Most women over 60 have faced their share of challenges. Some of us have lost a loved one. Others have survived a challenging relationship. Still others, like today’s guest on the Sixty and Me Show, Vickie Lynn, have faced a serious medical diagnosis.

In all of these cases, how we respond, physically, emotionally and spiritually can set the tone for the rest of our lives. We can choose to see each challenge as an end. Or, we can look for new beginnings. Vickie is a shining example of a woman who chose the second of these two paths.

Vickie’s Story: From HIV Diagnosis to Health Care PhD Candidate

Vickie was diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s and was told that she probably had three years to live.

At first, she battled just to stay positive. But, over the decades as medical advances extended the lives of HIV patients, she reinvented herself and dedicated her life to helping others.

Vickie decided that she wanted to dedicate her life to helping other women with HIV. To do this, she went back to school, first earning an associates and then two master’s degrees. She is now working on her PhD in Public Health.

Along the way, she learned so many important lessons about resilience, gratitude and generosity. You can read more about her story at Well Beyond HIV, a campaign established by Walgreens to increase awareness of the unique needs and challenges that those with HIV may face as they age. No matter what challenges you are facing in your life, I hope that you find her story inspiring and helpful.

Following are four powerful life lessons that we can all learn from Vickie and other older adults living with HIV.

Bad News is Not the End of the World

When you receive tragic news, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. You may even feel like your life is over. This is rarely the case.

My intention here is not to diminish the very real implications that often accompany a medical diagnosis. I’m simply saying that people like Vickie remind us that every moment on this planet is precious. How we choose to live is just as important as how long we think we have left to live.

If you are facing a medical diagnosis, Vickie has some useful advice. She says, “Find a doctor that you can talk with about your needs. It’s not just about treating the disease. It’s treating the emotional aspect and the spiritual aspect too.”

Even people who are not facing a serious illness can learn from people like Vickie. Every single one of us faces challenges. Some of us are struggling financially. Others are dealing with loneliness. No matter what you are going through, it is not the end of the world. You can do this!

Trauma, Abuse or Even an HIV Diagnosis Can Give You a Second Chance at Life

I’m always inspired by people who have faced significant life challenges and emerged stronger. Women like Vickie show us that a medical diagnosis really can be a new beginning.

Difficult events can be a catalyst for change. Sometimes, it is only when we reach the bottom of our emotional well that we find the strength to climb out and start living again. And, when we emerge, we are often stronger. We are still ourselves, but we have a new perspective on life.

As I talked with Vickie, I couldn’t help but be pulled into the wonderful life that she has created for herself. From seeing the spark in her eye when she talked about her PhD work to hearing the 10 dogs she was looking after barking in the background, it was clear that Vickie is living life on her terms.

If you are going through a difficult time, I hope that you can take comfort and find strength in Vickie’s words. You are a wonderful person and you deserve to be happy.

You Are Stronger than You Think

Sometimes, we don’t realize how strong we are until we face a difficult situation. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

I’m sure that when she was first diagnosed with HIV, Vickie didn’t realize how strong she was on the inside. It took many years for her to learn to love herself again. Gradually, her love and forgiveness turned into strength and allowed her to pursue her dreams.

As Vickie said, “Self-love was one of the first things that I had to learn (after the diagnosis). I also had to forgive myself. We all make mistakes in life and that’s okay. I’ve learned to be resilient. I’ve discovered that I can get through almost anything.”

Like Vickie, you are stronger than you think.

Helping Others Can Give Your Life a Sense of Purpose

One challenge that many women our age face is how to find a sense of purpose during a time when our family, social and financial circumstances are changing.

As we approach retirement, we look for activities to fill our time. Some of us take up sports. Most of us travel as much as our budget will allow. We start blogging and do gentle yoga. We read and paint, jog and start companies.

There is nothing wrong with these activities. In fact, I love all of them. It’s just that finding your sense of purpose goes much deeper. It’s hard to feel fulfilled when you are focused entirely on yourself.

This is why helping others is so important. It is only through helping others that we can hope to find ourselves.

You don’t have to change the world. All you need to do is change one person’s world. When you do, the positivity that you create will spread out through the community and will eventually make its way back to you.

As Vickie said about her own work, “I know that what I do is only a drop in the bucket, compared to what needs to be done in our communities. But, that’s okay because each drop in the bucket has a ripple effect. When I talk with another woman with HIV and empower her, our conversation empowers her family.”

I hope that Vickie’s story gives you strength to face the challenges in your own life with courage and passion. You are stronger than you think and you deserve every happiness this world can provide.

What is the most difficult thing that you have gone through in your life? What did you learn from the experience? Please join the conversation.

This sponsored post was brought to you by Walgreens. Walgreens is committed to supporting those living with HIV. Through more than 800 Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies throughout the country, more than 2,000 specially trained pharmacists provide confidential, face-to-face medication therapy consultations and health and wellness guidance to help patients manage HIV, common comorbid conditions such as hepatitis C and other conditions generally associated with aging. For more information on Walgreens HIV-specialized pharmacies, visit HIV.Walgreens.com.

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