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A CHRISTMAS WISH: Veteran overcoming health setbacks finds warm bed at Salvation Army

For several charitable organizations, the holiday season — like the rest of the year — is a time to help those dealing with some of life's toughest problems and providing solutions to those problems. In the week leading up to Christmas, the News Tribune is showcasing people whose lives have been impacted by United Way of Central Missouri partner agencies and supporters in the annual "A Christmas Wish" series.

Challenges aren't new to Ann Chapman.

They are hurdles to be crossed, the former U.S. Marine Corps sergeant said.

"Like they say in the Marine Corps: improvise, adapt and overcome," Chapman continued.

One of her greatest challenges has been the development of a tumor on her pituitary gland, which caused her to lose more than half her vision.

After serving 11 years in the Marines, Chapman set out for civilian life — cooking and cleaning. That worked for a number of years, and she was making "good money," but she got sick.

She had headaches, vision difficulties, irritability, mood changes and unexplained tiredness. And she lost weight, dropping down to 86 pounds.

Chapman traveled to Jefferson City for health care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Her doctor suggested she see a psychiatrist. Instead, she elected to go to Columbia for another opinion. While there in 2015, she underwent an MRI.

That's when doctors found a tumor on her pituitary gland. The tumor was causing the gland to send mixed messages to Chapman's body. Pituitary glands regulate other glands throughout a person's body.

"It sent a signal saying I was pregnant," said Chapman, who had undergone a hysterectomy in 2012. "We know that's not possible, and it caused the growth of the tumor. I guess it started growing in 2012."

The veteran underwent three brain surgeries. And she's received radiation treatments.

After surgeries, doctors sent Chapman to Rusk Rehabilitation Hospital.

"That's where you work with a speech therapist. You work on exercises. I started with steps," she said. "I was scared, but I found a way."

The "way" was to attack the stairs using handrails. She would pull herself up the stairs as if she were pulling herself up using a rope.

"It was easier. You have to find a way to get yourself up the stairs without falling," Chapman explained.

A small piece of the tumor remains attached to a blood vessel, but neurosurgeons do not intend to operate on her again, she said.

Her most recent surgery was in 2016. The next step may be more radiation.

"I've lost half my eyesight, but I'm still kicking and going, and I'm really grateful (for those gifts)," Chapman said.

Despite setbacks, she maintains her positive attitude.

She has a regular job, doing laundry at Capitol Plaza Hotel in Jefferson City. Staff at the hotel embraced her when she arrived, Chapman said. They support her when she struggles.

"They'll stop and help me," she said. "They'll take their time, and if I need help to go somewhere, they'll take me arm-in-arm and go with me. It's like having a second family at work."

Chapman, whose Christmas wish is to find a new apartment, lost her lease in early October and is living at The Salvation Army Center of Hope. The change hasn't dampened her positive spirit.

Staff at the center are helping the veteran with her apartment search and are taking "really good care" of her.

Services for the Blind provides her with magnifying glasses to help her read and with wide-margin paper to write on. Handi-Wheels helps her get back and forth to work.

"It helps a lot. It's really amazing," she said.

Chapman's attitude has buoyed her for decades.

"It started way back. I used to have a really bad drinking problem. I've been sober now for 19 years," she said. "I'm more grateful — and more happy about things — than when I was drinking.

"There are things to look forward to — more things for me to do — inspire and motivate."

She'd like to help her neighbors living at the center.

"I want to help civilians, if I can," she said, "to get these people on the right track."


SOURCE: News Tribune

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