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This fundraiser ended on 06/17/12

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The Armstrong family needs your help

Out of all of the remaining members of the Armstrong Family, I, Joana, have been deemed the best writer. But, as such, I have a very hard time writing “our family story” in a succinct & short manner. Hence I wrote two versions of our story, one short, one long. If, in this short version, you find information or “thank you's” to be missing, then feel free to read the long version (keep in mind the long version is around 8 pages long, single spaced! YIKES) Since this is the short version, I will do my best to…well, keep things short!

In August 2002, tragedy struck the Armstrong family. The matriarch of the family, Patricia (Paty) Armstrong suffered a severe stroke at the age of 54. As a result, she was paralyzed on the left side of her body and her mental capacity was rendered to the mental capacity of a 5yr old. She required around the clock care and lived in agonizing pain for four years past her stroke. This was extraordinarily hard on our family, because our mom was the glue that held us together; it felt as if our whole world had been torn asunder. Seeing her in such pain was agonizing. In combination with the emotional agony our family was undergoing and with our mother’s physical agony, financial problems started to arise. Although, at the time we Armstrong children were unaware, our father was in debt to the hilt with medical bills. Plus, he now lacked my mother’s income. He had to take a second mortgage out on the house, put leans on his cards and maxed out over seven credit cards.

Amidst these four years, our family began to undergo other problems as well. I, Joana, (the youngest and only girl), suffered two herniated disks in my spine from transferring my mom from her wheelchair to her bed. I went through physical therapy, injections, and two surgeries, which not only took me away from obtaining my PhD (I only have a MA now), but also rendered me incapable of taking care of my mom. Additionally, Paul (the oldest sibling) and his wife Kris began to have marital problems. To add more to these problems, Paul was diagnosed with diabetes and ulcerative colitis. I believe that our family’s physical ailments appeared at that time because of the emotional stress we were undergoing. In other words, I believe that our emotional pain manifested in physical ways.

In addition to all these ailments, Kristin (Huckaba) Armstrong, Paul’s wife, committed suicide in October of 2005, leaving behind their two children, Brontae and Coreena (Coree). Paul’s illness worsened and he, with his two children, moved back into our family home of 20 some years. Mom passed shortly after that in the winter of 2006. Paul’s colitis was worsening, my husband divorced me and I still suffered from back pain (the surgeries and other procedures did not eradicate my chronic pain). I moved back home and a couple of weeks later Paul died in February, 2007, orphaning his two children Brontae and Coree. My dad stepped in and gained custody of his two granddaughters.
As of yet, Ben (the middle child), had not yet begun to show physical problems as significant as Paul’s or, even, as simple as my chronic pain. He suffered from back pain, but it was sporadic. I believe that what saved Ben from some of the sadness was the fact that he had a new light in his life, his son Braylon. But, like Paul and I, the emotional stress in Ben’s life began to manifest itself in physical ways. His back pain became chronic, which, upon having MRI’s, he discovered that not only did he suffer from an irregular curvature of the spine, but he also had multiple herniated disks as well. Soon thereafter, he had another son, Callum.

Things in the Armstrong Family began to look like we had weathered the storm, until August of 2009, when our Dad was diagnosed with pre-leukemia and he had to undergo an intensive round of chemotherapy, which would hopefully fight back the leukemia. Since I was still living with him to help manage care of Paul’s two girls, I was able to help take over most of the care for the girls while he underwent chemotherapy and continued his courtship with a wonderful, brilliant woman named Sharon Hoerr. Around the spring of 2010 Dad was diagnosed with full-blown Leukemia. Soon after his diagnosis, Ben suffered a heart-attack in August of 2010. My dad was devastated that he could not be with Ben during his heart surgery, because dad doctors had forewarned him that the hospital was the worst place for him to be with his illness. After a round of intensive chemotherapy, he decided to try for the only possible cure of leukemia, which is a bone marrow transplant. Unfortunately, the leukemia returned despite the fact that his body did not reject the donor’s bone marrow. He died January, 2011. I took guardianship of Brontae and Coree, and have been able to keep up with paying the utility bills for the house. Ben and his fiancé separated from each other and Ben is now living in our family home of 35 years with me and the girls. Although I was able to pay for utilities, I did not make enough money to take over the mortgage on the house. Now our family home is foreclosed and we, (Ben and his two boys, who live with us half of the time, me and the girls) will no longer have a place to live. That is, we will not have our family home, but if one of us is able to obtain a job, we could, at the very least, find a place to live.

There is one thing I would like to make abundantly clear; although we have been through such tragedy, we have not been left completely helpless. There is an extraordinary community of people, who have helped us immensely over the last decade. This remarkable community is that of St. Jude’s in Dewitt Michigan. If you would like to know the countless ways in which they have supported, helped, cared for and loved our family, you may read the “Long-Version” of our somber tale. Furthermore, they have not been the only ones to be a support. Numerous friends and extended-family members have been there for us during our darkest hours. That is, I believe, what is amazing about our story; we have not been left alone fighting our sorrow in a cave of darkness! Countless people like Dan Payne, who started this website, have shown nothing but love and support. Indeed, it is because of the support of the community of St. Jude's, along with the support of friends and family, that we have made it this far. In other words, it is because of these people that we can see light in what has felt like a world of darkness. So, !! To anybody and everybody that hears our story, and donates prayers, tears, well-wishes, time, money, etc., THANK YOU!! From the very depths of our family’s hearts and souls, you have our gratitude!!
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