GOSHEN — Before she started fighting a number of autoimmune diseases, happy and positive 13-year-old Zoey Edminston grew up living a normal childhood, enjoying spending time with her friends and family.

While growing up, she learned to always remain kind and optimistic, even when things became rough for her.

“Zoey was always a special girl. She got bullied a lot in school, but it never bothered her,” Mari Edminston, Zoey’s mom, said. “She’d come home from school and tell me about it and then say, ‘It’s OK, Mom. I’ll just try to be nicer to those people.’”

Shortly after she turned 8, Zoey was diagnosed with a number of serious ailments that ultimately caused her thyroid and immune system, among other bodily functions and organs, to fail. After many hospital visits, a number of tests and worsening conditions, Zoey was taken off the organ donor list.

Zoey was first taken to the hospital when her parents saw that she was becoming very ill and she was struggling, not getting better. After being examined, the emergency room doctors and nurses deemed her to be fine, simply experiencing a bout of the flu. However, Zoey’s condition continued to worsen.

After months of tests and unanswered questions, Zoey was diagnosed with a number of serious ailments. The heartbreaking word, ‘terminal,’ was then spoken.

“When you see kids who are terminal, they often look frail and sick. They’re defeated. Zoey isn’t that,” Edminston said.

When asked what her last wish was, Zoey said she wanted to raise calves. Her family, with the help of many friends, neighbors and community members, bought her two calves and provided her with a barn and pasture to accommodate them.

“I’ve always loved animals,” Zoey said. “Working with them is a great learning experience.”

FROM HORSES TO CALVES

While growing up, Zoey and her two siblings took horse-riding lessons.

“We had one rule with riding lessons — no falling off. My two older kids followed that rule, but sure enough, Zoey broke it and fell off,” Edminston said with a chuckle.

The family decided to pursue safer options, and after thoughtful consideration, Zoey and her mom and dad chose calves.

Despite her condition, Zoey spends a lot of time outdoors, learning how to train and care for her calves, something she really loves to do.

This year, Zoey will show her two calves (lovingly named Big Mac and Sirloin) at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair.

According to Edminston, Zoey is still very active, spending time with friends and enjoying many outdoor activities.

Speaking of her daughter, Edminston said that although she’s often tired and sleeps for long periods of time, she still remains very energetic and animated. She never complains, always saying that she’s alright, even if she’s not. She pushes forward with a smile and a willingness to keep moving. She stays strong.

FUTURE PLANS

“When I grow up, I want to go to Texas A&M to study either agriculture or medicine,” Zoey said, with a smile, before her mom chimed in.

“Zoey and I both know that she’s terminal. But we don’t use words like that at home. We don’t think about her illness. Her illness doesn’t define her or her future,” Edminston said. “Every kid should be able to have hopes and dreams, things to look forward to.”

Both Zoey and her mom said they look at the future as something that’s full of promise and hope, even in the bleakest and darkest times.

According to Edminston, Zoey embraces life and refuses to be beaten by her illness.

Through all the hardships she has endured in her life, even her illness, she has remained optimistic and maintained a willingness to move forward.

“I think you just have to stick your head up and smile,” Zoey said.

“You will make it through. No matter what’s going on in your life or how much the world tries to push you down, you’ll be OK. That’s what I’ve learned from my illness.”

Camden Chaffee can be reached at camden.chaffee@goshnnews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 314.

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