Posted: June 16, 2014, 9:05 p.m. EDT
Randy Melanie Belair's appearance changed drastically before and after her illness.
Randy Melanie Belair has been saving abandoned ferrets for more than 20 years, but now she is not only trying to save ferrets but herself as well. Her ferret saving began in 1994 when she and her mother tried to save a ferret spotted in a garbage dump. Sadly, after more than a week of random sightings and an all-out effort to capture him, what they found was the ferret’s corpse. His fate was the impetus for Belair to create The Ferret Aid Society, which officially opened as a ferret shelter in Ontario, Canada, in 1996. It has saved countless ferrets in the more than 20 years since then, thanks to the efforts of Belair and a team of volunteers.
Starting a ferret shelter wasn’t the end of Belair’s aid to ferrets. She also dreamed of and organized the first ferret symposium, which took place in Canada in 2000. That inspired the International Ferret Congress in the United States, which has held numerous symposiums since 2002.
Through the years, Belair’s personal life had ups and downs, and nearly four years ago she developed a mysterious illness. It took until the summer of 2013 for doctors to realize that whatever the cause, her liver was now failing. She was told it was terminal.
Despite the grim news, Belair worried about the ferrets being fostered by The Ferret Aid Society. Although she could no longer physically do the work to care for the ferrets, she worried about finding a way to support those that relied on the shelter. And she vowed to fight the illness.
Now more than 10 months have passed since Belair was told she was terminal, and she continues to fight, even through several near-death experiences. "I almost died in September 2013 when I fell into a coma,” Belair said. "I was told when I woke that I would die in hospital, but I fought and I lived.”
The doctor at the hospital predicted she would have a short life, suffering pain and the humilities of being unable to care for herself. "I refused to believe that fate and fought with every ounce of my being, all the strength and faith I could gather and I lived,” Belair said. "I walked out of that hospital a month later without the aid of a wheelchair, passed the doctor who had given up fighting for me, and I flipped him the bird. No one will ever tell me what to do or how to do it, and regardless if people love me or dislike me, I won this battle and no one can take that away from me.”
She was gravely ill several times after that, and suffered another near-death in January 2014, she said that friends brought her to their condo in Mexico as a "last trip” and chance for happiness before the end. Amazingly, being there and meeting new doctors and treatment have given her new strength and hope. She returned to Mexico again in March, and hopes to go back again.
"It gave me a lot of new life,” she said, "and though I am still considered terminal I am fighting to change that and much stronger than I was.”
She has now been told that the cause of her liver failure was due to poor follow-up on vitamin monitoring after having weight loss surgery. "My body went into starvation mode and suffered organ failure like anorexics do when they die.”
Belair has no family to turn to during this ordeal, but her main goals remain the same. "I am trying to keep myself and the shelter going and not have to close,” she said. "I am still quite ill but without anyone to count on I had to find a way on my own to keep us going, and Arbonne is hopefully the answer.”
Arbonne provides products sold via a network of independent consultants. Belair set a goal to reach district manager level and begin receiving a paycheck, and she recently reached it. Why is this important? "I can work from home, from the comfort of my bed, and still make a little money to help me survive.”
Placing orders for Arbonne products using Belair’s ID number (116472877) or becoming an Arbonne consultant listing her as your referral helps both Belair and the ferrets at the shelter. "Anyone who orders and sends me an email after with their order number I will share half my commission with the fuzzies at the shelter,” Belair said. She can be contacted via email if you have questions.
Some friends have stood by Belair, and some organized a fundraiser to assist her in late 2013. Belair has found that her terminal illness is rough both physically, mentally and on relationships. "I do continue to fight this disease and do fear that one day I will be too tired to keep fighting because this battle can be quite lonely,” she said. "No family and the loss of many friends because I am no longer of use to anyone. It's true that you find out who your real friends are when it is you who needs the support. I truly never in a million years would have ever believed that I would die lonely. I would have bet my last breath on knowing I would be surrounded by many people. In the end, besides a handful of wonderful and giving friends and a few shelter volunteers, I am alone and very lonely.”
But she is not without hope and not without pride, and Belair is very proud of her survival. It is an accomplishment. She is also proud of The Ferret Aid Society volunteers and is quick to sing their praises.
"I am blessed to have such amazing people loving the ferrets who have been there for the ferrets always, and blessed for a couple of them who have also been there for me and helped me through this illness,” she said. "During my illness it was no different, as business at the shelter went on as usual, as it always had. Makes me feel like we have a solid foundation and that if this disease or anything else for that matter takes my life away, my shelter is capable of running without me.” That said, Belair hopes that she will be around for at least another 20 years.
Beating her illness would be best for both her and the ferrets. And if anyone can do it, Belair can.
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And check out the following:
Randy Belair's Life With Ferrets, click here>>
Health Ferret Play (written by Randy Belair), click here>>
Beyond Ferrets: Ferret Symposia, click here>>