Kelly Halvey isn’t sure how she got here.
Not here as in Florida. No, that move to Sarasota 18 years ago was an easy and heartfelt one – following her parents in their retirement to the state after her father’s cancer diagnosis. From that point forward, she’d cared for them both, through her father’s death in 2012, and her mother’s a year ago – all the while tending to her own medical needs and disability springing from rheumatoid arthritis.
Instead, by here she means a different kind of landscape in which she now finds herself at age 61 – devastated emotionally from the unexpected passing of her mother, and financially as well – her electric service turned off earlier this year and past due rent threatening the roof over her head.
“You never know when it’s going to happen to you,” Halvey said.
There was a time when Halvey had big plans for her life. After a childhood in Ohio, she’d studied business and worked in finance before taking steps to enter graduate school at Columbia University in New York, aspiring to specialize in the study of brain injuries, inspired by a friend with epilepsy.
But in the mid-1990s, her plans were derailed after a series of botched surgeries on her legs connected to severe arthritis and bone malalignment – which developed into degenerative and rheumatoid arthritis. A former athlete, she began to suffer from debilitating pain and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, her conditions forcing her to get around with the assistance of a cane, wheelchair or crutches.
“My whole life was torn away at the age of 34,” she said.