Why Mandy Young’s Amazing Story Changes Lives
Mandy Young’s story is so unique, shocking, and inspiring that it has been featured on CNN’s Medical Mysteries, NBC Nightly News, The Montel Williams Show, EXTRA, and in prominent newspapers (USA Today) and magazines (Good Housekeeping).
And it’s such an unusually powerful story that she has found herself in the most amazing places telling it: places like Turner Field (while standing on the Atlanta Braves dugout in front of thousands), the Beautiful Life Conference in Greensboro, NC hosted by Angela Thomas, Mrs. Kirk Cameron’s Bible study in California, and the Georgia Sheriffs Association Chaplain’s Banquet in Savannah, GA — to name a few.
So what exactly happened to Mandy? Here’s an excerpt from her bio:
…For her entire life, she has suffered from massive life threatening infections while at the same time undergoing grueling, painful and exhausting immune studies in an effort to find out why she continued to get sick. In 2004 scientists at the National Institutes of Health diagnosed her with an IRAK4 Gene Mutation, and she became the only known person in the world with her exact genetic mutation — a mutation so powerful it continues to leave her vulnerable to life threatening infections. She has been hospitalized more than 100 times, for days, weeks, even months at a time, as doctors fought to keep her alive. Her life threatening infections began at the tender age of nine months old and have continued throughout her life. Her parents have been told on nine occasions that their daughter wouldn’t live through the night and they should tell her goodbye. Instead, they fell to their knees and prayed for God to save their daughter. While their faith is tested daily, it continues to be the foundation of their family.
Medical issues aren’t the only trials that have hit Mandy and her family. On August 5, 2014, a cell phone cord caught fire and set part of their home ablaze, destroying all of Mandy’s possessions.
Through all of these trials, God has filled her with wisdom beyond her 33 years on this earth, and she travels as a motivational speaker and blogs at www.mandyyoung.com and www.overcomeroutreach.com. Her relentless optimism is immediately evident when you read her blog posts.
In fact, her close friend, celebrity Candace Cameron Bure, has a whole chapter about Mandy in her book “ReShaping It All.” Candace said this about Mandy:
“Mandy’s personality and smile are contagious, shining like a bright star on a dark night. Her story, mixed with candor and humor inspires each of us to see how God can use our worst circumstances for His glory. She gives hope to a generation consumed with materialism, perfection and body image, making her a role model to others. Mandy is one of a kind and I’m blessed to call her my friend.
Mandy has said that the most popular question she is asked is, “What happened to your leg?” (She lost her left leg and hip to an infection when she was eight years old.) So when I recently got a chance to chat with her over the phone, my goal was to NOT ask her that question.
While her testimony is incredibly inspiring (and you can read more of it here), she is just a great person and I wanted to get to know her better. There is something unique about this woman of God, and it has nothing to do her with missing leg: it’s that everyone who meets her or hears her testimony is changed for the better.
Can you give us an update on your post-fire life? Are you back in your home?
No. [laughs] Six months ago yesterday our home burned down and we are still in our “home-tel.” No, we are still out of the house, so life is still a little crazy but that’s okay.
What would you say to someone who is in the beginning of a medical journey? Perhaps just coming to terms with a new diagnosis? Is there hope?
Yes, there is definitely hope. I think there are two things that I have lived by. I don’t know if it’s just been embedded in me from my mother or if it’s just natural or if it’s just a characteristic that just comes throughout our family, but number one is attitude. Your attitude is a big factor in how you’re going to handle your medical journey. If you are going to be, “This is the end of the world,” and you totally consume yourself in it and you just decide, “Oh, I’m dead. I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead,” then that’s what is going to happen to you. You have to have the fighter attitude, the positive attitude; you have to keep looking forward and you can’t mull over things. You have to keep going forward. So it’s just a completely up-to-you situation. How you’re going to handle it is how your medical journey is going to go.
You really have to be an advocate for yourself almost.
Exactly. If you can’t be one for yourself, if you’re sick, then you need to find someone that you trust the most. Luckily for me, before I could handle it myself, I had my mom. I understand that a lot of people might not have that family or they don’t have the right friends or something like that. You need to surround yourself with those people. You need to find those people in your life if you don’t have them. Don’t be sad about it; just go out and find them! They’re not going to find you, you have to go and find them. You’ll find them. It’s shocking how many people want friends and want family. Everyone wants the same thing; we all want to be loved and taken care of. Be your own advocate because no one else is going to do it for you.
We all have a testimony to share (some more dramatic than others), but many might shy away from sharing because they don’t know where to start or how to present it. Do you have any tips to pass along?
You just have to find where your story is different than most, and then how you can put it in layman’s terms for people. It was hard for me because I just lived my life day-to-day and people would just come up to me and tell me, “You’re so inspiring,” and I’m all, “I just don’t get that, I don’t understand why you say that, because I’m honestly just trying to live life like you are!” People would look at me and say, “With all you’ve been through…” and I say, “I’m just living my life! I don’t know anything different!” It wasn’t until people started pointing out to me the things that were different in my life, and then I was all, “Oh, well, this is why I do that.” So figure out where your story is different, but then also, even though it’s different, how it compares to everybody else so it’s relatable. Everybody is going through pretty much the same thing, just in different ways. It’s just finding that common ground — everything different, but it’s all still the same in a tweaky way. It’s just finding that niche that is the common denominator.
You are an author on Overcomer Outreach. The site is chock-full of great information and encouragement for a number of common trials in our life. For our readers not familiar with the website, can you introduce it and explain their mission?
Overcomer was started by Janelle [blogger at ComfyInTheKitchen.com]. With Overcomer Outreach, we understand that there are so many people out there who have issues and trials, and it’s me and other bloggers who are trying to tell you our stories and our woes and then how we get through them. We are all Christ-centered, so it all rolls back to our faith and how we find our faith in different situations or how we overcome it with our faith. We all have a day a month, we all submit our articles, and then there are usually daily posts that go up. It’s all about the trials in our lives that we all live because, out of 20-30 of us, between all of us we pretty much have every kind of situation covered. We have the moms out there, we have the food blogger, every situation you could possibly think of, we have you covered in some way or form. It’s always a daily dose of inspiration and a support group. We can all be there together and hopefully you can learn from our mistakes or you can learn how we handle things just to help you or inspire you to handle your own situation that you may not understand.
So it’s about finding someone on the other side of the trial you’re on.
Exactly. It’s hard to fix the situation when you’re in the middle of it, but if you see someone else that’s already overcome it, you can just take little tidbits from them.
I love your shirts on your site that say “My life is not about me.” Certainly this is not the message the world is sending to women today. Can you explain more about what the phrase means?
I am a Millennial child, so of course, it’s like my whole generation is all “me, me, me.” You see the folders, shirts geared towards teenagers and kids, even adults! I’m even guilty of having them, “I love me. It’s all about me.” Blah, blah. God has done a number on my life in such an amazing way, and as I grew older I realized that my life and my situation, my disease, my everything, even though it’s mine, mine, mine, it’s actually His, His, His. Even though it’s my life, it’s His life that He’s given me. So I realized in my early 20s that my life is not about me and what I want and what my plans are for my life. It’s about Him. His will for my life. His plan for my life. I just get to be a little piece of a puzzle that He’s working on — a whole big, greater game than I ever could imagine. How lucky I am to just be a part of that, and just get to be one of those little puzzle pieces. When I started speaking and I was all, “I want t-shirts!” My mom said, “What are you going to put on them?” And I was all, “My life is not about me.” It sparks a conversation with someone when someone wears it and they say, “What? Life is not about me?” And you can say, “Yeah, it’s not about you!” Even though we are living in a self-conceited kind of world, it’s not about us. Then you can share the Gospel with someone or tell them the story that God has let you have and then round it back to giving Him the glory for everything because it’s all His.
What can the church do to reach out more to people with a disability?
Here’s what my family did for me, and it made my life a whole lot easier: they didn’t pity me, and they don’t treat me like I’m any different. I feel like if more people, not even the church as a whole, but society as a whole, could do that toward people, things could be a whole lot better. We are all different in our own way, we all have some sort of a disability, we all have some sort of a medical crisis in our life, and some people’s disabilities are just more visual than others. The best thing my family did for me, to make me feel the same, was they treated me the same; because I did go from having two legs to one leg and having people stare at me all the time. That can be consuming, especially when I was younger and going through puberty. In a teenage state, you feel like people are staring at you anyways, but they really were. Even now at 33, people stare at me all day long. I’m just all, “Well, if you were this pretty who wouldn’t want to stare at you?!”
The way my family and peers have treated me the same is one of the best things they have ever done for me, and I feel like that’s something that the world needs to do. It’s a good question and I’ve never been asked that before, but treat them like they’re normal instead of making them a side-show.
Who do you relate to the most in the Bible?
When I give my testimony I compare my story to John 9 when Jesus and the disciples come across the blind man and one of the disciples asked Jesus who had sinned, the man or his parents to make the man blind. Jesus says neither the man nor his parents have sinned to make the man blind. It was God trying to show Himself in this man’s life. So He made dirt, rubbed it in the man’s eyes, asked him to wash it off in a nearby creek, and when the man did as Jesus instructed he could see for the very first time. So when he went throughout his village there were people who wouldn’t believe it was the man who used to be blind, since he wasn’t anymore. But there were people who were brought closer to God because they saw the miracle that had been worked in this man’s life.
I’m sure at some point in time when I was younger and kept getting sick, sick, sick, and my parents were probably all “What did we do wrong?” I think even as I’m growing up and becoming an adult and as I get sick I still go, “What did I do God? Why? What did I do wrong?” You have to change that. It’s nothing you did wrong. It’s God trying to show Himself through the miracles that He’s working in your life. That is who I’ve always used to compare my story to in the Bible. I get to be that amazing blind man vessel, and God is letting people see miracles through me.
To find out how you can book Mandy Young for a speaking event, click here.