Person of the Quarter-April 2020
The EPIC Foundation honors our featured recipient for Person of the Quarter- April 2020, Sandee Stewart. We have come to this special time of year, again, as we celebrate Adrenal Insufficiency Awareness Month. During this month, it is important to honor those who make significant contributions to our community. Sandee Stewart is a chronic illness warrior who has turned her adversity into an opportunity to make a difference and to give back in a powerful way! She is a fellow warrior who has lived through adversity, yet she empowers and inspires people everywhere!
We honor Sandee and are so proud of how far she has come! She has overcome tremendous adversity from childhood and continues to thrive as a warrior and serves as an example to all! There was a time when things seemed so bleak and it wasn’t certain that she would ever be able to work or live what others would consider a “normal” life. Sandee, through her adversity, has found her voice and her calling in life.
You should know Sandee’s story:
Sandee was in a car accident when she was just two weeks old. As a result of the accident, she acquired Panhypopituitarism. Hypopituitarism is a rare disorder in which your pituitary gland fails to produce one or more hormones, or doesn’t produce enough hormones. Panhypopituitarism is a specific type of Hypopituitarism in which ALL of the pituitary hormones are stunted. Some of these hormones are life sustaining and therefore this condition can be life threatening. Sandee has had to manage this her entire life so she has had to overcome a lot growing up. She says that “the biggest obstacle was understanding [her] limits and learning how to understand [her] body and the medications [she] has to take to stay alive”. Sandee was not able to graduate high school with a conventional diploma. She recalls having brain fog and missing too much school.
When Sandee became a patient of Dr. Cook at OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University), she started on an adult dosage of human growth hormone. She also started learning about how Cortisol-the steroids or lack of her body making them affected her. She started becoming proactive about learning more about her medical conditions. She went to two different conferences that addressed Adrenal Insufficiency. Ultimately, those conferences helped her to understand that even though she has a medical condition that she will never be cured of; she could still take control over her life.
“It was baby steps at first. It has not been until the past three years that I feel like I am living in my element and growing every day. I might have more obstacles physically than others, but I can do whatever I put my mind to do. I am changing my life and others’ lives by sharing what I am passionate about!”
Sandee has found her mission in life. It started three years ago when she participated in the March for Science rally. After that, she began to see more and more issues people and animals were facing and decided that she wanted to try to find ways to help. She believes in being a voice for animals because they cannot speak for themselves. Along with that, Sandee wants to help people in the chronic illness community and the world at large by sharing vital information with them.
Sandee serves Marion and Polk county as well as surrounding areas by educating the public about ethics, plant-based diet, and the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. She is on the board for a non-profit called Cherry City Vegfest. This is a group that hosts an annual free event to bring the community together and educate the community about a plant based diet as well as animal rights.
Sandee recently started her own non-profit called Light The Way Birthdays. This organization’s mission is to give birthday parties to children facing homelessness and children who are in the foster care system. Outside of those two groups, she regularly attends and organizes protests, demonstrations, and organizes rallies. Sandee helps people by educating and encouraging a plant-based diet, “which has shown to improve quality of life for everyone”. Sandee believes that “this is especially important to people who suffer from Panhypopituitarism, Adrenal Insufficiency, and other pituitary-related issues”. Sandee believes in giving.
She says that her passion and motivation come from, “Knowing there is always someone in need who is struggling more than you. To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Sandee says that friends and family who are either helping the fight or just being allies are helping her with her vision. She sees how she changes people’s lives positively and sees her impact. She says she “plants seeds, shares her story, shares her truth and, in turn, she sees those seeds grow”. Sandee’s role model is Dr. Greger, who researches articles about plant based diets and delivers them to people in an accessible way. He lives what he believes and teaches others what he believes. That is her motto in this life.
In her own words, Sandee said,
“I am no longer the quiet girl living in fear. I live each day to the fullest and I share my dreams and the obstacles I have overcome. Whatever life gives us we can all overcome and find the good we can do. The legacy we can leave will be epic!”
Sandee’s mother, Karin Stewart, is her biggest supporter and cheerleader. She expresses being so proud of her daughter. In Karin’s own words, she said,
“Sandee is an epic woman! She works full time in a medical office, has her own chapter for anonymous for the voiceless, and does advocacy for animal and human rights weekly. She organized the rally for children at the US-Mexico border called families belong together. It was baby steps but she has come so far since age 18. I am so proud of her. My heart is full of love for her. I think my heart is so full and every day God shows me it can grow and love deeper.” This is such a beautiful display of a mother’s love for her daughter! It is because of Karin that The EPIC Foundation has been following the incredible story of Sandee Stewart!
Finally, this is what Sandee wants the world to know about her:
“I used to be that person that just dreamt about making a difference in my life. I wanted to leave a legacy but I felt consumed with staying alive and living with my medical condition. I was determined to find a way to make a difference. And it means so much to me because I know I have felt so invisible with my medical condition. It felt to me that no one else understands that it takes me a lot more effort to be alive and do the little things. Doing big things is not always possible. I break them down into smaller pieces so that I can make a big impact. I made the decision to be more than the girl that always needed help to get through life. Now I help others and I am a leader. Each of us can do anything we set our sight on.
I am currently back in college while working full time and advocating. I am double majoring in English and Political Science. I will be the voice of the invisible.” Sandee maintains a 4.0 GPA and is a phenomenal model for us all!
Sandee Stewart is truly making a difference in the world! She has made the empowered conscious choice to take her life experiences and use them to help others and change lives! We are tremendously proud of her!
We honor Sandee! She is an EPIC woman! Together, we are EPIC!