Having the support of friends, old and new, makes all the difference

My wife and I are deeply grateful for the outpouring of love we've received

Robin Stemple avatar

by Robin Stemple |

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I received an overwhelming response to my last column, in which I grappled with feelings of uselessness when my facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) prevented me from helping in the way I would have liked to do. In this case, I was sitting at home while my wife, Wendy, was undergoing surgery.

Many of my readers, who are quickly becoming friends, expressed their concern for Wendy and me, leaving comments here on Muscular Dystrophy News Today. I also received a lot of support via LinkedIn, Facebook, and email. There have been many prayers said for Wendy’s recovery. I appreciate every one of them.

Thankfully, I can report that Wendy’s surgery went well. She’s two weeks out and feeling a bit better every day. My daughter Jill has stepped up in a big way. She’s done most of the tasks Wendy normally does. Other family members have brought over meals, taken me to medical appointments, and helped out with household chores.

Suzanne, one of my new friends from my “new” church — First United Church of Christ in Millvale, Pennsylvania — picked me up so I could play music at last Sunday’s service.

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How I’m thankful every day for friend and family caregivers

As I try to become a part of my new community, I’m doing my best to form relationships. My friends Carol, Richard, and Gary have driven me to music rehearsals and performances at local nursing homes while Wendy’s been unable to drive over the last two weeks. These folks have been helping me with transportation for quite some time. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to acknowledge their friendship and support.

Since my move to the big city, I’ve also tried to make new friends in the FSHD community. In addition to starting my writing career last year at BioNews, the publisher of this website, I became an active member of the FSHD Society‘s virtual wellness group and its Western Pennsylvania chapter. I’ve received a lot of support from the incredible staff at BioNews, as well as these two great FSHD communities over the past weeks.

Giving thanks for old friends, too

I deeply appreciate all the support I’ve received from new friends, but I’m grateful for the support provided by old friends, as well. Since our move to Pittsburgh to be closer to our kids and grandkids, I’ve tried to maintain relationships with my many friends from the Shanksville area. To quote a Luke Bryan song, “Nobody gets a second chance to make new old friends.”

Many of my friendships with folks from the mountains of Southwest Pennsylvania go back more than 40 years. It’s worth the time and effort to call, email, and text these folks to keep our relationships strong.

I have to say this is a lesson I learned late in life. I’m not proud to say that I didn’t maintain my relationships with high school or college friends. I haven’t done well at staying in touch with the friends I made during my teaching career in the 1980s, either.

Thankfully, I’m doing better.

Last week, Becky, a friend from my “old” church, Unity United Church of Christ, came for a visit. Because there are too many miles between Shanksville and Pittsburgh for the church folks to deliver meals to us, Becky brought an Uber Eats gift card as a gift from Unity, along with lotions, candles, tea, socks, and some other goodies for Wendy. I won’t share the amount on the gift card. Let me say, though, that Wendy and I were overwhelmed by the generosity of our old friends.

Relationships can be hard to build and maintain. Given the outpouring of love and support Wendy and I have been blessed with from friends, old and new, over the past two weeks, let me say that it’s worth putting in the effort.

Note: Muscular Dystrophy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


Robin Carlino avatar

Robin Carlino

Hey Rob, I'm so thankful Wendy's doing so well and that your friends are standing in the gap.
How do you play the piano? Do you memorize the music?! I'm amazed at all you do!
Thanks so much for sharing with us. You are truly noble.

Robin Stemple avatar

Robin Stemple

Thanks, Robin. Playing music is a gift from GOD, with lots of encouragement/pushing from my mom and dad. My dad taught me to play guitar and banjo, starting when I was 5. Those lessons continued with lots of crying, shouting, etc. until I switched to piano when I was 8, mainly because my dad didn't play piano. I wanted to quit many times growing up, until I turned 13 and began playing professionally. Hate to admit it, but the money was a good motivator for me at that time! (laugh). I played in bands until my head-on collision with a dui at age 31. Fortunately, I "see" music in my brain, so I was able to continue playing after my sight. My hands find their place on the keyboard and after that, it's pretty automatic. As I said, a gift from GOD, so no credit to me. Thanks for your feedback1

Ranae N Beeker avatar

Ranae N Beeker

Rob, the topics of your columns are just SOOOO timely. I especially appreciate this line- “Nobody gets a second chance to make new old friends.” Such a good reminder for me!
Thanks for your great topics, thoughts, words and topics to gratefully ponder on.

Glad that Wendy is recovering and you are both surrounded by folks who truly care for you.

You are truly amazing. So glad to know you and call you a friend.

Robin Stemple avatar

Robin Stemple

Thanks, Ranae. I'm nothing special. I've gotten some gifts from GOD and I'm just trying to use them as best I can. Wendy's slowly healing, but we've got another month until she can think about moving me around in the wheelchair. Glad to have my little network of friends and family to get me around, as necessary, but it'll be nice when Wendy and I can go out to eat, visit friends, etc. without worrying about getting help to move me around.


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