Bella Soul: The Meaning Behind The Palm Tree

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Many of you may have been wondering, “What the heck is the significance behind the palm tree in Bella Soul’s logo?” Well, it comes from this beautiful quote:

 “It is the nature of the strong heart, that like the palm tree it strives ever upwards when it is most burdened.” ~Philip Sidney

Some of you may be thinking it’s just some silly quote. But, I think that anyone who has ever had to face obstacles in their life can relate to it.

Ring I bought that says, “I promise to stay positive.” I wore it everyday through my toughest times.

When I was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, there were times it was impossible to keep an optimistic mindset. However, I would not be where I am today if I lived my life with a negative mentality. I kept my heart strong with my chin held high, even when I was going through the toughest of times. In that way, the palm tree symbolizes myself in the quote.

If you ever run into some bumps in the road just remember to be strong, be positive, and live in the moment. Stand tall like a palm tree, even when you are most burdened. If I can do it, you can do it, too!

I might not be the most inspirational speaker/blogger, so take it from Katy Perry and the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock:

As always, you can reach out to me on Twitter by using my handle @lauren_wilmet.


Introducing Bella Soul, UW-Madison Chapter

BS DrawingThe 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Bella Soul, is officially a registered student organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison!

 Bella Soul’s mission is to provide mental and financial support to college students battling disease or disability. I know before I found Bella Soul, I felt like I didn’t relate to anyone on campus. That’s why Bella Soul’s UW-Madison chapter was formed- to create a social environment for students battling physical ailments. However, the chapter welcomes and encourages all individuals from any background who have an interest in being involved!

As a student org, Bella Soul hopes to build a community for students with disease or disability so they know they’re not alone on campus. It’s a great way for students to get to know fellow Badgers bucky bella soulthat have been in their shoes. Being part of this organization could also be a learning opportunity for those never diagnosed with an ailment to recognize the struggles some students live with every day.

Bella Soul, UW-Madison Chapter will hold community service and fundraising events. The money raised be put toward the not-for-profit Bella Soul’s scholarship fund in order to reward students in need of financial support.

Meetings for this student organization begin fall semester of 2015. Check us out at the student org fair (September 8-9th) for more information, or head to Bella Soul’s page on the Wisconsin Involvement Network website.

For any further questions, tweet me with the handle “@lauren_wilmet.” I hope to hear from you or see you at the org fair!

The Importance of Working With Your Disease

“The sooner you are open to the reality of your disease, the sooner you’ll be able to work with it, instead of in defeat of it.” –Ilana Jacqueline

When I saw this quote, or rather, tweet from blogger Ilana Jacqueline, it instantly hit home for me. It made me think about my past, and it reminded me that I’m glad to be where I am today.

When I was first diagnosed with my disease in 2012, I was put on so many meds to try to get my flare ups under control. I was taking around 20 pills per day, and each of them had their own set of side effects.

One medication called “prednisone” really took control of my body. As I explained in a previous blog post, this drug works wonders for the body but comes with side effects that can really alter your body image. Being on this medication, I gained almost 50 pounds of water weight. My whole body was swollen and poofy to the point where I couldn’t fit in my winter boots. I even got nasty stretch marks all over my body.

Spring break in San Diego, 2013.

Now, I know that’s not the end of the world and that I’m lucky to be alive and healthy today. However, as a freshman in college when you have to crawl out of your shell to meet people, I wanted to do the exact opposite and crawl deep into a shell that was non-existent until this medication invaded my body.

About a month or so ago, the picture to the right resurfaced Facebook for some odd reason and I was NOT happy about it. I was embarrassed of what I used to look like while on all of my meds and I couldn’t understand why someone dug through my pictures to “like” one that looks nothing like I do today. The picture kept getting more likes, and I (once again) felt like crawling back into that shell.

Seeing this quote on Twitter reminded me of how embarrassed I was when that picture went viral on social media (in my eyes, anyway). I clearly was not open to the reality of my disease, and therefore my disease had defeated me. Seeing this quote made me realize that even when I’m presented with memories of my rocky past, I have to face them. Without those bumps in the road I wouldn’t be where I am, or the person I am, today! Most of all, I wouldn’t have been led to the nonprofit organization Bella Soul, which has really helped me grow as a person.

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with disease or disability and have ever felt this way, I hope this quote has opened your eyes as it did for me! Also, be sure to check out @IlanaJacqueline on Twitter; she is awesome and very relatable to college students battling disease!

My roommate and me, 2015.

Meet Bella Soul, A Nonprofit Org Like No Other

Over one billion people in the world are living with a disability. That makes individuals with disabilities the largest minority in the world.

As I explained in a previous blog post, I was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease a few days before my freshman year of college. Needless to say, the first couple years of school were NOT what I had dreamt them to be.

I think I can vouch for any college student living with a disease or disability: you feel like a complete outsider. Trying to make friends can feel nearly impossible, especially if you’re consistently being asked questions like, “why aren’t you drinking” or “why is your face so puffy?” All we want is to feel like we fit in.

Shannon Strader knows this feeling exactly. Since her freshman year, she felt alone, listening to her friends having a good time while she was stuck in bed with excruciating body pain. She spent 19 years urinating blood, vomiting from pain, and not being able to eat or sleep without hurting. After years of doctors telling her there was nothing wrong with her and that she was tooshan_believe “dramatic,” Shannon connected with a nephrologist that found something unusual: her renal vein was behind her aorta instead of in front where it should be. It was being compressed by her spinal cord and aorta, causing internal bleeding, congestion and little blood circulation throughout her body. If you ask me, that’s not being dramatic! Shannon underwent three surgeries to fix the troubles this rare kidney disease was giving her; not to mention the surgeries were the first of their kind.

Shannon suffered through all of this, as well as losing a best friend, her twin sister, Lauryn. At 20 days old, Lauryn contracted meningitis and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. These series of events led Shannon to createshan_youth Bella Soul, the first nonprofit in the world to support individuals, mentally and financially, living with physical disability or illness as well as chronic/terminal illnesses in college. Her vision was above and beyond the average 19 year old’s; not many people can say they started a nonprofit org at age 21!  Shannon is the real Superwoman, and I am so grateful and proud to have been by her side throughout this process.

People always say they understand what you’re going through, but they never will until they’ve experienced it first hand. That’s why Bella Soul is so powerful; not only does the organization provide scholarships to students battling tuition and medical bills, it serves as therapy and helps those around you better understand what you deal with everyday.

I hope Bella Soul changes students’ lives just like it did for me. Shannon should be commended for all of her hard work, bravery and passion she consistently puts into this wonderful 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. I can’t thank her enough for trusting me and making me the Vice President of her team. I’ve enjoyed watching Bella Soul grow into the wonderful organization it is today, and I can’t wait to watch it continually grow and influence others as it has influenced me.

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The Bella Soul Team pictured from left: Me (VP), Alex Ritger (Secretary), and Shannon Strader (Founder/President).

To learn more about Bella Soul, check out our website here.  You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter!  We’d love to hear from you.