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The Winner for Running on Empty!

Me Ra Koh

We were overwhelmed by the powerful stories submitted for the Atlanta Running on Empty Contest . If you are in need of inspiration, check out the blog post and read what the nominees have overcome and continue to overcome.

I can’t tell you how much I related to the various nominees. Doesn’t the saying seem to be true, “when it rains it pours”? So many of you are going through so much. I remember years ago when my counselor looked at me at the end of a session and said, “You have experienced more sadness and loss than anyone should ever have to?” Her words were painful to hear and yet so healing and validating. I feel like I must say to our nominees, “You have experienced more sadness and loss than anyone should ever have to. And for this, Brian and I are truly sorry.” We want you to know, we hold each of you in our hearts.

This contest is always hard for us b/c we want to save a seat for every nominee. We ask others to help us make this decision, and Brian and I pray that you all know how much we value every entry. We want to thank EVERY woman nominated. Your stories are amazing. Most of all, YOU are amazing.

The nominees were narrowed down to one woman. We are excited to say the winner is Allison G.! Please congratulate her. Allison’s story is incredibly moving. I’ve copied it below so you can read it if you didn’t get to before.

Allison, you need to tell us by 9pm PST if you can’t come so the spot can go to the runner up. Email us at mera@merakoh.com and genie@merakoh.com. We hope to meet you in a matter of days! It’s time to change that “Cosmic Smackdown” you described! 🙂 Brian and I are excited to fill your empty tank and inspire your creative soul for 2009! Welcome to the Atlanta, GA Workshop Allison!!

Here is Allison’s story;

  1. on 07 Jan 2009 at 6:53 am Allison G.

    I feel so nervous and uncomfortable doing this, but I am going to go out on a limb and nominate myself for the Running on Empty contest. My story is probably not so different from many women and mothers out there. All of the women nominated here sound like they are absolutely “Running on Empty” as well. But, I thought I’d submit it anyway. I apologize if it is a bit long…

    Several years ago, after the passing of my grandparents within a few days of one another, a dear friend told me that this difficult time was only a season in my life. I really clung to those words at that time. But, know I have to say that if that is true, than this is one LOOONG season.

    This all began in 2003. I was happily married, had a perfect 11-month old baby boy, we bought a condo. All was well.

    Then, I fell down the stairs and hit my head, and was sent for a cat scan. We were shocked when the news came back. No concussion from the fall, but they did find that I had a spinal cord tumor. We saw a specialist who told me it was most likely malignant. I thought I had about 18 months to live. You can imaging the thoughts that ran through my head about what the next year would look like for me and my family.

    One evening while I was cooking to keep myself distracted from what was going on, the right side of my face and neck went numb. We rushed to the emergency room and by the time we arrived, my chest, stomach and tops of my legs were numb as well. A couple of days later I had surgery and thanks to a brilliant surgeon and the grace of God my tumor was removed and was found to be benign. I would live to see my son grow up!

    Recovery was hard. To remove the tumor my neck bones were removed and then replaced and that is not an easy thing to bounce back from. I was unable to lift my son for 2 months. That is not an easy thing to explain to an 11 month old!

    Fast forward 4 weeks to my son’s first birthday. He got extremely sick and was diagnosed with neutropenia, a condition that results in an inability of your body to fight infection. We were sent to the pediatric oncologist to rule out cancer as a cause. I couldn’t believe that just a month prior I thought I was the one with cancer and now this? I was absolutely frantic. Several days later, we were so relieved to find that the condition was benign and that he would grow out of it in a few years.

    During all of this, I was not able to work and my husband was laid off from his job and then strangely, rehired. Once again, we were pushed to the brink of disaster and pulled back again.

    About 6 months later, after a bout of rotavirus, my son, who was by then, 18 months had four seizures. He did well on medication for over a year and then two weeks after his little brother was born, wound up in the hospital for week and was then officially diagnosed with Epilepsy. Meanwhile, I had a two week old baby at home that I had hardly seen.

    We moved shortly thereafter into a house we thought was perfect for us, only to have it flood five times in the year we lived there.

    At this point, I was really feeling the pressure of constantly facing these major obstacles and was so down. Then, quite accidentally and miraculously, I found photography. An energy and excitement I had not felt in years began to stir in me. Much to my surprise others began to inquire about my photos. I started to feel a little bit of confidence grow and was feeling great about the future.

    Soon after, during a routine spinal cord tumor check, the doctor asked me if I had been experiencing headaches. My stomach lurched and I said a terrified, “Yes”. I thought the headaches had been from all of the drama we had been through the last few years. It turned out that I have yet a new neurological condition called a Chiari Malformation. There are many terrible symptoms that accompany this condition, but in the most ironic turn yet, I have found that my most significant symptom is that my eyesight is affected. Which, for someone who wants to pursue photography, is not the best news. I just pray that the symptoms I am facing now will not progress.

    As I read back through this, I have to laugh to keep from tearing up. It almost seems unbelievable that all of this has happened in addition to normally stressful illnesses, deaths of grandparents, a family member with cancer, surgeries, car repairs, appliances breaking, plumbing problems in need of the Royal company, moving AGAIN, etc…

    Before Christmas, I made up my mind to change my focus. I vowed to be positive and look for the good instead of fearing the worst. This was my New Year’s Resolution. We came back from visiting family to find that the store where I work part-time is closing and so I am out of a job. So much for my resolution!!

    My husband and I have gotten so used to this continual stream of drama, that we have jokingly begun to refer to it as the “cosmic smackdown” that we get whenever we seem to be on an upward turn.

    Please know that when I see my kids run and play, or sing a song, or sleep peacefully in their beds at night, or share a joke with my husband, I know I am blessed in ways too numerous to count. Five years ago this spring, I thought I would not live long enough to see my son go off to kindergarten for the first time. And here I am now, waiting for his school bus to arrive and using my hands to type this and listening to my other son chat about dinosaurs. And I am well aware of God’s hand keeping us from complete disaster time and time again.

    But, sadly I feel as though I have begun to live in a constant state of fear…always waiting for the “other shoe to drop” as they say. The happy go lucky side of me is non-existent these days and I have such trouble accepting good things as they are and without fear.

    Being able to do something for myself alone, be surrounded by a supportive group of women, and to immerse myself in photography for a weekend would be a dream come true.

    Thanks so much for continuing to inspire all of us and for holding this wonderful
    contest! Whoever wins the opportunity to attend your workshop will no doubt be blessed by it!!

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For fun photo exercises, check out our popular Instructional DVDs Refuse to Say Cheese (see the downloadable version that is now available if you live outside the US!), our 101 Kits for starting or expanding a in , click on the words of your choice! To read a great review done on our DVDs, click here!

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  1. Dawn Beirnes

    January 12th, 2009 at 5:45 am

    wow. All I can say is wow. What a touching story…if anyone is perfectly suited for this weekend, it is definitly Allison. God bless her and her family, and Allison, I hope you have a wonderful and exciting weekend!

  2. maya

    January 12th, 2009 at 5:56 am

    Congratulations, Allison. I hope the workshop is a blessing to you.

  3. Shannon McFarland

    January 12th, 2009 at 6:29 am

    CONGRATULATIONS ALLISON!!!! I am so sure you are going to have a fantastic time!!! You deserve it!!!! Keep your spirits up, & remember, the trials of life are meant to make you stronger….you are doing better then you think if you can look back, & find humor in it all!!! I pray that your New Years Resolution is kept!!! Have a wonderful time with Me Ra & the rest of the women that you will get to spend the weekend with!!!! I think you will learn that you don’t need that little store…..Much Love, Many Blessings, & TONS of Laughs!!!! 😉 Shannon

  4. Stephanie

    January 12th, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Congratulation Allison. May this workshop be a new beginning for you!

  5. Pamela

    January 12th, 2009 at 8:01 am

    As you will probably learn from Me Ra, a person who has experienced such significant hardships has such an advantage in photography, distilling precious life in a way others cannot. Blessings, Pamela

  6. Ashley

    January 12th, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Congratulations Allison! I am so excited for you that you will get to attend one of Me Ra’s workshops. Your story was touching to say the least and I pray God will continue to show you that He has good plans for you!

  7. Lora

    January 12th, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Congratulations! I know it will be an amazing weekend for you, and you will make new friends and be inspired and encouraged.

  8. Lauren

    January 12th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Congrats!! I hope you have a wonderful time. It will be such a blessing and an encouragement.

  9. Allison G.

    January 12th, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Thank you all so much for your kind words. I am could not believe my eyes when I got the email from Me Ra this morning. As I told her in my reply, I was crying so hard, my toddler kept asking what was wrong and I all I could say is, ” I am just really happy!” This is such an amazing gift that I know will be life-changing for me.

    Me Ra and Brian, thank you so much for your generosity and for extending this amazing invitation. I am thrilled beyond belief and just can’t wait to thank you in person.

    It feels very strange to sit here watching a dream of mine actually coming true!! What an amazing adventure this will be.

    Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

    Allison Gallagher

  10. Michelle

    January 12th, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Congratulations Allison..this weekend is going to be so amazing for you…soak it all in.

  11. Me Ra

    January 12th, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    Allison, Brian and I are so excited to have you join us! Your response and email this morning just confirms that you are supposed to be with us. We can’t wait to give to you, pour into you and turn your empty tank to FULL! See you soon! Watch for emails from Genie too! We are going to tie you into the communication with the other Atlanta gals. Much love!

  12. Monica

    January 12th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Congrats Allison! I’m sorry for all the pain you’ve had to endure. May God bless you, your family, and your photography adventures for many more years to come.

  13. Julie Watts

    January 12th, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Allison G. I am SO EXCITED FOR YOU!!
    It really did happen!
    Keep an open heart no matter what, and it WILL fill up and overflow….

  14. Aina Cheek

    January 12th, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Wow! Allison, you are an amazing woman. Only God knows, and can fully understand, what you and your family are going through. I believe this workshop is one of many answers to prayer (more and still to come). Getting together with Me Ra and the other ladies will be an amazing turn for you. Through this get-away experience, may your happy go lucky side be revived and renewed, and become stronger than ever. I don’t know you personally, but I will be praying for you and your dear family. Congratulations on your win…you definitely deserve it!!!

  15. Susanne Pedro

    January 12th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Congrats Allison!

    I wish I could give you a big hug! 🙂

    I am so glad you were chosen! Have a great time! You will definitely be soooo inspired.

    You and your family are in my prayers.

  16. Angie

    January 12th, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Congratulations Allison!
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  17. Allison G.

    January 12th, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Oh, my, I can’t tell you how much all of your words have meant to me today. I am so blessed and uplifted by your encouragement! Just amazing. Thank you for each and every word you took the time to write. I won’t forget them!

  18. Melanie Moreno

    January 12th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Allison,
    Congratulations! You deserve it! Take this time and refill your spirit. It is important for all of us to remember this. It is so easy to put everything and everyone first. I think this is a natural instinct as a mother. This will be your time to put yourself first and don’t feel one bit guilty for doing so!
    Melanie Moreno

  19. Colleen

    January 12th, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    Congratulations…I pray that you can just soak it up and just focus on a GREAT time…just for you…which in turn is great for your family…I’m so happy for you!

  20. Sue Christianson

    January 13th, 2009 at 10:56 am

    I don’t know you Allison, but am touched by your willingness to share your story with all of us. Have an amazing time in Atlanta. Brian & Mera will be blessed as well just having you there!

  21. Amy B.

    January 16th, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Allison,
    You have been on my mind lately! I am so proud of you! You are a blessing to everyone you meet and a great friend! Congrats!
    Love ya,
    Amy

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