation. The turret occurred in the number Two 16-inch gun turret of one the USN battleships on April 19, 1989. It killed 47 sailors and we were told that my husband at the time was one of the decease. It was so devastating but fortunately for our family it was another person who had the same name as my husband who had passed. I spend 2 days and nights not knowing his fate and then another day thinking he was dead. I was young and did not know how to deal with that kind of pain. I had lost my grandpa in July 1988, lost my dad in September 1988 and now in April 1989 it was my husband. Eventually he returned to Florida where I was staying at his brother and sister-in-law. We were so excited to be in each other's arms. It felt so safe. Although we had been together less than a year we decided to start our family. My ex husband was accepted in to the Navy demolition diving program so we moved from Virginia to Florida so he could start his training. Right before we did that, my mom hosted our official church wedding in June 1989. We had married but through city hall in August 1988. This must have been one of the hardest day of her life. My dad had passed away 9 months prior after fighting heart disease for 10 years. I remember glancing at her often and seeing the sadness in her face...she missed him so much and so did I. Life is not fair. Today was to be one of the happiest days of my life but on that day it become clear to me that one can just never have it all but must enjoy the good times because no one knows what tomorrow will bring. After the wedding we headed directly to Florida and bought a mobile home. That was our first purchase and we were so proud of it. It was a double-wide decorated with funky wall paper. It was too great to be a homeowner at 23. I was pregnant with our first child. Our daughter was born in February 1990. By that time we lived in MD and he was working around the clock to complete the Seal program. We had moved 5 times in 2.5 years and finally settled in northern California in October 1990 after I spent 4 months in Idaho with his family. We drove across country and our daughter and I stayed with his family while he went to CA to set up household so we could move there. Since he was already in CA he met us 1/2 way in Nevada to bring us back to San Francisco. When we arrived at the hotel he was waiting for us with his head down and a baseball cap on. As he lifted his head I saw that he had a big black eye and fat lip. He told me that he got in to a fight after drinking heavily in a bar but that all charges were dropped because of his "job status". He explained to me that very few people did what he did and that they were considered irreplaceable and "gold" to the government. At the time although very unhappy about the fight and that he spent a night in jail I was very proud of his professional accomplishments. The seal training is extremely challenging physically and he graduated top of his class. I just did not know how the kind of "power" he was given in his field would play a major role in our life and the consequences would be devastating. But for now life was good. We had a healthy relationship, except for our intimate life, which was very difficult for us to handle due to the sexual assault but aside from that we had a beautiful daughter, my husband was starting his career and I was working as a travel agent. I had never confided in him about the the sexual assault. I was too ashamed and just wanted to sweep it under the carpet and forget about it. So unlike me but so easy to do! To everybody we were the "perfect little family". Of course there were ups and downs. His job was becoming more stressful as he was dealing with "secret service" missions. He did two tours in the Gulf war, exploding bombs and mines but it was his choice and not only he loved his job he was very good at it. It took a toll on our family life though because he was gone a lot and I was very young with lots of responsibilities plus I was alone without family support. Sometimes he would leave in the middle of the night and could not tell me where he was going or when he was coming back. I remember once a neighbor called me to tell me that my husband was on the news behind the President. I had no idea where is job took him most of the time. My daughter and I started getting on with our life while waiting for him to come home. He was often gone 4 to 6 months. The first 13 months we were in California he was home 6 weeks. We were young in our mid-twenties with a young child so the stress was building up. I did my best to keep busy, work, take care of our daughter and make sure to welcome him home with open arms. When alone I was struggling because I had already dealt with some major life events and had never grieved. I really had no one to talk to. My English was not good enough yet to express my feelings and my sadness. It was hard to build friendships. We lived in military housing and I often felt alienated because I was different from the rest of them. I was not American and my husband was a demolition expert for the U.S. Navy so often we did not fit in the way I wish we did. He had tendency to consider himself above the "other" Navy personnel since he was an integral part of special force and he was definitely treated differently that the other people in the military. Although he worked very hard he knew that his team was different than any other military specialties and they were definitely treated like God. My ex-husband was a very nice, sweet and kind person when I met him. But over the years he became more ornery, angry cocky and exulted a sense of superiority. He also started drinking a lot more during his time off. I could tell the stress was getting to him. He was definitely changing and although I had my own faults, the change in his behavior was putting a rift between us.

In May of 1993 I was involved in a major car accident. I was in physical therapy for 2 years. The first two months I was in such a bad shape that anything I did was like climbing a mountain with a full backpack on my back. But he was not home, he was away on a mission so I was left alone to pick up the pieces. I was rear-ended by a car going 55 mph while I was stopped on a highway during morning traffic. I complained a lot about head pain but my body was in such a bad shape that no one really paid attention to my head. I had intense physical therapy a few times a week for a couple of years. Within weeks of the accident people started noticing changes in my personality. By that time I was working at a Law firm. I loved my job very much and was planning on going to Law school. But I started not caring about others the way I did before, not caring about my job and from time to time I would not show up although I had plans with friends. People definitely noticed that I was changing. My daughter was 3 years old by that time. And then, strangely enough and totally out of my character, I started going out in the evening and having fun. I would meet other military wives and started building friendships. I was not focusing on my family life, something was wrong but I could not put my finger on it and the doctors were focusing on getting me better physically because I was in tremendous amount of pain and it was very much a handicap to live like this. Every thing I did took so much efforts and I was easily tired and very depressed. I never had experienced depression before. Sure I had the "blues" once in a while like everybody else but this time it was different. I cried a lot for no particular reason, I had no energy, I was just very down and depressed. I was in a lot of pain physically, mentally and emotionally. From this car accident I developed Fibromyalgia and clinical depression. I would not find out about it until years later but what was ahead of me made my past feel like a ride in a park.

My ex husband's job as a demolition expert and agent of the secret service had kept him away from home for months at a time for the past 5 years. As one can imagine this is a very lonely way to live a married life. During this time I basically raised my daughter single handily. This is something that I was happy to do but the car accident had changed my mobility and it was exhausting. She was the one thing in my life that made everything I had to endure in my marriage worth while. I am choosing not to get into details because this story is not about trashing someone I loved very much at one point in my life. My daughter will read this book one day and I don't feel that it is necessary to go in to details but I can say that alcohol and power was involved so sometimes violence was present. Anyway our daughter was three and a half at the time. Most children of her age are handfuls for people without physical problems. At that time, my husband was away on a 6 months deployment but I knew that I had to ask him to come home to help me out with our daughter. After 2 weeks he finally came home for one week only. I implored him to stay longer because neither him nor I had any family close enough to help me. My family is from France and his from the Northwest. But one more time he decided to put his career before his family's need. At this point I made the decision that if I was to ever find happiness and be with someone who support me I would have to leave him and find it on my own. This was an extremely difficult choice. In August 1993, about a month before he came back home, I announced to him that I was going to move out upon his return. He was devastated by the news. When he came home 2 months later he pleaded with me not to move out and showed me this beautiful tattoo of me and a rose he had designed on his arm. We were heart broken. I, because I knew I had to leave and find a way to move on with my life but I still loved him and him because I was breaking up his family. During this whole time I knew something else was wrong with me. I was not myself on a daily basis. But I was assured by the medical experts that I was just depressed since the car accident and needed to make changes in my personal life. My ex was a family man, although rarely home, he was very proud of us a unit and he did not understand what was happening to me. He did not want me to leave but was not willing to do counseling or anything to fix what was wrong in our marriage. I already had made my decision and knew that at this time it was the best thing for everybody. He begged me to leave our daughter with him until we worked out our situation but I decided to get an apartment about 10 miles away so we could both spend time with her. She and I moved out October 7, 1993. I knew I was leaving because I was unhappy and I needed to make some serious decisions about my marriage. I did not want to involve her, at such a small age. We had not made any permanent decisions at this point and I thought that living close would be in the best interest of everyone involved. I was still hoping that my ex and I could work our differences. The reason I moved out was to make him take notice that he could not any longer take me for granted. I was also exhausted, depressed, unhappy, lonely and in a lot of pain. One more time I was trying to escape reality, something I came to term with years later but at that time I was young and had a lot to learn about life and the consequences of choices one makes. I could no longer be sitting at home waiting for him to come home after being gone many months at the time so I moved out, that was my escape. When he would return from his assignments he expected me to drop my entire life. It was difficult every time he left but after few weeks my daughter and I got in to a routine and made a good life for ourselves then he would come home, would want me to quite my job and abandon pretty much all of my friends and activities to be with him. It was such a roller coaster and I could no longer live like this. My daughter and I got an apartment and we started making a life that worked for us. It was difficult financially, physically and emotionally but I had been used to be on my own because he was gone a lot so after all not much had changed except that he lived 10 minutes down the street. I also had been on my own quite a few years prior being married always holding down a job in order to support myself financially. We both spent a lot of time with our daughter. During this time we spent quite a bit of time with each other and as a family. Both him and I thought it was important to make the transition as easy as possible for our daughter. He also spent time with our daughter on his own which was the first time since she was born. I thought that it was important that she knew that just because we were not living in the same house it did not mean that we were not a family. I wanted to avoid using her as a pawn like I had witnessed so often during separation between couples. My ex husband let me know on no uncertain terms how angry he was that I left him but would tell me that he believed in us and the opportunity to get back together. He always needed to be reassured that I needed him in my life and when I left him he had a hard time dealing with the fact that I was able to make a life for myself without his help financially. As the months passed I realized that I was doing just fine on my own and that I was happier without him because my life was more stable so I decided to file for divorce in April of 1994. He continue to be gone on and off so my daughter and I settled in a nice routine and she got to see him whenever he was home. This did not help our relationship because not only I had filed for divorce I had shown to him that I could do it on my own, without any support from him. We both made a very big effort to maintain a friendship for the sake of our daughter but he started drinking a lot more and it reflected on his behavior while he was around me. He became emotionally abusive and would shove me around physically. One day he threw a whole set of china at me, one piece at the was like a scene from a movie. This was during Easter break 1994. We tried to get along because we knew that she would be able to pick up on the hostility between us if we did not try hard enough. But it took a lot of efforts and sacrifices to make it happen. I had to forgive a lot of the things he put me through in order to do the right thing by our daughter. I think a lot of mothers would have stopped the father from seeing the child but in my heart it was the wrong thing to do so I forgave him over and over. I felt I was victim of abuse but I could not discuss it because there was no bruises. If I mentioned it to a friend, that person would say, Oh "B" you are fine, you are just going through a hard time. I was not going through a hard time, I was going through hell and it did not show and that was becoming an issue. Eventually we mutually agreed that I would have primary custody of our daughter during the school year and he would have unlimited visitation rights. I always felt that she should have access to both of her parents. I had seen so many children suffer because of being bounced back and forth from one parent to another. When people get a divorce although at the beginning they often try to remain civil very often it turns out nasty but bottom line the children are the ones who pay the price. I wanted to avoid that at all cost. My ex being in the military did not have much control over his assignments. His career was such that he could be sent away at anytime and anywhere. I lived 10 minutes away so when he was home he could see her whenever he wanted to and whenever she requested to see him we made it happen. It was important that she be around him so she could get to know him. My ex did not like that he could not control my comings and goings as he had become increasingly controlling. He did not like that I would not ask him for anything and I would take care of myself by holding a good job and be careful about my spending. In August 1995 my ex went to Panama City, Florida. At that time we were talking to reconcile and may be for me and our daughter to join him. We kept in close contact and he expressed the desire to work things out. He always had expressed the desire to reconcile but was not willing to work at it with a counselor, someone I really feel could have helped us. But he was more busy frolicking with our daugther's teacher, babysitter and other women he would meet randomly. Whenever we talked about it he made clear that it was my fault that he was so messed up. The following month my daughter and I visited my family in France and stayed for about 3 weeks. It was the first time I took her back home and the first time I went back since my dad had passed away. When my dad had passed away I spent 2 months with my mom while once again my ex was out to sea. Those two were very difficult but meant so much to my mom and I. She always said that it made a world of difference in her life that I spent that time with her. That's is wonderful to be able to make a difference and make someone feel better during tough times. My daughter and I had a wonderful trip and built lifetime memories. On our way back to California we stopped in Florida to visit her dad. We spent about one and half week at his place. During our stay he begged me to leave our daughter with him. Up until this time he was a virtual stranger to her. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for them to foster some sense of relationship. I knew that if I took her away from him she would miss out on a valuable time with him. I love my daughter with all my heart and I firmly believed this would be the right thing to do for her. My parents taught me to do the right thing as much as I could and even if it was not in my best interest I had to entertain the idea if it was in her best interest. He had just started a Shore duty tour and he was stationed there for two years. I knew that this would be the one opportunity that he would have to spend a substantial amount of time with his daughter and I felt that she needed to get to know and trust her dad on her own. I had a lot of reservations because he had become emotionally abusive and was increasingly drinking. Of course we spent days and nights talking and eventually I believed that I had broken up my family and it was up to me to make it up to him. I agreed to this because I felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do to help him heal from the break up. I still felt very guilty about breaking up our marriage and I thought that in some way I could make amends with him by providing him with this chance to get to know his daughter. He also reminded me every time he had the chance that I was responsible for his unhappiness and loneliness because I had left him and broke up his family. I was 27 by then and did not understand emotional control and abuse. I had not seen manipulation in my household. Everything was pretty much what you see is what you get. Years later I was able to recognize that I had been brainwashed to do whatever he wanted me to do. I could have taken her back to California - after all I had sole physical custody of our daughter but for me it was an abuse of power to handle it that way and leaving her with him was a gesture of fairness and kindness toward both of them. I had witnessed children being treated like chattel in a bidding war. It is not a pretty sight and I did not want her to have to go through that. I always wanted her to know that she never played a part in our break-up. Him and I agreed that she would stayed with him for few months. During that period of time I went through some very difficult times trying to cope with the decision I had made. But every time I would ask him to send her back to CA he would get very verbally abusive and would accuse me of breaking up the family and owing him to make it better. According to him I owed him to leave our daughter with him because I had ruined his life. I would sit up at night and cry not knowing how to console myself because I missed her so much and I struggled with my decision. I felt like a part of me was gone. I constantly wondered if I did the right thing. Over time my relationship with my ex improved beyond my wildest dreams. He called me all the time. We talked about everything. The most amazing part about our separation was that we had eventually managed to stay on good terms. He referred to me as his best friend. I had develop trust between each other something quite rare in a divorce setting. He would talk to me about the women he was dating but would reassure me that our daughter always came first. After all he was single and there was nothing wrong for him to have a personal life so we would talk for hours about our life without each other. I felt a little better about the decision I made to separate myself from my daughter to give her a chance to spend some time with her dad because at times he made me feel so good by acknowledging the fact that I was strong enough to not put myself first but to think about our daughter. We became better friends than we were as a couple. Before I went back to California, fall of 1995 we had drawn a temporary custody agreement stating that while he was on shore duty in FL she would spend time with him during the school and she would visit me during vacation. I could also come to FL anytime I wanted to and she would be back in my custody immediately upon my request. We filed it in Court and made sure that by no means it meant that it was changing the original custody degree...this was a temporary situation. After all I had been the sole caregiver and the CEO of our household for years with little to no support and I needed to focus on launching a career so I could support myself and my child. I missed her very much when she was not with me but I have always believed that a father is as important in a child's life as is a mother. I still feel the same way although I went through hell because of the choices I made to let him be involved as much as possible. Both parents bring different things to the table and it is the balance of those things that help children grow up to be responsible, loving and caring adults. Although I had built up anger toward my ex because of the physical and emotional abuse, sadness because of the collapsing of the marriage, I had found a lot of peace in the way we co-parented and how closed we had become. I felt that we accomplished something for our daughter very few people do.

Now we are at the end 1995 and I decided to spend Christmas with them. I quite my job because my boss would not give me time off. I was not worried about it. I had a little money saved because I had been rear ended 3 times and suffered from serious injuries and I had always managed to find a job. Seeing my daughter was my top priority. I flew to FL for Christmas 1995 and here they were at the airport. I started crying, tears of joy in a long time. For years I had only known one kind of tears but today it was joy, pure joy to see them waiting for me, making me feel so wanted...for a moment we were back the "perfect" little family we had been for so many years prior the break up. It had been only 4 months since I had seen my daughter but it felt like an eternity. During my visit, there were a lot of ups and downs, arguments but also some very fulfilling and kind moments. After all we had gone through we had found a way to be with each other, as friends, for the sake of our daughter. By that time it felt that we had become close friends as we confided a lot in each other. He told me that he had met someone. That was always a sore subject because he had met a few ladies but it did not work out because he blamed me for not being able to stay in a relationship. I offered him on a number of occasions while he still lived in CA to do counseling together but he always refused. He told me under no uncertain terms that counseling was not for him and he did not believe in it - "If I can't solve my own problems I don't now how someone else could"?! This conversation took place more often that I wish to remember because every time I ended up feeling that I ruined his life when I left him and I would justify leaving our daughter with him longer than I wished.

One evening we went over to his senior chief's house to celebrate the holiday season. One of his brothers was staying with him in FL. He was an alcoholic, the black sheep of the family. We were about 15 people and the ambiance was enjoyable however there was a lot of drinking going. It was always a red flag because both my ex and his brother had tendency to become physically aggressive when they drank. At one point they got in to a physical fight. When I tried to separate them, big mistake on my part, my ex turned around and threw me against the sliding door window. Now you have to imagine me, 120 lbs, him 200 lbs and the window shattered. He then picked me up the floor and threw me on the lawn where he proceeded to beat me up. His senior chief was present and removed him off me threatening him to report him to the Commander of the base. I was able to get up with the help of a couple of guests, I grabbed my daughter, ran upstairs and locked ourselves in one of the bedrooms. After a few minutes of silence, the cops showed up at the door. I found out the next day that a neighbor I witnessed the scene in the backyard and had called the police. The next morning my ex came to the bedroom, sobbing and apologizing for his behavior, asking me for forgiveness. At that time I was in so much pain all I could think about was going to the hospital. I asked him to drive and he did. We did not speak a word during the 45 minutes drive. The silence was killing me. There was a big elephant in the car and we could not get past it. When we arrived to the hospital he asked me not to reveal what had happened the night before. He made it sound like it was my fault one more time. "Had you not left me we would not be here right now"..."it will ruin my career"...I can hear it like it was yesterday. I cannot believe this today but I felt so guilty and part of me felt that I deserved what he did to me. So at the hospital I told the nurse that I had fallen down the stairs but I could tell that she did not believe me. She asked my ex to leave the room and asked me again what happened to me. I repeated to her that I had fallen down the stairs. She said that she would get me help but I declined. I had 5 broken ribs, trapezius muscle was strained and had other injuries that I cannot remember now. To this day I suffer terribly from these injuries. Often I cannot use my right arm, move my neck or lift up my shoulder. I was in bad shape though and in so much pain. The next few my ex profusely apologized and thanked me for not reporting him. I chose to forgive him and against my better judgment allowed our daughter to stay with her. He basically told me that I should not take out on her what I started when I left him. Although I did not deserve to be beaten up I did deserve to be punished for having left him and leaving our daughter was my obligation toward him for having ruined his life. It was always the same thing...I was wrong, he was right and I should pay for leaving him over 2 years ago by now. According to him, me taking our daughter back to CA would be an act of revenge on my part and I should learn to leave her out of our problems. Of course now I can see things more clearly and would have taken her back with me because he was manipulating me and was abusing of the situation that I had created by walking away from our marriage but back then all I wanted was peace. I wanted her to be happy and I wanted us to get along. I had this idea that we could avoid going through a custody battle that affects so many children...we, together, were better than that. I'd find out years later that I made a lot of mistakes believing that we could be friends and I could trust him. I went back to CA in January of 1996. The next year and a half our daughter spent time with both of us in FL and CA. He acted as if he was very sorry for the beating so I one more time forgave him and we moved on with life. We spent hours talking over the phone 3 or 4 times a week. I worked as a Paralegal for a large firm in San Francisco. I was focusing on building a life and a career for my daughter and I. My only motivation in life was my daughter. I would spend nights crying because I missed her so much but by morning I would talk myself into believing that I was doing the right thing and I would go to work and get on with my day. By the time I came home at night I would feel uneasy about my decision to have left her with her father but I would talk to him and he would reassure me that I was doing the right thing for her. When I would argue the difference he would remind me that I was responsible for our current situation and it was up to me to make it right. It was like a catch 22. Dare if I do and dare if I don't. I was so confused at times about what was the right thing to do but I would keep on plugging through and days turn into months and finally we arrived at 1997.

By then I sensed a big changed in my ex. He had been served with the divorce paper in 1996. It had been finalized in December. He was not kind to me anymore, he would yell and insult me over the phone. We had a big fight over her going in to a private school. He was against her learning French and this did not make sense to me. My mom was going to pay for her tuition and it was a great opportunity for her to learn about her heritage and another language. He was changing right beneath my eyes in a matter of weeks. He would tell me that I would "pay" for leaving him and "ruining" his life. I would never get away with leaving him. After being married for 5 years and being friends for 3, I could not recognize this angry and aggressive person who constantly insulted me and belittled me over the phone. Sure we went through some hard times for the past 3 years but we had established a strong connection and overall the relationship was a positive one. So I decided that it was time for our daughter to come back home so we agreed that he'd purchase a plane ticket for her to arrive in San Francisco on June 22, 1997. I will never forget that day. I was so happy, full of life and hopes. I was a Paralegal, I was working on getting my degree, I had great friends....I had made something of myself. It had been a long and difficult 10 years since I had moved to the States but I did it on my own and I was quite proud of myself. I got ready and picked up my best friend on the way to the airport. The plane pulled up and my pulse was daughter was coming home. I had done the right thing by letting her temporarily spent time with her dad but now that he was back out to sea and had become so temperamental, the time was just right for her to come back to me full time. Everything was ready to welcome her back home. I had rented this cute apartment and had it decorated to our liking. I could tell that we were going to be so happy together and I felt so good inside that she had got to know her dad and had build a relationship with him, something that will last a lifetime. It was a big sacrifice on my part but I was happy with the outcome. So we got to the airport and parked the car. I rushed to the counter and started to see people coming off the airplane but I could not see her. Usually the kids come out first, accompanied by a flight attendant, but she did not. The anxiety started building up, tingling in my body and goose bumps were making me feel uneasy. Then everybody was out but she was no where to be found...I had to face did not put her in the plane. My heart started racing, I felt that I was going to faint, I was crying, walking around, talking to flight attendants but eventually I was told that no child by that name boarded the flight. Immediately I called his number...disconnected. At that very moment, I realized that my life had changed for ever, again. It took me back to 1982 when I felt so powerless and so vulnerable, when I was helpless and screaming would not help. Actually you can't find your voice to scream in that kind of moments. I was paralyzed by fears and anger and I was feeling lost. I had to realize that he kept her and that all he had promised to me in the last few weeks that lead to this event was coming through. For the past 3.5 years he had earn my trust as a co-parent and as a friend and had me exactly where he wanted me to be....desperate and worn out. For 3 weeks I looked for her everywhere I could think of. I cried like I never thought I could cry. But I never thought I could be as strong as I was. I had no money but I had a job and was able to work overtime so I got my act together and started working like a maniac. I knew one thing....he would not hurt was all about me. He had to find a way to hurt me. I had finalized the divorce and he simply did not accept that I left him. It was not about love, I was not kidding myself, it was about power. The same power that he was given in his field. At one point there were only 400 guys in the U.S. doing the job he did. Those guys were treated like gold and God and he was happy to tell everyone just that. They were taught to lie with a straight face, they were master manipulators and he used his skills on me. He had me eating in the palm of his hand. I hired an attorney, borrowing money from friends, and the D.A. filed kidnapping charges. Finally after 3 weeks they located him at his mother's who originally lied when she said she had not seen them. I was relieved when I got the phone call that the FBI had found them but was astonished by what they would tell me next. Of course I was expecting her to be returned to me within hours but took me 5 years to bring her home. After the cops found out who he was and what he did for a living they left our daughter with him and told me that as long as he stayed out of California there was not much I could do because he never physically hurt her and this was a problem between him and I and it had to be resolved between us. The kidnapping charges were dropped and my attorney advised me to refile for custody. File for custody? But I had sole physical custody of her...what are you telling me? Basically I trusted someone who had all intentions to do me wrong and using our daughter to do so. I embarked on a 5-year battle, something that I would not wish on my worst enemy. It was so painful to go through all that I went through. I realized then that the legal system is corrupted and that it truly matters who one knows and what one does for a living.....we are not all equal and we do not have all the same rights. He met a young lady in 1997 and a few months later married her telling me openly that he was doing so to look more stable that I was because I was single and as a single mother working 70+ hours a week to pay rent, legal would be a lot harder for me to get custody of our daughter since she was in FL now and I was in CA. He still lived in Florida at the time. In September, Florida took over the custody jurisdiction and a judge ordered for all of us to meet in November. I flew to Florida after a friend was able to obtain a buddy pass from one of her friends who worked for United. Everything was a big fight because I had no money and it is very expensive to be represented by Attorneys. The Judge bluntly said that he was in a bad mood and was not willing to hear the case so he reconvened 3 weeks later. But in the meantime the judge ordered that our daughter stayed in Florida with her dad and new step mother because of a "more" stable environment. I went back three weeks later, completely exhausted, alone facing him, his wife and the court system on my own. I had hired an Lawyer to represent me but had such difficulties to pay him that he did the strict minimum. The trial by judge last 4 days. Many witnesses were interviewed, all of mine via phone, which is not the best scenario but they were all from CA. Eventually, the Judge gave my ex physical custody of our daughter and ordered me to pay $470 of child support a month. Before we met with the judge my ex husband and I talked and he convinced me to give up my rights to his retirement and rights to spousal support. If I did that he would let our daughter move back to California with me and we would reinstate the custody agreement of our divorce which gave me sole physical custody. I immediately asked my attorney to drop all demands related to money but at the end of the day I had not only lost custody of my beautiful daughter, my ex husband had requested that I pay him child support. I had all the paperwork on my favor, a divorce degree giving me full physical custody of my daughter, child support and spousal support awards as well as retirement funds, a temporary custody agreement acknowledging her stay being under a temporary situation and that she would be return to me upon my request....I had taken all of the precautions necessary to avoid any kind of trouble down the road. But today, November 1997, I flew back home alone, completely heart broken, helpless and devastated. The sadness is beyond what I could describe. I was completely broken down. I did not know what to do next. I know it sounds like "poor me" but I had tried to do the right thing by letting her spend time with her dad whom was a total stranger until she was 4 years old and now I was the bad guy. This custody battle lasted 5 years. My daughter finally came home on June 20, 2002, she was 12 years old. That 5 years felt like an eternity. I was subjected to sick and abusive behavior from his wife who would not let me talk to my daughter if I did not say "please"...she would literally hang up the phone. She was much younger than us, about 7 years and had a lot of growing up to do. She was also very angry because she knew that my ex husband had not got over the fact that I left him and it was all about revenge it was not for our daughter's best interest. I think his wife was hurting pretty badly inside and I am sure that she felt very lonely at times but she did my daughter and I wrong by standing by a man who was driven to do the wrong thing because of control issues and a broken heart. I worked well over 80 hours per week, traveled often to Florida, worked closely with the Attorneys that represented me and just kept pushing forward. I eventually found out that my Lawyer in Florida was a great friend of my ex-husband's lawyer and they worked together with the Judge to overwrite the California custody agreement. What I went through because of the corruption of the legal system is unbelievable and right now I don't have the strength to even write about it. But I can tell you that I lost all faith in the system and I lived with anger, sadness and despair for many years even after the return of my daughter. I truly never got over it and to this day I have a knot in my throat whenever I think about what I endured during those years. In 1999 I was at the officers' ball of the Monterey Military base. I was passing through a hallway where photos of commanders and captains were hanging. One of the photos caught my attention. That person had the same name as the Judge in FL and they can of look a like. I had my friend looked him up and I found out that he was the brother of the judge in Florida who gave physical custody of my daughter to my ex-husband after he had kidnapped her. It was a 5-year roller coaster. It was pure hell. Every time I turned around I found out that someone like one of my attorneys were bought out by the other party (my ex and his team). I contacted Washington DC to obtain my medical record to show proof of the beating but my record had vanished, just like that....every time I turned around I would find that I was nothing on my own and most likely i would never get her back. During that time I got to speak with her and got to see her but I was advised by my attorney that if I did not return her to my ex I would go to jail for kidnapping. Now he did not but would I why? Simply because I was a person who worked hard for a living and did not have any connections that would make a difference in this terrible situation. It was such an injustice - I could not breath at times, I develop stress-induced asthma. I also suffered horribly from the consequences of my last 3 car accidents - all being rear-ended. I had so little money that my friends would send me care packages with food, buy me bus tickets so I could go to work, clothes, various products....the essentials I could not afford because every penny was going toward regaining custody of my daughter. In 1998 I was let go from the Law firm I worked for as a paralegal couple years. They had been so supportive of me but I was missing too much time from work and they needed someone who was more available. I was always traveling, meeting with people to strategize or physically searching for my daughter. I often had to take time off from work. I remember coming out of the building and just sobbing. I felt so alone, exhausted, sad, scared, ashamed of being without my daughter and completely lost. I pulled it together and decided I was not going to let it break me. So I sent out my resume and eventually a temp agency called me. They offered me a position as a receptionist for a company that needed a front desk person who spoke French. Speaking french was the last thing I wanted to do. I have never really connected with my birth language. French was not my strength in school and I found once I learned English that I was much better at expressing myself in English but it was a job and I needed one badly. It was for 2 weeks. So the next day I reported to the company and surprisingly without days I just loved the environment. Within a couple of weeks I was asked to stay on permanently as an Administrative Assistant. Something else was catching my attention...a very different kind of funky guy, definitely not my type but he was intriguing me. I called my mom whom I am very close to and told her all about this guy. I explained to her that he is not 6'4" 220 lbs and is not my type anyway. She said to me "your type has not worked for you so please if he makes you laugh give it a can always cut the hair, get a new wardrobe...but you cannot replace the heart of a man". It stuck with me and I decided to get to know him. The ambiance in the office was great which helped because we did things together outside of working hours. It was a mix of people from many countries, mostly engineers who worked hard and play hard....I had found something to hang on to life. His name is John - him and I became friends and within a couple of months of courtship we became a couple. During our courtship I understood what I needed more than what I wanted in life. And once I accepted that naturally I wanted what I needed. It was an amazing feeling to finally meet someone who made me smile in a very long time. He is a very funny guy. A little of an odd ball but boy such a wonderful person with incredible qualities, level headed and extremely strong mentally. This was exactly what I needed for the time being. Of course I was not thinking of the future...the future was all about my daughter and I but for the time being it was nice to be with someone who made me feel special and made me laugh. Fast forward to March 2017 I am in northern ca and he is in France with our youngest son, but to this day when I think of him I choke up. If you read this story you will come to realize that the day we decided to give a shot at life together was probably one of the best days of my life. I did not know it but I was the luckiest person alive. His friends were telling me not to get attached because he is not the relationship type and he is 40 and very independent, he would never settle down. Actually he told me that himself. Being in a relationship was not something he felt he needed or wanted. Having his own kids was not a need either. My husband is someone who is very level headed, a man of few words, very supportive, strong, intelligent with a great sense of humor. I am choking again and have a few tears rolling down my cheeks because I miss him so much right now. He has been my strength and my ongoing support system for the past 18.5 years. He has never flinched. Always has been there by my side, through thick and thin, and never has made me feel guilty for all that we went through from the day we met. He did say that he did not know what "problems" were until he met me but I took that as a compliment!! We have gone through hard times because anyone who has lived what we have lived through goes crazy at one point but he has always been there for me and our family. People who know him are in awe in front of him. So often I am told "I have never met anyone like him"....He is a remarkable person and I owe it to him to be alive today.

He was such a breath of fresh air. By then, I had been wrapped up in the custody battle for 18 months. Having John in my life gave me hope that I could smile again. Although we both pulled away on many occasions when we talked about a future together eventually we could not deny the chemistry between us. We could see a future together. He gave me the strength needed to continue to fight to regain custody of my daughter. Over the next 9 months he did his own investigation and came to the conclusion that my daughter and I had been the victim of a terrible let down from the justice system, something that you read only in a book. We went to Paris in July 1999 and were able to bring my daughter with us. While eating some pastries at a small Italian cafe he proposed. I am choking up right now as I am writing this because it was not super fancy or romantic as my mom was with us. He did not get down on one knee. OMG I was so excited I felt that everything was going to be OK. He has always made me feel that as long as he is there by my side, all will be OK. Actually recently I talked to my daughter and she said the same thing. Although she doesn't call him dad, he has been the dad figure in her life and those two are two peas in a pod. John got to know me like no one else before, the bad the good and the ugly, he knew everything there was to know about me, the rape, the custody battle, all of my little hidden secrets and the struggles I had overcome in life but he had chosen to marry me. I was going to be OK. I had not felt that way in years. I had fought so hard, had felt pain everywhere, felt helpless, petrified, a constant sadness and emptiness, a knot in my throat, but on that day it all went away. It is like I was going to be OK, things were going to work out, I was no longer alone. We enjoyed our vacation in France for a few weeks and went back home to Sacramento. In February of 2000 we had moved there after my husband's company had been bought out by a engineering firm. He was offered a position at Intel. By that time my ex-husband had relocated to southern California with his wife and their daughter. By then I had been fighting the legal system (and my ex-husband who had become more and more angry and mean since I became engaged) to regain custody of my daughter who had expressed under no uncertain terms that she wanted to live with John and I. John announced to me that he wanted to help me financially. He shared his finance with me and to my surprise he was well off. He was an engineer but living in the bay area is very expensive so being an engineer doesn't mean that you have money. However, he had lived a simple life and although had traveled a lot he was frugal with his money and had put a lot away. He decided to help me financially so I would have a shot at getting my daughter back. I can say that he had seen me suffered and be victimized by the legal system simply because my ex-husband was "gold" for the government and I was a person from France who was not even a citizen as I had decided to retain my green card. We hired top Attorneys, private investigators, psychologists....and this time I was not alone and I had hopes. Not only I had the support of my husband, which that alone meant the world, I also had his money. This whole nightmare taught me that money is power and that without it one, in some circumstances, is not much. I was embarking on another ride of my life but although I was still very sad and increasingly in pain, especially physically, which I blamed it on the stress, I was strong, determined and dedicated to bring my daughter home. You see, I never gave up, I always hung on to hope, but more than often I would cry and cry out of desperation and sadness because I did not see a way out of this injustice. Today, I was seeing a way out and I finally regained hopes to get my daughter back where she belonged and where she wanted to be. By that time, we are in 2001 my ex was in CA with his family and we had hired a legal team to represent us in Southern CA where he was station. We lived in Sacramento so I had to do a lot of back and forth because the Judge in CA, although could not reinstate the original custody agreement per our divorce degree he had ordered joint physical and legal custody of our daughter with unlimited visitation right to me. I know it doesn't sound like much but by now I was able to see her every other weekend and I had John by my side. I was in a much better place mentally and emotionally. However physically I was crumbling. I had been bitten by a tick in January of 2011 and by March I was incapable of walking. I was in so much pain that no doctors knew what to do for me. John put me in the airplane and I flew to France to seek treatment. My mom and I flew to Malta for 10 days to do Thalasso Therapy, a well-known treatment plan used in Europe. After 10 days in Malta and 3 weeks in Paris I was able to come back and was feeling much better. But I was not feeling right. I could tell something was off. I was always tired and did not have the zest for life like I had regained since meeting John. By 2001 I had signed up to become a beauty consultant with Mary Kay. Frankly it did not interest me but this lady offered a facial for my wedding in June 2000. I had accepted and surprisingly had really liked the products. She had explained to me the opportunity to own my own business but frankly I was still focusing on regaining sole physical custody of my daughter and was dealing with a lot of physical pain. Plus I had gone through a bad bout of depression. I think that being on my own fighting for so long and then meeting John and getting all that support had rock my world. I went through a serious meltdown so when we moved to Sacramento we decided that I would not work but would focus on my daughter and her return home as well as my health. My body started to fall apart and the next 10 years I would have over 10 surgeries from shoulders, to hands/wrists, foot, sinuses...and many less invasive surgical procedures. By 2011 I was exhausted and had been misdiagnosed many times with MS, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Sjogren syndrome, R.A., Bi-polar, clinical depression and other physical illnesses. I had gone from one hospital to another. I had seen one doctor after another, it was a total emotional roller coaster, one that I wish on nobody. Apparently some doctors felt I was physically ill and others felt I was mentally ill but regardless no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Back in 2001 I found the strength to start my business as a Independent Beauty Consultant for a Cosmetics and Skin Care company and although I loved my job I was having difficulties keeping up with it because I was in so much pain physically. I was determined to make it work and became a Sales Director free car driver in 4 months. I had a team of 50 beauty consultants working on their business. I would hold meetings every Tuesday night for my team and personal one on one and training session many times a week. It was so much work because I worked 14-hour days but I loved it. This really took me by surprise. Me, not only selling something but selling cosmetics and skin care way! I was not the selling type. I had always worked in offices and although I always had wanted to be an Attorney, working as a Paralegal or an Administrative Assistant was fine. I was so busy in my personal life that I did not have the time to put to much thinking in to building a "big" career. I did obtain my paralegal certificate and that made me feel very good. I also had obtain my license as a Private Investigator in 1994 so I would not be an Lawyer but I worked in the legal field and enjoyed it very much. However I did not feel the reward the way I felt it with MK. It took a lot efforts and dedication to motivate 50 women to work at building their business. But the rewards that I got from it from beyond any expectation I had. My team members were thanking me on a daily basis for introducing them to the products and then the opportunity. This was not only a way to make money but it was fun. It was my way of giving back. It sounds like a cliche but so many people had been supportive of me during the times I felt so alone and desperate while looking for my daughter. I felt that this opportunity to turn women's life around had came in to my life for a reason and like everything else I was going to make the most of it. I proudly did it and I received the Honor Society Award a year after I became a Director. It meant that I had 50 active beauty consultants in my unit. I was the second person to receive that award in Sacramento since the company had opened in 1963. It was so exciting. Although it kept me busy I continue to work very hard at fighting my ex to bring my daughter home. And of course I was dealing with serious physical pain and started taking opioids and anti-depressants. Over time I developed a tolerance for opioids and switched from one to another but did not see much results. I had many surgeries but nothing really helped the pain. I stayed on opioids though because they gave me energy and that I needed to help make a difference in other people's life. I am a firm believer that I was put on this earth to help others better their life, find happiness....It makes me happy when I see someone smiling because of something I did or did not do. It gives me strength to go on to give back so I needed that energy to keep on going and found out that opioids did that for me. I was in and out of doctor offices and hospital.

Finally, after battling the legal system and my ex I was awarded sole physical custody of my daughter on June 20, 2002, exactly 5 years to the day he kidnapped her. I am choking up again because when I heard those words I just could not believe it was over. Well that is what I thought but when someone goes through something so traumatizing it affects his life for a very long time. I had nightmares, meltdowns, bout of depression and many other things happen over the years. I thought that my daughter would come home and all would be great. The custody battle took a toll on my relationship with John. Although I was exhausted and so sad when I met him, he was able to turn that around and make me smile again however a few years down the road it was a different story. I had become angry, sad, I would get upset easily, I would yell more often than not, I would be so defensive about everything...we were in trouble. So I threw myself in my work and continue to support the women who had signed up under me to build their beauty consulting business. I built a team in Denver where my ex-sister in law resided. She was married to one of my ex-husband's brother, the one who was an alcoholic. Although we had not kept in touch we had reconnected in 2002. We met in 1988 the week I met my ex. She was his brother's girlfriend. He was visiting them in FL. We had so many memories together so we made sure to spend plenty of time together once we reconnected. My daughter and her daughter, cousins, where the same age. It was so much fun to spend time together and to reminiscing about the old times. Although John and I hit a rough patch, those were some of my best years. My daughter was back home, I had reconnected with my ex sister-in-law and I absolutely loved my job and the people I worked with. It was a big family. We would travel to Dallas and other regions together. I did a lot of motivational speaking. I loved not only telling my story because it was powerful and it gave hopes to women around the Country but it had a happy ending, which is not always the case. Once thing that got in the way though was the constant widespread body pain I was dealing with. I was taking opioids, anti-inflammatory and other medications but I had pain every where. It was diffused pain in my body and it was also in my joints. I was in and out of doctor offices weekly. I also had many surgeries between 2001 and 2011. I had surgeries on both of my shoulders, one of my feet, sinuses, hands and wrists....I would feel better for a little bit but it would not last. We consulted doctors from all over until I was diagnosed with MS when I was 4 months pregnant with my second child. I was stunned and so scared I could not drive home. My friend came to pick me up and drove me home. Complete silence was flowing in the car. I was speechless but deep down inside I did not believe it. I called Stanford and was able to obtain an appointment with a top Neurologist who specialized in MS. We saw him 2 weeks later. After we spent 8 hours with him he assured me that I did not have MS. He did not know what I had but it cleared me from the MS diagnosis. I left with mix feelings. The doctor who diagnosed me wanted me to start using a treatment that consisted of pocking my tummy twice a day and she wanted me to start right away. I was so upset with her because if I did not seek a second opinion I would have hurt my baby. I found out later that this treatment was one of the causes for birth defects. I was outraged by this misdiagnosis. My whole life I was surrounded by parents who were sick and a mother who fought the medical system to obtain second, third and sometimes fourth opinions so I knew what to do however many people rely on what their doctor tells them - big mistake - always seek a second opinion. I am glad I did however I was left still feeling a lot of pain and with no answers. This was in March 2003. I was working around the clock, pregnant with my son, working on my marriage, and being exhausted always because I suffered so much physically. Some days I could not put my feet on the floor they hurt so badly. But eventually I would get up again and get going with my life. Our son was born in August of 2003. What a breath of fresh air he was...the perfect little angel! I did not take much time off and got back to motivating the women who had joined my unit. It was becoming a little harder to travel and attend all that I had to because in May of 2003 my husband started a start-up with three of his business partners. Their office was in San Francisco and we lived in Sacramento. So I would be alone during the week while he was working in the Bay Area. He commuted for a year and a half and during that time I let go of my business little by little. I was extremely tired physically mostly because of the pain. My husband advised me to get my real estate license since we had found out that I really enjoyed selling and frankly I could sell ice to Eskimos by then. I also found out that I enjoyed taking care of people's needs, anticipating their problems and solving them so I could alleviate their stress. I really loved motivating others but found out through hard times that it took so much energy and really affected my health. So I got my real estate license in June 2004 and in December 2005 I transferred my unit over to my Executive Senior Director. I was happy with my decision and was satisfied with my accomplishments. While we were spending the weekend in Marin county, Bay Area, we saw a house that we had bid on in 1999 for sale. I had fallen in love with that house so we decided to bid on it again and we got it this time. I was thrilled. A month later I had sold our properties in Sacramento and we had moved in to our new home in this beautiful and quaint area of Gerstle Park. In the last couple of months I had felt better so I was looking forward to our new life in San Rafael. We had lived in the Sacramento area, Folsom, for over 4 years but I did not like that much there. Although I loved my work and great things happen to us including the return home of Amanda and the birth of our son, I had had difficulties adapting to the mentality. It was very different than the Bay Area. So I was looking forward to starting my real estate career, raising my son, my daughter started high school and John's company was doing fine. My body was giving me a break so I was full of hopes and energy and ready to start a new chapter in my life. Two months later, I fell down the stairs and broke my lower back. This was the beginning of a complete nightmare. I thought I had suffered before with widespread body pain but the back pain was beyond what I can put in to words. I went back on opioids and was followed by a team of doctors. Of course for the next three years I experimented with a lot of treatments, which none of them were successful so I had a fusion in December 2007. Although I was against getting a fusion at L4-L5 because I had heard so many negative things about this surgery but I knew I was in great hands and I decided to move forward with the procedure. It lasted over 20 hours over 3 days. I was in the hospital for 3 weeks. I got out on Christmas eve and although I could barely walk we went over to one of my friends to celebrate the Christmas with her family. My mom was in town from France. But before I had the fusion a lot happened. In August 2005 my ex brother in law, the other brother of my ex husband died in a plane crash. It was my daughter's favorite uncle. The one who had stayed out of the custody battle and had been so kind to me and my daughter during that horrible nightmare. He and his wife just chose not to side with anyone. I have always loved them and to this day I cherish the time that we have had together. This was a very difficult time for my daughter. I think she felt that not only she had lost her favorite uncle but she had lost her grandmother because she just was never able to cope with the loss of her son. He was 45 years young and such a great family man. A great example, a kind person to everyone around him and someone always ready to assist you if you needed anything. He was one of the best people I have ever met. As life continued to unfold I suffered a miscarriage in 2006. This was the second but this time I was 11 weeks pregnant and I was turning 40 a few days later. I had complications for weeks after and my obstetric doctor decided to do a Laparoscopy. I woke up from the surgery and started throwing up violently. She kept me in the hospital that night but discharged me the next day telling me that it should subside with time. I was probably reacting to the anesthesia. For the next week I threw up a few times a day, blood and was looking very "grey" as my husband would put it. We called the doctor a few times but she said that it can happen that people have bad reaction to the anesthesia and she could not see anything else wrong. On the 7th day our living nanny found me unconscious on the kitchen floor. I came back to my senses and she took me to the hospital. When I walked in I had a syncope and was wheeled to the scanner room. The doctor on duty panicked as she saw that I was suffering from a major internal bleeding. I was bleeding to death according to her. I was immediately wheeled in to surgery but a good portion of the blood had dried up on to my organs so not much of the blood could be suck out of my body. It took about 9 months until the blood was reabsorbed by my body. I was in the hospital for a month. The pain was excruciating and I was on pain med by IV every 2 to 3 hours. By March 2007 I started feeling better but I could tell I had lost my momentum. When I started selling real estate in December 2004, with a broken back and severe widespread pain, I quickly rose to "fame" in my real estate brokerage company. I became a top producer and worked as a relocation and luxury division specialist. I won so many contests and went on a few trips with my brokers and other Realtors. It was so much fun but I could never enjoy it to the fullest because I was in pain 24/7. I was very good at hiding the pain because you see when you are in pain internally and it doesn't show on the outside people have tendency to believe that you are making it up for attention. That is exactly what my husband was told about me by a few different doctors including psychiatrists. We consulted many specialists and over the years I was diagnosed with MS, Lupus, Sjogren's syndrome, Fibromyalgia and other physical illnesses but I was also told that I was bi-polar, I was seeking attention from others and was a hypochondriac. Once, we were told that I needed a life, I needed to stop thinking about the imaginary pain and I needed to stop creating drama in my life. I would consult with Neurologists, Internists and other specialists but no one could tell me what was wrong with me. They would give me a diagnosis then give me medications to take but when the meds were not working they would drop my case or refer me out to someone else. This went on for 10 years. I had 10 surgeries in addition to my back surgeries between 2001 and 2011 but the doctors were basically telling my husband and I that I was crazy. I did not stop working and kept pushing forward. I was determined to get better and to find out what was wrong with me but I was not willing to let it affect my life completely. Overtime I developed depression and that alone kept me paralyzed in bed more often than the physical pain .I did not understand why I was depressed because if you looked at my life from the outside, I had it all. I was married, and still am, to this great guy, supportive and very level headed, I had 2 children, many friends, the finances were fine and had a beautiful house. But inside I was dying and little by little I was not able to hide it as well as I did for so many years. I could not figure out how I was going to be able to continue to live with the kind of physical and emotional pain I was suffering from. I was able to overcome excruciating physical pain but emotional pain was a different story. At times I would get so depressed that I could not get out of bed and just wanted to die. I could not find the courage to put one foot in front of the other so I would lock myself inside the house and would pretend to the world that I was fine. It is so easy to do that because people have tendency to see what they want to see so when you hide your pain nothing shows and that's easy for others to believe that you are fine. I became a master at hiding the pain from everyone. But I was so no one would have guessed it because my friends always referred to me as the "outgoing, fun, loving, caring, determined, cheerful, supportive and strong" girlfriend, the one everybody wanted to be around because she brought everybody's spirit up and is her friends biggest cheerleader. But I was suffering inside and out in silence. My family was suffering too because there was not much that they could do. In 2007, I was told about a clinic in Mexico that treated chronic pain. It was a 6-week plan, very expensive but my husband and I decided that it was worth giving it a shot. I could not keep on living this way. I flew from San Francisco to San Diego every Tuesday for 3 days. A car from the clinic would pick me up at the airport and take me to Ensenada. I would stay at a hotel and during the day I would be treated at the clinic. The treatments were so painful. It consisted of long and thick needles inserted in my joints to release the pressure while injecting a liquid to alleviate the pain. After 5 weeks I did not feel much relief so I did not go back for the last week. After I returned from Mexico I went right back to work actually I never stopped working. Whenever I was not at the clinic I was on my phone talking to clients. I never wanted my clients to get the feeling that I was going to let them down because of my personal health problems. Whenever I spent time in the hospital I would make sure that I had my phone and my laptop with me so I could work in between the many times I was put under general anesthesia!

A few weeks after my treatments in Mexico were done, the depression started to become unbearable. I had lost all hope to feel better physically so I decided to go off all of my meds against the doctors' advice. But honestly, not one doctor had made a difference in my life so far whether it was about the physical pain or the depression part. I detoxed at home for a week. It was a week from hell. I won't get in to detoxing because it is almost impossible to put it in writing. It is pure hell - I wanted to die - I prayed so hard but I survived and moved to a rehabilitation center in Los Angeles for 3 weeks. There of course I did counseling, yoga, swimming, had great food and eventually I came home. I felt better so I went back to work full force. I bumbled my way through life summer of 2007 until the physical pain came back in September. I decided to head to Tunisia for another round of Thalasso Therapy. Once again I flew to France and my mom went with me. We headed to Tunisia in the hopes that I would find relieve in the therapy that I had had in 2001 in Malta. I was hoping that after a couple of weeks I would feel much better but this time it was not the case. I did not see any results and once again I felt desperate. Desperate to get answers that no one would give me. I came back completely devastated. A couple of months later I had the fusion and it did wonder on my back. But by that time I was physically and emotionally drained. I was in a deep depression, I was again hooked on opioids and I was in awful physical pain. Yes my back was feeling better however the widespread body pain and the joints' pain were as active as ever. I was again in and out of doctor's offices. I tried many different kinds of anti-depressants but nothing worked. We were told on no uncertain terms that it was all in my head. My husband never flinched. He never let me down. He was there by my side for the long haul. I was extremely tired but whenever I would break down he would tell me that eventually it would get better. I had to believe in me and in the power of the mind. So I would try very hard to remain positive and of course would continue to pretend to the world that I was doing fine. John is not one to say much but he was just there to support me and alleviate my pain and stress as much as he was able to. He is someone I could count on not to let me down. It had been very difficult to find the strength to trust someone again after what I had gone through with my ex husband. The lies, the abuse, the decisiveness and everything else that had stripped me from happiness and trust. But in John, over time, I had found that I could trust his words, he meant well and for the last 8 years in had not deceived me. During this time, since I was physically and emotionally incapacitated he would take care of the household, our son and daughter, would manage the daily chores and would run his company with his partners. He had a full plate but you would never have known it because he was what I call "unshakable". Most of the time even tempered he was someone I could count on to be there by my side no matter what the situation was. It did not matter what he had going on, I could always ask him to accompany me to my doctor appointments, I could ask him for anything and he would always make it happen. His answer was "don't worry, we will make it happen". How refreshing was that? For so many years I had been either on my own or had dealt with heavy duty problems so either way I had lived through some serious difficult times. John would handle everything whenever I was in the hospital, which was often. During that time we had a toddler and a teenager and that alone is a lot of work so think of having a wife who is physically ill with some mystery illness, has a broken back, is depressed more often than not and has a thriving real estate business. Sometimes I don't understand why he stayed with me. It is truly a mystery why he decided to stick around so many years ago. His life was so simple before he met me. I can only say that I am not sure I would be alive if it was not for my husband, my hero. I think everybody should have a "John" in their life!

2008 rolled in, a year that was pretty calm. I took time to recuperate from my back surgeries and continue to build my real estate business. But I could tell that since I had the massive internal bleeding in 2006, I had lost my momentum. I had worked for so many years, most often than not, over 70 hours a week and I was exhausted. I did not feel the excitement like I used to. And I was not motivated to excel like I had been in the past. Whenever I started something I always had to finish at the top of my game regardless how much work it took. By now, I had been in sales for years, but although it can be very exciting it can be also exhausting. Motivating people and selling products takes a lot of energy! And in addition I had to continue to push myself to find out what was wrong with my body. I was still in a lot of pain and the pain was stopping me from living a normal life for a personal of my age. I was 42 at that time. That year I spent a great deal of time in bed because of the depression and the physical pain. Depression is something I had never experienced in my life. I was always the type of person to pick up the pieces and move on with her life. I always inspired others and stimulate them to make their goals and go after their dreams. But the type of depression I was going through was stopping me from being myself. I had dark thoughts, I would not spend time with my friends and would not find joy in spending time with my children or husband. It was so worrisome. I could feel the changes in me but could not stop them from happening. Although I would try to talk to John and friends about it, I could tell no one really understood the depth of my problems. Everybody would tell me that just like everything else it shall pass but it was not passing. Everyday was a struggle to get up. I remember being in bed and thinking of getting up to take a shower and wondering how I could master the strength to make it to the bathroom. This was depression at its worth. I knew that being in so much pain physically did not help with the depression but what also did not help was the lack of support that I had from the doctors. I had tried many anti-depressants but none work. The doctors were telling my husband and I that there was not much that they could do for me because I was not responding to the meds. I felt so alone in my battle. I have always been a strong advocate for my health but I was feeling let down by the medical field. By that time I started speaking out more about my health issues. I thought that my friends, acquaintances and family would help me if they knew more. They may be able to pass on information that they received from their friends who were dealing with medical conditions. I was desperate to get help from anyone so anyone who showed interest in my situation I would explain. But as nice as people are, one who is really sick with a illness that doesn't show on the outside, quickly realizes that people either have a hard time believing such a "sad" story or are too busy with their own life to give it time to make a difference. I learned a lot about people during my battle with physical and mental health problems. I started praying like I did back in 1997. In San Rafael, we have one of the 22 missions of CA. I would go sit in the chapel and pray for relief, any kind of relief. I would spend hours, days, alone begging for help. I would feel so misunderstood. At the end of the year my favorite cousins from France came to spend Christmas with us. I could tell they were shocked how much I had changed. We used to go every year spend a few weeks in France and we would spend a week at their home. We used to have a blast, going out every day visiting the surroundings and going out to dinners at night, really enjoying our summer outings. But this time I was quiet, without much energy and was not excited about anything. Actually we did very little together. I tried to explain to my cousin, Gwenola, who is like a sister to me, that I was in a lot of pain. The pain was all over my body and it would stop me from doing anything...I could only do the strict minimum and even that felt like a chore. In 2002 I had surgery on my right shoulder and then in 2005 I had surgery on my left shoulder. Although both helped at the time now the pain was like before the surgeries. I had widespread body pain from head to toe and pain in my joints. Carrying my purse, riding in the car, cutting my food was a big hurt all the time. But it was so hard to explain and the hardest thing was that people could not see it. I was a master at hiding the pain, whether physical or mental.

In 2009 I started feeling better so we decided to sell our house and downside to an apartment. We both felt that since our daughter had graduated high school we did not need such a big property. Also it would be easier for me to take care of an apartment instead of a house. The other reason was that we had become a one-income family, which makes it more difficult to support a family in Marin County. I had earned very little money since I had closed only a couple of transactions in 2008. In addition in the past 5 years we had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatments that were not covered by the insurance. We sold our property and moved to a townhouse in Larkspur a few miles down the road from our house. I was hired as a Sales Manager and oversaw the growth and development of 8 counties. It was a very busy job but although I was still suffering physically I was doing better emotionally. For most days, I was able to do my job. I did a lot of sales presentations, motivation speeches and spent a lot time dealing with clients' problems and finding solutions and resolutions. I loved what I did but I struggled on a daily basis with the physical pain. It was getting bad again. So John and I decided to take a trip to Vietnam and Taiwan for our 10th year anniversary to try to bring back some fun into our lives. Traveling has always been a big part of our lives and when it came to depression I seem to feel a little better when I was away from our chaotic everyday lifestyle. However during that trip I realized how sick I was. There were a lot things that I could not do because I was physically restricted and getting up in the morning was emotionally very difficult. I spent a lot of time crying during the 10 days we were away. I could no longer ignore that I had some serious problems. Actually I never ignored them, the doctors did by misdiagnosed for 9 years by now and not helping me with my depression, which has been ongoing since 2006. I often would tell the doctors that I felt I was suffering from chemical depression because I had taken so many different kinds of meds over the years. But they would tell my husband and I that they thought I was bi-polar however I did not respond to the meds they had put me on and I sure did not experience the "manic" part of the bi-polar illness. John and I argue a lot during our trip to Asia and we decided to separate upon our return. Actually he decided to leave me because he could not handle this roller-coaster. He knew that was not my fault but he was suffering too. He had lost his wife, the wife he married who was so fun, so strong and so outgoing.

We came back and it had a change of heart. I think he realized that I was as desperate as he was to find answers and although I had changed a lot over the years it was simply not my fault. I continue to work as a Sales Manager but in 2011 I gave up and finally went on medical leave. I could not longer drive, carry my laptop, my purse, open doors....the pain had reached every bit of my body. I spent more time in bed than being up and running around. We were consulting doctors on a weekly basis. But no one could find an answer. Oh we were given diagnosis from left to right in addition to treatment but eventually in 2011 we were told that there was nothing more the doctors could do and they did not know where to refer me.

In May 2011, completely emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted and in horrible amount of pain, I attempted suicide. At the time I felt that unfortunately someone found me and saved my life. I will not get in to details because I want this story to remain about the power of determination, the strength that it takes sometimes to overcome challenges and faith that at some point things will turn around. I can tell you that it was a very dark moment in my life. It was not something I planned. I actually do not remember "doing" it. This experience gave me a totally different outlook on people who commit suicide. I used to think that they were cowards for leaving their loved ones behind. But by the time I attempted to take my own life I had been ridden with physical pain for 10 years, I had gone through a major custody battle and had suffered from severe and debilitating depression for 5 years. We had not found help and it was not looking like there was help ahead. So I was living in a dark whole with no light at the end of the tunnel. Two months later in July 2011 my husband decided to move us to France. My youngest, my husband and I moved to France on July 25, 2011. I had been, what we believed misdiagnosed for 10 years and finally were told that there was nothing anyone could do for me because my pain and depression were not real...I had to get on with my life, get a hobby and find a way to rebuild my life because there was nothing wrong with me. John and I knew that I was a hardworking individual with lots of energy, strong ethics and integrity, someone who had never given up finding answers but someone who was completely exhausted by this horrible experience. We knew something was seriously wrong especially after I attempted to end my life. I adore my children and my husband and my friends mean the world to me. I am not someone who gave up on life, I felt that life gave up on me. I had fought for 5 years to get my daughter back and had fought for 10 years to find answers. Something was majorly wrong with me and I needed help immediately. We knew that in France we had access to a level of medical care that we did not have access here. In all honesty my mom is very connected so with her help we felt that we could reach out to doctors that we could not see here. So within 60 days we had sold everything and arrived in Paris with 15 luggage for the three of us. My oldest daughter, 21 years old at the time, decided to stay in Northern CA. I could not believe it, I had once again hopes that may be someone could help me to figure out what was wrong with me. But the flip side is that I left my daughter behind. Although she was a young adult it brought me back 14 years back when she was kidnapped by her dad. Once again I was far away from her but this time it was my choice. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and was questioning my decision to have left her to seek medical care in another country. I did not have the answer whether I did the right thing or not but I knew that I could not keep on going this way, I was too sick physically and mentally. I would not have lasted much longer I had stayed in CA. So after spending time with family, buying a car and other necessities to start our life in France we settled in Tours, 3 hours south west of Paris. There I had rented a furnished apartment. It was September 2011 and our son started 3rd grade. I had left France 24 years ago and coming back was not easy. But I came back with the hopes that someone here was going to save my life. The first few months I was not doing too bad. Sure I was in a lot of pain but I was able to walk around and spend time with family I had not seen in a long time. John and I decided to "start" a new life. I would never forget the moment he brought out our crystal champagne flutes that we got at our wedding and took me to the balcony. We cheered to a new beginning and the end of a living nightmare that we had gone through for 10 years. Within a few months the pain was so debilitating that I was bedridden. John had to carry me to the bathroom every morning because I could not set my feet on the floor. We could not sleep in the same bed because whenever he moved the covers I would scream because of the pain that I would feel in my feet when the blankets would touch my feet. I was doing worst than I had ever. But we were continuing to search for answers. I would take the train regularly to Paris to meet top specialists who also were baffled by the situation. Until I met this one doctor who said to me "I believe I know what is wrong with you but we must do a boat load of tests before I can pronounce myself". Today as I am writing this I am crying because it was the little hope I had been waiting for 10 years. My mom took me all over Paris to do the blood tests and many other tests. I could not walk. She is 5.3 and 110 lbs but she would make me hang on to her and would drag me as best as she could from one taxi to another or from one bus to another. I was in excruciating pain but I kept on going because for the first time in a decade I had hope to find out what I had. I went back to Tours after a couple of weeks. I finally got the call that I had been waiting for for 10 years - I had Lyme disease third stage. I embarked on the fight for my life. I was bedridden for 2 years. I was given dozens of meds a day. Those included hours of anti-inflammatory and antibiotics IV everyday, Cortisone, heavy duty opioids, a lot of homeopathy and herbal treatments. In France the nurses come to your house to do the IVs so at least it was in the comfort of my house. I can no longer describe the horrendous pain I was in because I am feeling better but I remember not being able to put my feet on the floor, not being able to open a door or carry my fork or cut my food with my knife. My husband did it all in a foreign country where he knew no one, did not speak the language but once again I never heard him complain. He would take care of me and our son without ever showing signs of being worn out. The original treatment lasted on and off for 2 years. Not only I was not seeing much results but I was extremely depressed. We did not know anyone in Tours and I would spend my days in bed or on the couch. I tried to stay busy by watching TV the only thing I could do because I could not hold a magazine because my hands hurt so badly. One day I called my mom and asked her to come to Tours, she lives in Paris, to watch our son while I was going to Thailand. John was back in the U.S. for work because while all of this was going on of course he continued to work most of the time remotely but he still had to go back to CA from time to time to take care of his job. My mom arrived in Tours and next thing I remember I am at the airport in Bangkok waiting for a taxi to take me to a rehabilitation and Buddhism center. The next 10 days are a blurred. I was put in the hospital and was taken off all of my meds. Some of them was opioids like Morphine, Fentanyl and Methadone. I went to 7 days of horrible indescribable withdraws. I remember screaming murder but no one would check on me. I was left to suffer like a beaten dog. I will never forget what I went through at this hospital in Chanthaburi, Thailand. Eventually I was transferred back to the center and started a 3 months course filled with intense therapy and rehabilitation from years of prescription drugs. By the time I got to Thailand I had finished my treatment for Lyme disease as it was on and off every 3 months after the first stage that lasted a full year. However I was taking very strong opioids for my back. I was feeling better physically when it came to Lyme, yes we had a name for this mystery illness that I had for 10 years and no, I was not crazy. But I had fallen again in 2011 and had hurt my lower back again so I had been back on opioids. After 10 days in Thailand I was finally allowed to call my mom in France who was just so worried because last time she saw me I was boarding the train to go to Paris to hop on the plane to head out to Bangkok. I was allowed to talk to her for 5 minutes but at least she knew I was OK. I cannot imagine what she lived through during that 10 days when she did not know where I was. Same goes for my husband but neither of them held it against me. They could tell that I was not myself for taking off that way and both realized I was going through a major meltdown. To this day I don't remember my trip to Bangkok, the arrangement for me to be accepted to the Rehabilitation center, the payment, the many emails back and forth that I read upon my return to France ....I was living in a fog. But in any case I went and got some help. When I came back to my senses I wanted to leave the center but they talked me in to stay and I stay for a month. I had a beautiful suite in a magnificent resort. We were about 10 people and met daily for individual and group counseling. There was a chef, a yoga teacher, a massage therapist...I realized that it was a place where I could possibly heal from all the traumas I had endured over the years. One I got to Thailand I felt much better physically but was extremely depressed. Although I had finally found out that I had Lyme disease, I was still very depressed and had not found anything synthetic or natural to alleviate the feelings of heaviness and sadness. The Lyme treatment had been very heavy and painful at times. I had spent quite a bit of time between hospitals and doctors' offices and we were so wrapped up in our problems that we had not met anyone in Tours so it was pretty lonely. John was doing the best that he could to give our son the stability that he needed to adjust in his new school. Although he had been at the French school outside of San Francisco all children attending that school spoke English so suddenly being in a school in France was a really big transition for an 8 years old. Our son had seen me in an out of the hospital and very often in bed since he was 3 years old so for him it was not out of the ordinary to see me sick but still it broke my heart that I could do very little with him. John was in charge of everything and I know, although he never complained, it could not be easy for him. My mom would come to visit in order to help me get around and alleviate the stress of taking care of everything.

Created By
Abigail Nordique

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