Skip to main content

Tag: 2022



Destination: California

Travel Year: 2023

My Story

  • Recipient_2022_Justin_Family_1

  • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_2

  • Recipient_2022_Justin_Main

  • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_1

I clearly remember the day my brother and I were diagnosed with Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (VHL). I was six years old and he was ten. As kids, we had no clue what that meant for us. As it turned out though, the rough road ahead was just beginning.

This rare and disabling disease started to manifest when I was ten. My first experience was having a laser surgery to remove a tumor from my eye. My first major surgery was a lumbar surgery to remove a tumor from the spinal cord when I was eighteen.

I’m not sure what a “normal” childhood looks like, but my entire youth revolved around seeing my father (who also had VHL) go in and out of hospitals. His life was basically one surgery after another. His will to fight was unbelievable. Seeing him go through all of what he had to face in his life was inspirational. He was a good man and a great father. He helped me out all the way until the day he passed away in 2016 – three days before my 30th birthday.

“Starting in early adulthood, people with VHL may develop tumors in their brain, spinal cord, eyes, kidneys, pancreas, and adrenal glands. These tumors are most often benign (not cancer), but some can be malignant (cancerous). Due to this medical condition, I was not able to work as much as I would have liked and financially that has made things rough over the years. I have learned to keep a positive outlook in life and what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Going on my Being Positioned journey will be an amazing opportunity to make some memories with my wife and relieve stress. Something I read in a travel book stuck with me over the years and I would like to share it with you guys: ‘Traveling has the ability to take you out of your daily routine and into new surroundings and experiences and this can reset your body and mind.’ My dad would always bring us on summer road trips, and it was very therapeutic for my mind over the years and a way to take a short break from the medical stuff.

My Health

Daily Challenges

  • Dexterity – relearned how to walk twice and how to use hands
  • Walking – relearned how to walk twice

    Ongoing Health Issues

    • Unable to regulate body temperature
    • Numbness in hands, feet, legs, and left side of stomach
    • Balance issues + incontinence

      Major Procedures

      • Brain surgery
      • 10 spinal cord surgeries
      • 4 kidney surgeries
      • 2 adrenal gland surgeries
      • Multiple laser surgeries on eyes to remove tumors
      • Currently on chemo

        Total Surgeries: 17

        Making Travel Plans

        Justin applied to Being Positioned, hoping to give his bride the honeymoon they could never afford on their own. His wife, Edmarie, is from the Philippines. They moved to Seattle, and she was missing home and struggling with the endless gray skies. She loved the idea of a romantic beach vacation with her new husband. They were also in the process of having their home built through Habitat for Humanity, which requires a lot of time and effort. They were logging lots of “sweat equity” hours and needed to delay their trip a year so they could finish the requirements before their house was ready. This gave them plenty of time to dream with our team about possible beach destinations.

        Justin wanted to take Edmarie to Disneyland so she could officially visit the happiest place on earth. And we knew LA was surrounded by plenty of beautiful beaches for Edmarie. Hiking to the Hollywood sign, seeing the La Brea Tar Pits, and driving along Route 66 all sounded like wonderful additions to their beach vacation. They also love trying new foods and wanted a location with incredible restaurants. LA quickly became the perfect destination. Giving them a chance to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunny weather, but also make fun new memories as newlyweds.

        A month after moving into their new Habitat for Humanity Home they set off on their LA adventure! It was a summer they’ll never forget, and we loved giving them an extra special start to their marriage.

        We chose Los Angeles for our journey destination. I find that being around water is peaceful and helps me with my anxiety. I have always liked being around nature and it has a very calming effect for me. We are both looking forward to relaxing on the beach, dipping our toes in the water and smelling the fresh air. I am also really looking forward to exploring the city and going sightseeing.

        Travel Docs

        Being Positioned created a 6-day itinerary for Justin to eat, explore, and sightsee in Los Angeles.

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_Checklist1

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_Checklist2

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_Checklist3

        Destination Los Angeles

        As patients, we often experience high levels of stress due to the diagnosis, the treatment, the side effects, the uncertainty, and the emotional impact of having a life-threatening disease. Therefore, finding ways to cope with stress is essential for people who have rare genetic disorders like us.

        Being Positioned allowed me to get away from the reality of hospital life and to have time for myself away from the stresses of daily life. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, exploring a random place in Malibu or going off the beaten path was such an amazing feeling and a great way to relieve stress.

        Also If it wasn’t for the generosity of Being Positioned for granting this journey, we wouldn’t been able to afford a honeymoon, and this trip to California was an unofficial honeymoon for us.”

        We explored multiple places around LA for 6 days. One of the most memorable places that we went was Disneyland. We were able to spend the entire day exploring, not to mention the multiple rides that we did. It was indeed the happiest place on earth. My wife and I will forever be grateful for this once in a lifetime opportunity that Being positioned has given us.

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_16

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_11

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_23

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_20

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_13

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_19

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_18

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_17

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_15

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_14

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_12

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_9

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_8

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_7

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_6

        • Recipient_2022_Justin_Destination_California_5

        Completed Activities

        Disneyland • Griffith Observatory + Hollywood Sign • Santa Monica Pier • Hollywood Walk of Fame • Venice Beach • La Brea Tar Pits + Museum • In-N-Out Burger • Couple’s Massage

        I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and I wanted to end this with one of his quotes:

        “Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life—and travel—leaves marks on you.”

        Each person diagnosed with VHL experiences different symptoms throughout their lifetime. Some cases are considered relatively minor, while others are more severe. Despite the variation among cases – every story is hard and full of loss.

        To learn more about Rare Genetic Disorders, click below.

        Learn More

        Continue reading



        Destination: New Orleans

        Travel Year: 2022

        My Story

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Family_Photos_2

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Family_Photos_3

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Story3

        My name is Bethanie and I’m a 36 year old single mother of two wonderful daughters. I’m a strong woman who was diagnosed with a rare genetic condition called Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (VHL). This condition is hereditary. It was passed from my father to me, then passed to my youngest daughter.

        I was a happy, healthy, mother-to-be walking to my 7-month prenatal check-up. My midwife noticed I was experiencing symptoms not consistent with pregnancy, so she sent me to get a brain MRI. Two large tumors were found in my cerebellum.

        Completely terrified, worried, and unprepared for what was coming next, I was rushed to the hospital via ambulance for an emergency craniotomy (brain surgery). The doctor successfully removed both tumors without harming my unborn child. Words can’t describe the feeling of waking up to the sound of my baby’s strong heartbeat. My daughter was born two months later – full-term, healthy, and negative for VHL.

        “In the past twenty years, I’ve had numerous surgeries, MRI/CT scans, EKGs, X-rays, and blood work to manage my condition. I’ve had four brain surgeries, a shunt placed in my brain, spinal meningitis as a result of brain surgery, and three kidney surgeries to remove renal cell carcinoma.”

        The cancer took half of my right kidney. I’ve also had a tubal ligation, spine surgery, and lots of eye procedures. The countless eye surgeries/procedures took the vision in my left eye and now it’s working on my right. My most recent surgery was to remove my left eye because it was causing severe pain. I’m getting a prosthetic eye placed in a few weeks, once I heal from the surgery.

        My Health

        Daily Challenges

        • Legally blind: my vision is 20/200
        • Retinal detachment from optic tumor

        Ongoing Health Issues

        • Impaired motor function and dizzy at times from surgeries

        Major Procedures

        • Currently on chemo
        • 3 brain surgeries + spinal meningitis
        • 3 kidney surgeries + partial removal of right kidney
        • Cataract surgeries
        • Left eye removal + prosthetic eye placement

        Total Surgeries: 18

        Making Travel Plans

        When Bethanie’s application was approved, the Being Positioned team worked closely with her to match her personal health requirements with her bucket list. Since Bethanie has progressively lost her vision from VHL, she needed a destination that invigorates her other senses. A place with powerful music and flavorful cuisine options was a must. Also, Halloween has always been her favorite holiday. So, we realized that selecting a city with a spooky history was key. Quickly, we determined that New Orleans with its soulful music, globally inspired dishes, and ghostly charm was the perfect match to bring Bethanie’s dream to reality. And what better month than October to send her to the city that knows how to celebrate Halloween to the fullest.

        “I like exploring different cultures, going on tours, trying new foods, and watching shows – like comedy, magic, acrobats, and mystery. I love animals and going to the beach, but I haven’t had the opportunity to travel.”

        “Going on my Being Positioned journey will be a much needed break from worrying about mine and my daughter’s health. It’s going to be amazing to have some time to relax and enjoy life for once. I’ve been in and out of hospitals dealing with one thing or another, and can’t afford a vacation because of medical expenses. Plus we recently had to make my house wheelchair accessible for my daughter, which has been very expensive. Raising two children alone is hard, especially when you add the medical challenges. Life is so short, and I want to spend the time I have left going on adventures, experiencing different cultures, foods, and beautiful views.”

        “I’m going to New Orleans for my journey and I can’t wait to experience the culture, go on food tours, visit haunted mansions, and other oddities. I really want to take a cooking class and do a lot of sight seeing.”

        Travel Docs

        Being Positioned created a six-day itinerary for Bethanie and her mom to eat, explore, and sightsee in beautiful New Orleans.
        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_Checklist1

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_Checklist2

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_Checklist3

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_Checklist4

        Destination New Orleans

        I was one of the lucky ones to have a life long dream come true. In October, my mother and I were given the trip of a lifetime. I couldn’t believe it, I would be spending 6 amazing days in New Orleans, LA. There is so much history and culture in that little part of this beautiful country. I was submerged in the sad stories of all that happened during the hurricane, there was so much I have not had the opportunity to experience before this adventure. The people were so welcoming and I was able to relax without stressing out about appointments, tests, and doctors.

        “On my journey I enjoyed everything – from the delicious foods that I had the joy of learning how to cook, to the amazing architecture. I’m so grateful for everyone at Being Positioned and all of the generous people who donated, so all this could be possible. Thank you to everyone.”

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_1

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Story2

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_2

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_3

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_4

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_5

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_6

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_11

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_7

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_8

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_9

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_10

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_15

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_12

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_18

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_13

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_14

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_17

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Destination_New_Orleans_16

        • Recipient_2022_Bethanie_Family_Photos_1

        Completed Activities

        New Orleans City + Cemetery Bus Tour • Cafe Du Monde • Cooking Demonstration + Meal • Steamboat Evening Jazz • Dinner Cruise • Swamp + Bayou Sightseeing Boat Tour • Swedish Massages • Dead of Night Ghosts + Haunts Bus Tour • French Quarter Carriage Ride

        “The people were so welcoming and I was able to relax without stressing out about appointments, tests, and doctors. On my journey I enjoyed everything – from the delicious foods that I had the joy of learning how to cook, to the amazing architecture. I’m so grateful for everyone at Being Positioned and all of the generous people who donated, so all this could be possible. Thank you to everyone.”

        Each person diagnosed with VHL experiences different symptoms throughout their lifetime. Some cases are considered relatively minor, while others are more severe. Despite the variation among cases – every story is hard and full of loss.

        To learn more about Rare Genetic Disorders, click below.

        Learn More

        Continue reading