Incredibull Stella by Marika Meeks and Elizabeth Ridley is the true story of how a family rescued a pit bull and in turn were themselves saved by her. At age 40, Marika received the stunning news that she had stage three breast cancer and only 61% chance of survival. Into her life came Stella, who not only gave Marika purpose but also helped repair her broken family. Told in first person, this fast-moving narrative reinforced three life lessons for me.
The first lesson is that you never know where life will take you. Although she had been plagued by a host of health issues through childhood that included a branchial clef, by the time Marika reached adulthood she was the picture of health. Her life was perfect in other ways too, in that she was happily remarried with children, and she ran a business with her husband. Then in her forties, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she felt her whole world crumble. For one thing there was always a sense of impending doom hanging over her and for another thing the constant travel for her health left her exhausted. She began to emotionally shut her family out of her life, which resulted in her estranged from her daughter, and life went from bad to worse. Around this time, Marika began to seriously consider adopting a dog for emotional support.
The second lesson is that life is not about us but about others. After three failed attempts to find the right dog, Marika adopted Stella, a seven-month-old pit bull in Indiana that had been abandoned by a road along with her sister. When Marika discovered that Stella was afraid of car rides, instead of staying at home and allowing herself to be trapped in depression, she began taking Stella for drives. Although her husband had once said no to any dogs and her one daughter had stopped talking to her, these situations changed with the arrival of Stella. Both Marika’s husband and her daughter began to help her care for Stella, which allowed Marika to repair her broken relationships with them. As Stella became a permanent part of their family, Marika found herself wanting to do even more for her, including taking her to training classes.
The third lesson is that to whom much is given, much is also expected. Stella’s contagious energy, smiling face, and unconditional love had become a beacon of hope to Marika and her family. For that reason, despite the fact that she still struggled with her health, Marika decided to look for ways to show her gratitude for Stella. The Meeks family volunteered as fosters for a pit bull rescue. Marika also looked for ways that Stella could serve as an ambassador for the pit bull breed. Doing so pushed Marika into the public eye, which required her to step out of her comfort zone. As she did, she constantly reminded herself that life wasn’t about her; it was about Stella and about other dogs like Stella.
My favorite quote from Incredibull Stella by Marika Meeks and Elizabeth Ridley is as follows: “I had lived from treatment to treatment, appointment to appointment, scan to scan, fighting that constant battle to secure just a few more days of precious time, a battle that left me exhausted and overwhelmed. But now, the future seemed fun and exciting and challenging, offering me all kinds of new possibilities. I’ve got the passion, the energy, the commitment, the drive to do so many things that will make an impact.” To find out how the Marika and Stella have made a difference in the world, you’ll need to read their inspirational story.