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UPDATE: Lydia’s fundraiser has been extended to March 15!
Lydia Smith-Lenardson, known by her penname “Lilia Nani Ho’alakahi”, was 34-years-old when she received the news that she had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The young Pacific Islander was living in Virginia at the time, working as a computer network analyst and pursuing her passions of dance, theater and tai chi meditation.
Lydia trained and performed with an internationally renowned Hawaiian hula school in northern Virginia and traveled the country competing in dance competitions. She received her certification as a Reiki Master 14 years ago and continues to practice tai chi and holistic wellness.
Hers was an aggressive cancer — it quickly escalated to stage 4, but she was told she could be cured after two years of treatment. For treatment, Lydia was on chemotherapy and radiation. It was the radiation that would change the course of her life. In May 2001, Lydia completed her final radiation treatment. It wasn’t until a year and a half later, in October of 2002 that she began to experience paralysis. By March 2003, Lydia was wheelchair bound — just three weeks before her 37th birthday.
It was discovered that she had received an overdose of radiation to her spine. The treatment that saved her life left the young dancer with a passion for life and teaching unable to walk.
Lydia’s paralysis turned her life upside-down. She could no longer afford to live in the metro D.C. area, or to stay in her home, as there was no way for her to navigate the many stairs in her wheelchair. After a stay in a rehabilitation hospital, Lydia’s friends and hula sisters helped her find new homes for her cats and she moved to California to live with her sister. She still lives there today.
Lydia is an independent, optimistic woman. Her passion is to share what she’s learned in holistic wellness, Reiki, Tai Chi and nearly four dozen other energy healing systems and complementary systems with others.
“These experiences taught me the vital need for optimism, persistence, belief in the goodness of people, a continued passion for living, and serving a driving purpose towards the greatest good for me, everyone concerned, and humanity in general.”
In 2011, Lydia co-authored and published a book on happiness based on personal experiences — The Universal Happiness Method: How to be Happy and Live without Stress.
Ultimately, Lydia desires to live independently, beyond mental and physical limitations. Though she is strong-willed and courageous, her physical limitations leave her dependent on family and caregivers. But that could all change.
This year, Lydia’s rehab doctor recommended stem cell treatment based on the results another paraplegic patient has had with the treatment. New technology and stem cell treatment is Lydia’s only hope to walk again.
The problem: the cost. The cost for just one round of stem cell treatment is upwards of $6,000. Combined with the cost of transportation, personal care, therapy and pain management, Lydia is looking at medical bills that would top $10,000 — all of which she has to pay out of pocket. She’s been told she may need to undergo a series of three or four treatments.
You can help Lydia receive the stem cell treatment that is her only hope to walk again by donating to her medical expenses. Now through January 15, 2013, a fundraiser for Lydia is live on GiveForward.com. Help Lydia regain what she lost during cancer treatment. Donate now.
Learn more about Lydia’s story in this video:
If Lydia is able to receive the stem cell treatments and recover from the paralysis caused by radiation, her ultimate visions and dreams include returning to Palau to help provide the funds and resources that are so desperately needed at the national hospital. She also dreams of one day providing free or low cost integrative and alternative therapy centers to other island nations and countries in need around the world.
Lydia is offering special one-of-a-kind prizes to those who donate to her cause. The first 25 donors will automatically be entered to win. Donors who give $50 will be entered to win holiday gifts, ornaments and fragrances. Donors who give $100 or more will be entered in a raffle to win one of two handmade Hawaiian quilted Christmas stockings. Donors who give $250 will be entered to win a handmade Hawaiian quilt table runner. Donors who give $500 or more are entered to win a handmade Hawaiian baby quilt.