The women in my family have really been through it. I have seen them thrive and suffer, survive and succumb. I have seen them sacrifice. The older I’ve become, the more I have learned about the tough choices the women in my family have made.

I come from a long line of incredibly strong women.

This past summer, my cousin Stephenie, whom I was very close to growing up, had a surgery during which the doctor nicked her bowel. Unsurprisingly, she developed an infection and some serious complications.

But she recovered.

Just before Christmas, Stephenie was rushed to the hospital with a barely-there blood pressure. She had pneumonia, the flu, a blood infection. Her kidneys weren’t functioning, her blood pressure kept bottoming out, she had no circulation, she developed blood clots. They put her on dialysis. They put her on life support. They gave her a 50/50 chance.

But she pulled through.

She is just over forty. She has three kids. She is not about to give up.

Once she was stabilized, they moved Stephenie to Cleveland Clinic. Since then, she has been playing musical hospitals and doing physical therapy to get function back in her limbs. Last week, she was told that she was probably going to lose all the toes on her left foot and two on her right. After telling her husband, she said, “I guess I’ll save a lot on pedicures.”

Yesterday, the surgeon took all of Steph’s toes.

Last night, she was in a good mood.

I come from a long line of incredibly strong women. They are a smart, feisty, caring, courageous bunch. They cry when life is beautiful and laugh when life is tragic. I may never have the strength that many of the women in my family possess. Sometimes, though, it just helps to know we share the same genes.

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