My Story

The goal and purpose of Kindness Recycler is to inform, share, promote and inspire kindness to our fellow human beings. I became inspired by family, friends and strangers who went out of their way to help my family as we struggled with my wife's serious health issues. Along the way we were abandoned by some nearly life long friends, lost nearly everything we owned and were disappointed repeatedly by the health care safety net. At the same time we were constantly uplifted by the grace of God and the prayers and support of dedicated, caring family, friends and strangers.

In November 2011 I was laid off from my job and as a result one month later we lost all of our family health insurance. In February 2012 my wife was diagnosed with a grade 3 malignant brain tumor, 4 being the worst. With no other previous symptoms she suddenly had a seizure one morning. At the hospital the doctors gave us the news that changed our lives forever, that they had found something on her brain. Nothing can really prepare you for that.

She underwent brain surgery to remove as much of the aggressive tumor as possible. She spent about one and a half months in the hospital recovering and with speech and physical therapy. As the neurosurgeon had warned us, she was left 90-95% paralyzed on her left side. I became her caregiver as she needed help now with nearly everything that most of us take for granted. It was the most difficult and rewarding experience imaginable. I know she would have done the same for me. I am honored and blessed to have been there for her every step of the way until she took her last breath in this world on February 13th, 2014.

The rest of the story is how we made it those two years to be able to give her some dignity and grace as she went through this without complaint. This is the short version of this story and maybe more details will be forthcoming at an appropriate time. Suffice it to say that we were sent packing from our home while my wife was undergoing simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy. The day after she got out of the hospital we were told to pack our stuff and get out. The irony is that I was owed more money by the people who sent us packing than what I owed them. They were also long time family friends, more irony.

It was very difficult to understand the lack of compassion from friends. Our families had known each other for years. It goes deeper than that. Our lives were woven together for years in many ways. Bitterness and bad feelings can be quite consuming. My only priority in life was doing whatever it took to take care of my wife. Nothing else mattered. I forgave them as I hope they forgive me for whatever I have done. I'm sorry they missed an opportunity to help us. I hope I never fail to realize such an opportunity. 

We were three days away from being homeless and if anyone has ever tried to rent a home with no job, a terminally ill family member and no money for first month's rent and deposit, you may have an idea of what desperation is. I'm not perfect and have made my share of mistakes, but I had always managed to provide for my family. Until now.

My job now was taking care of my wife. I could not go out and get a "regular" job because I could not leave her side. I did have unemployment for a while and she did have Medi-CAL for most of her medical bills, not everything of course. There are government programs that are designed to help people in our situation that we could never seem to qualify for. I was able to get occasional work doing web design, but nothing consistent. I could not take care of my family financially and had my hands full being nurse, caregiver, therapist, physician's assistant, patient advocate, curator of her her medical history, nutritionist and everything else for my soulmate. Material possessions are nice, but it is amazing how little they really mean when you arrive at the true meaning of life and love. 

About two weeks before we were forced to leave our home I miraculously found a friend who had a home we could rent. With no money for food much of the time, I also had no money to move into a house even though the rent was very reasonable. A friend told me about a program his church had that might be able to help us. We had never even attended that church and yet they gladly paid our move-in rent. The house wasn't ready until about three days after we were forced to leave our old place. We had nowhere to go and less money to get there. Another friend put us up in a motel until the house was ready. Others friends helped us move.

It seems like every time we were near the end of our rope, something good would happen. We would be out of food and somebody would call asking if we needed anything. Friends cooked us nice meals and brought us food. Family and friends brought us groceries. Former fellow employees held a fund raiser for us. They saw we needed help and they cared about us. I was humbled. None of them wanted to be paid back. Just help someone else when you can they said.

This is why I'm here telling this story that needs to be told. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to concentrate on taking care of my wife. Her care was the only thing that really mattered. I thank God for my family and friends helping us in any way possible. I will never forget. I'm thankful for all the prayers said for my wife, for our family. 

My daughter and I have been able to do some volunteer work. We must recycle the kindness given to us. If one person visits this site and becomes inspired to help recycle kindness I will be grateful. I just want to carry on for all the kindness that so many have given to us. Thank you.

 - Chris Nielsen •