Lots of times we highlight mompreneurs in our “Moms on the Move” feature, but we all know you don’t have to be a business owner to be a “mover and shaker” in our community. Today we showcase three Triad women – all of whom can easily be described as heroes, inspirations, and successes because of their own personal challenges and triumphs. On top of all that they are also amazing moms who are living the daily motherhood grind, just like all of us.

I am thrilled for you all to get to know Norell, Connie and Sarah. If any of them remind you of a Triad mom you think should be profiled as a Mom on the Move, let me know. I’d love to meet her.

Enjoy today’s profiles…

Norell Johnston

Norell Johnston is a warrior. For the past seven years, she’s been battling Multiple Sclerosis (as well as symptoms of MS for three year prior to that). A stay-at-home mom in Greensboro, Norell lives with her husband, Dennis, and her two daughters Madelyn (8) and Ava (6). Her life is busy and full, yet living with MS means she’s constantly battling fatigue which becomes challenging when trying to juggle life as a mom to two young kids while staying active and involved – all the while not letting MS impact the lives of her family and friends.

Additionally, her daughter Madelyn is globally developmentally delayed, has sensory processing disorder and was diagnosed with autism. Her needs are a challenge, Norell says, but more so for Madelyn who has to live with them and work hard on them every day.

Yet, Norell continues to warrior through each day while focusing on taking care of her family and herself. She also credits the National MS Society for giving her emotional, physical and educational support. Norell has participated in the annual Walk MS since 2008, and hopes to challenge herself with Bike MS or the Challenge Walk.

When asked what her greatest accomplishment is to date, Norell responded, “I have learned a lot about myself through this journey. I have learned to appreciate the little things that I am able to do with my children…like dancing around the house with them or walking around an amusement park.  I realize I may never have huge challenges brought on by MS, but I am also aware that it is possible for me to wake up tomorrow and not be able to walk or see.  I have learned to enjoy the moment and not take my moments with them for granted.”

Connie Shelton Lancaster

If you’ve ever considered adoption, then let Connie be an inspiration. Connie, a Licensed Professional Counselor/stay-at-home mom in Greensboro, and her husband, Brent, discussed the possibility of adoption at different times during their relationship, but did not pursue until after experiencing five miscarriages, including an ectopic pregnancy with twins that required emergency abdominal surgery. At first they considered various fertility options, but opted for adoption instead.

After attending several informational sessions about both domestic and international adoption, researching countless agencies online, and talking to numerous other adoptive parents, Connie and Brent chose domestic adoption due to their desire for an infant, and for “hopefully” more medical background information on each child. They selected a domestic adoption agency in TX based on its reputation, years of experience, and extensive post-adoption services to connect and support all adoptive families.

Connie said the hardest parts of the process were two-fold: 1) developing a profile to present to the potential birth parents with the hopes of them getting selected as the baby’s adoptive parents, and 2) the waiting, waiting, and waiting.

The adoption process for both of their children took about 18 months, but today they are the proud parents to Noah, 7, and Grace, 4 – both of whom were placed with Connie and Brent at 7 weeks of age.

If you’re considering adoption, Connie says to start preparing yourself for an emotional roller coaster, and the need to build a solid support system. “The process can be overwhelming and the wait agonizing, but of course, in the end, it is all worthwhile when you meet your baby for the very first time. I worried I wouldn’t feel an immediate bond the first time around, but honestly I can’t imagine loving our two little ones any more if they were our biological children. It’s funny how that works.”

Sarah Stitzel

I always knew Sarah was special when I learned that, because of her engineering background, this stay-at-home mom sometimes designs things for NASA while some of us other moms are busy doing laundry! But what I didn’t know is something that’s even more awe-inspiring. This Winston-Salem mom of two (Leah, 10 and Molly, 8) – and wife to Joel – is also a five-year Stage IV colon cancer survivor.

At age 28, Sarah was first diagnosed with cancer. Her oldest daughter was 20 months old, and Sarah was 31 weeks pregnant with her younger daughter.

“A week earlier I had been an otherwise healthy 28-year old getting ready to have a second daughter. We had just bought a new house, were planning to head to the beach for our summer vacation and to my sister’s wedding (which I ended up missing), then come back home and paint the nursery. There were quite a few tears…,” said Sarah.

Sarah underwent surgery (including an emergency C-section) to clear her body of cancer. But two years later, a mass was found on her lung and she had to endure six months of chemotherapy while her daughters were 2 and 4 years old.

Last year, Sarah was pronounced “cancer free.” While there’s no 100% guarantee, Sarah continues to have annual check-ups with her oncologist, as well as other annual screenings. Today, Sarah also volunteers at her daughters’ schools, as well as with the Second Harvest Food Bank where she is helping to plan the Food Bank’s Annual Empty Bowls Fundraiserthis spring.

Understandably, Sarah says she thinks twice about what’s really important. “You get a different view of the big picture, and you appreciate what you have every day – husband, children, family, and friends. And if I want a second helping of dessert – I eat it. Because you just never know.”