My purpose in life is to bring hope and to help people keep hope.
Hi, this is Shkela Forrest. This is my story. This is my well-being journey.
As a little girl, we lived and raised our food on a farm. My dad grew the vegetables and the fruit, everything, and we raised animals. And that's where we started. As we moved to town, as we called it, the city, the rules were: 18, you date, get your ears pierced at 16, you go to college, get the normal life. I was an average teenager, become a cheerleader, track team…enjoying life. I end up pregnant at 15, and tell my parents when I was in labor that I was pregnant.
At a young age I knew, when I had my son, what it was going to take for the goals and dreams that I actually had in mind. I was working three, four jobs. I decided to move out. That's when I had my daughter.
When my daughter was born, the doctors announced at the hospital that she had sickle cell anemia. We would be at the hospital probably seven days every month. One of her treatments at one point was blood transfusions. And I can remember, I would leave the hospital with a daughter screaming, yelling, tubes running everywhere, doctors and nurses saying, "We're losing her." I would look at her and smile and say, "I will be back." Would leave to go to work, change shirts to go to another job. And the point of that story, this is not one time. This went on every day, from the time she was born to the time I lost her at 18. My daughter and my relationship was almost like glue. We would dress alike. Her dream was always, "I'm going to be just like my mom."
I answered my phone. My son was screaming and hollering, like he was three. I turned the corner. Firefighters, police, and yellow tape. My son lying in the grass, on his back, in fetal position, holding his legs, screaming. I drove up really slow. I put the car in park. I looked at him. He said, "Your daughter has committed suicide."
I did not know she had wrote me a letter until a year later, and in my letter she said, "Mom, I tried." She said, "It was a selfish move, Mama. I appreciate everything you've ever taught me. I know this is going to be hard for you." Now listen to this. Out of everything I'm going to tell you, everything she said, "But I knew my mama was strong enough to keep living when I wasn't."
This is how I explain it to people, how I felt when that happened. Someone stood in front of me and they looked me in my eyes. They took their hand, went in through my mouth and pulled out everything inside of me. Threw it in the dirt, wallowed it around, spit on it, stomped down on it, and then looking me in my eyes said, "If you want to live, you pick it up and put it back in your mouth and reassemble it the same way I took it out."
So what I did, I put on a smile. I would teach people in the world, not only my family, but other people whose souls have been ripped out, how to reassemble your soul and at the same time shine, and mean it, and be joyful.
When I'm speaking to my Humana members…and I work in Specialty, and they feel there's no hope. It's, "No one cares. No one hears me. No one calls me back." But they say Humana does. They love Humana. They're speaking in general. They're angry. They're mad. They're scared. When I answer the phone, initially people laugh, and I ask them, "Tell me, what was it about my greeting that made you laugh?" They say, "It's your energy through this phone." And these are people with cancer, calling Humana and speaking to you and it's just like going to a party. Making others happy, it lights a fire under me.