By Suzanne Stewart
As I sat in my “Lazy Boy”chair with a pillow under my knees and a soft blanket over my body, I flipped through my smartphone. I was checking my email on a cold Winter’s night and suddenly I was filled with a feeling of friendship and a special kind of love and appreciation. I received an email stating that I was “nominated by a group of my peers, for the U.S. Pain Foundation’s 2016, Joselynn Badman, Pain Ambassador of the Year Award“! I was surprised, happy and filled with a feeling of being appreciated. No matter if I win or not, I thought; how nice was it to be nominated by my peers.
I don’t participate in competitions or contests where I have to ask people to vote for me. I had at one time done that, in the beginning; several years ago. But it didn’t give me a good feeling inside. It felt like a popularity contest. It felt as though others might think that I was doing good things in order to get something. This was a nomination that i had known nothing about and didn’t ask anyone for anything. It was awesome to be nominated.
I filled out the questionnaire that I received from the U.S. Pain Foundation and waited for the results to be announced in the New Year of 2017. Then one day in January, I opened up an email message from my dear friend, Ellen Lennox-Smith; in which she was congratulating me on “winning the Joselynn Badman Ambassador of the Year Award” for 2016. I had no idea and I got so excited that I think I would have jumped up and down if I could have! My husband was sitting next to me and I told him about it. He was so happy and then we furiously looked to find out more information. I hadn’t read my earlier email yet and there inside of an email from earlier in the day, was the U.S. Pain Foundation’s Monthly Newsletter. I opened it up and the first item on it, was a photo of me holding my “special tribute” from the Governor and a House Rep. in Michigan. Then I saw the words, “2016 Ambassador of the Year: Suzanne Stewart“. I looked to my earlier emails for that day, and there was a beautiful note from Lori Monarca, the Executive Office Director of U.S.Pain Foundation. It reads ” Congratulations to you Suzanne on your nomination and honor for the Ambassador of the Year Award!! What a great honor to have you win this as you have put so much time and hard efforts in such an amazing way throughout the community during the year! Your determination and dedication is unbelievable and you are so worthy of this award. Thank you so very much for being a part of our U.S. Pain Family!” I proceeded to get beautiful and loving notes, one after another from these persons who I call my U.S. Pain “family”.
I later got emails from Lori and from Paul Gileno, the President of the U.S. Pain Foundation. Paul congratulated me and told me that he was going to fly all the way from his home in CT. to my home in Michigan, to give me my Award in person! I was so thrilled and couldn’t and cannot even believe the love and kindness shown to me by this pain family. This is the U.S. Pain Foundation, my “family” that is made up of many other persons who also live with pain issues. They strive to advocate and try to always help others. A family of pain patients helping other pain patients.
If you know anything about my life, you will know that things had never been easy growing up. Life just kept getting harder and more painful. Bad things kept happening to me, one after another. I’ve never won anything and I never even thought about it. Mostly because I’d always thought that “those kinds of things happen to other people”. I’ve continued onward to be the best person that I can be. I try to think of others and treat people how I wish to be treated. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes and I’ve had days when I didn’t behave or speak in a manner that I would prefer. But I get up each day and keep trying to move forward in a positive manner; to the best of my ability.
As time went on, there were emails exchanged and plans were made for Paul to come to my home and present me with the Award. I was so excited and then nervous to make sure that I made a good impression, of course. But then again, I’m not sure why I was nervous? I had spent several days “hanging out” with Paul and everyone from U.S. Pain, last Summer at the Pain Summit! We ate lobster together and even wore those little bibs. LOL! The day arrived and it was Thursday, February 2, 2017. I think that I changed my outfit about ten times that day. I didn’t want to be too dressed up or not dressed up enough. I wanted to be dressed appropriately but what is appropriate, to wear for receiving an award? We were going to go out for dinner and my family and friends were invited. It was all very exciting and I think I emailed Lori more than a few times within that 24 hour period, asking many questions. I even asked if I should wear my U.S. Pain Foundation, collared shirt, with their Logo on it. She was so kind and told me to just be comfortable.
I had nothing to fear, because once I opened up the door and saw Paul standing there; all of my nervousness disappeared. I only felt calm, happy, excited and appreciated. He is one of the most kind men I’ve met in my lifetime. He came into our home and my husband and I chatted, laughed and joked with him for quite awhile. I felt very comfortable and then he gave me the most beautiful crystal award. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful and with such wonderful, kind words engraved on it, too. It says, “U.S. Pain Foundation” (and their Logo)…then it says: “AMBASSADOR OF THE YEAR 2016–presented to SUZANNE STEWART, In Recognition for your Outstanding & Dedicated Services to the Pain Community”….I was in awe, my jaw dropped and my heart was beating quite fast. I feel so honored and humbled to receive such a beautiful award with words on it that are so meaningful.
I am quite humbled by this Award and by the entire experience. I’ve never expected anything for what I do. I love people and helping persons with chronic pain illnesses, like myself. I simply do what I do because it honestly helps me to stay positive and gives me more of a “purpose”. Keeping other pain patients hopeful, positive and sharing information with them via my writing and support groups etc.; makes me feel happier. Like I always say “HOPE is a Verb. You must DO something in order to keep hopeful and positive”. Helping the U.S. Pain Foundation by holding Awareness events, being an Advocate and fundraising is another way that I get to help others living with Chronic Pain. It’s just in my blood because before I was disabled by chronic pain, I was an Interpreter for the Deaf. I worked with Deaf children doing speech, auditory training and taught American Sign Language. These days aside from being a chronic pain patient, ironically I have two hearing aids. I have hearing and vision issues since a car accident in 2002 left me with many health issues, several chronic pain illnesses and a Traumatic Brain Injury. But I’m always happiest when doing something for others.
A group of my peers anonymously nominated me for this award and the U.S. Pain Foundation gave it to me. To my peers, I say “Thank you so much for the nomination. I have made some wonderful lifelong friendships by being an Ambassador for the U.S. Pain Foundation. I’d like to reiterate that I feel humbled and so honored to have been nominated for and to receive this special award. But U.S. Pain Foundation are the ones who deserve something wonderful for all that they do for persons living with daily chronic pain. They go “to bat” for all of us when they visit the state and federal legislators. They not only fight for our rights but they teach us how to fight for ourselves. There are: conferences, webinars, Twitter chats, Social media days for sending out love and Information regarding rare diseases, Invisible illnesses and more! They hold the annual Pain Summit to educate us more about ways to help ourselves. One of the main things U.S. Pain likes to teach us is to “take care of ourselves first”. I really want to reiterate my gratitude for Paul coming all the way to our home in Michigan, to give my award in person and in front of my family and best friends. With that gratitude I also want to add the wonderful dinner and conversations that we shared. A chronic pain patient himself, Paul Gileno, flew several hundred miles to personally give me a beautiful, meaningful experience along with a lovely award. Again, I say “Thank You very much from the bottom of my heart. I only hope that I can follow Joselynn Badman’s example of a true Pain Ambassador and Pain Warrior. I will continue to learn, advocate, share awareness and speak about HOPE for persons living with chronic pain”.
Featured image is Suzanne Stewart with her husband, Craig (left) and U.S. Pain Foundation President, Paul Gileno (right).
Suzanne has lived with the long term effects of a TBI, Full body CRPS & several chronic pain illnesses since an auto accident in 2002. Prior to being disabled from chronic pain, she was an Interpreter for the Deaf at the University of MI hospitals & worked with Deaf children. Suzanne started out as a Chemo-angel in 2005; & a Mentor for RSDHOPE. She continues being a Mentor, fundraiser & Writer/blogger. Today shes also a patient health advocate for RSDSA and is Michigan state Pain Ambassador for the U.S.Pain Foundation. She’s founded & admins. support groups for various chronic pain illnesses. Suzanne holds awareness events, has made Awareness jewelry, creates advocacy videos & uplifting ASL cover song videos on You tube and she writes in her own blog, “Tears Of Truth” (Suzydukettes.
Suzanne lives with her husband, Craig and kitty cat “Luna”. She is a mother of two married daughters and loves being a Grandmother of 3 granddaughters. (*Luna is a chemo angel kitty. She sends positive letters & small mailable gifts to children going through chemo-therapy. She has her own blog at: TheKittyCatDiaries.wordpress.