Guest Post: A Story of Hope by the Founders of LION Apparel

Guest Post: A Story of Hope by the Founders of LION Apparel

Editor's Note: At SmartyPits, we believe that the world is a better place from the sharing and telling of our stories. We are more compassionate, more open, and most importantly, more connected. 

Today I'd like to bring you the story of a pair of sisters whom I connected with via Instagram. Their story of perseverance, connection, and above all, hope touched me deeply. I hope it touches you as well! ~Stacia

Hi, we're Bethany and Emily, sisters and co-founders of Like It Or Not Apparel!

Emily had a hemorrhagic stroke two years ago at age 25. In a matter of hours, this otherwise healthy and thriving graduate student nearly died due to pressure on her brain from the bleed, and suddenly faced a very uncertain future.

Weeks passed before she even woke up to realize all of this. Brain surgery and an incredible medical team had saved her life. Yet even as we all began to breathe normally because she had survived, we as her family started down the winding, convoluted path of "what comes next" for Emily.

As a result of her stroke Emily has expressive aphasia and right-sided weakness. This required her to relearn how to talk, walk, and complete basically all daily living tasks. And to be clear, it's ALL still a work in progress. Due to her aphasia, expressing her thoughts, word recall, reading and writing are still really hard work. (Which is why Bethany writes for LION. Emily uses a couple assistive features on her phone to review content.)

Emily's pretty much the same snarky middle sibling she was before her stroke, but we sometimes don't get to enjoy the joke she obviously is thinking by her smirk and eye roll. She's made incredible progress in her recovery and there is much to be thankful for... but Emily and the rest of our family quickly realized that life AFTER the "like it or not" event that changes everything is... complicated. Pretty messy and often extremely frustrating.

One of the first sentences Emily re-mastered after her stroke was "I almost died." Since her speech was still severely impaired by aphasia at that time, these three words became her catchphrase. She frequently said it in moments that made us laugh: Eating cookies for dinner? Well sure, "I almost died!" Or, ready to go to the party? Nope, "I almost died." It came out in the hard moments too, of course. The reality of her condition and state of old dreams for the future set in slowly, and processing all that had happened came in waves over time. "I almost died" was said through tears more than once.

This phrase inspired what eventually became Like It Or Not Apparel. We went to find her a shirt with her 3-word story, and couldn't. This led to bigger conversations about how the "post-{insert trauma}" phase of life is hard for everyone. Whatever the injury/illness/diagnosis/trauma is that makes you a survivor, or supporter of a survivor, the journey after is often undefined, indefinite, painful, and isolating.

LION exists for that season of life. After a "like it or not" event getting through each day requires persistence.  Sometimes a small reminder of how far you've come and that you are NOT alone can offer some small comfort. (And we think having this reminder on a super comfy, ethically made t-shirt is even better.)

Running a small business when one of the co-founders has disabilities presents unique challenges. Neither of us have started a business before. We're constantly learning and making mistakes and adapting.

But IT'S WORTH IT.  Because we're also constantly inspired by the incredible LIONS and persisters we meet in person and online. By the stories we hear from customers who feel empowered wearing their LION apparel or end up having amazing conversations sparked by their shirt.

You never know what a new day might bring. At LION, we strive to keep it real and accept the mess, without giving up hope.

You can learn more about and shop Like It Or Not on their website:

Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for the SmartyPits Newsletter for information, stories, and special offers!