Cyndi Desjardins Wilkens was a successful business manager and a new mom when necrotizing fasciitis (otherwise known as flesh eating disease) entered her life and altered it forever. She awoke after five weeks of battling this disease to find that her hands and feet had been amputated in an effort to save her life.
She overcame many obstacles in her rehabilitation: recapturing relationships with her children and learning to walk, swim, and dance through life again. During her recovery, she started a blog to keep family and friends updated on her progress.
Reflected in her writing, her inspiring spirit has attracted media attention. Cyndi has been interviewed by major U.S. television show hosts like Anderson Cooper and Jeff Probst show, as well as being given the title of Canadian Original on CTV National.
As a wife, mom, and international speaker, Cyndi has a heart for sharing her story with transparency, and bringing tears and laughter in the hopes that it will shine a light for others otherwise facing dark times.
Q: What inspired you to write Shine On?
A: I had always dreamt of writing. As a young girl I wrote poetry, and as an adult I spent my spare time writing stories. In business I had written many brochures and documents. Not long after regaining consciousness, as I looked back upon my life, I felt very convicted to write my story and share God’s presence in it.
Q: In what way are you hoping that Shine On will inspire others?
A: My hope is that by sharing the pain of loss I have walked through, it can be used to minister to others. I pray that it shines light for those who may be walking through difficult times or life-altering events.
Q: What life-altering event inspired the writing of this book?
A: In February 2011, I was a wife, mom, and business manager. I was on maternity leave with my three-month-old son and my five-year-old daughter when I went to the hospital with what I had been under the impression was the flu. When I arrived, my husband was told that I wouldn’t make it through the night. I had contracted necrotizing fasciitis. I spent the next five weeks in a medically induced coma fighting for my life. I awoke to find that my hands and feet had been amputated.
Q: How long were you hospitalized?
A: I was hospitalized for five and a half months. The first four months were spent just getting strong enough to walk again. The last month and a half was spent learning to do everyday activities such as dressing myself, feeding myself, and then at last learning to walk.
Q: Was it difficult learning to walk again?
A: The most difficult part of my rehabilitation wasn’t learning to walk but actually learning to do things without hands. Simple tasks such as opening a juice box for my children or cutting up vegetables can require much more energy and planning.
Q: In the book, you speak of your “space in between,” that period of your life when you came to terms with your loss. How long did that period last?
A: I believe it was from seven to ten days. I didn’t stop grieving the loss of my limbs and what my life was going to be, but I started to grieve in faith that God could redeem it.
Q: Do you have any plans for your next book?
A: Yes. There are many more leaps of faith to come after Shine On ends. There is much more of this story to tell.
Q: Did you face any physical challenges in writing this book?
A: Instead of writing with my hands or typing, I had to learn to dictate. At first it was a challenge, as I could no longer feel the words flow through my fingers as I typed. Often when we speak, it doesn’t flow the same as it would if you were writing words on an empty page. It took quite some time to get accustomed to the feeling of speaking my thoughts onto a computer screen and hoping that the emotions would come through.
Q: What is your process for writing?
A: I enjoy writing to worship music. I often find myself asking Jesus to hold my hand as I write, in the hope that I am expressing everything He would want me to.
Q: How has your publishing experience been?
A: There are so many details to publishing a book that require experience—experience that I didn’t have. There have been many exciting moments. Sometimes I still can’t believe this story is being published. I have been so encouraged by everybody who has been involved with helping me through this process. I am very thankful for them.
Q: Do you have any advice for new authors?
A: As a new author myself, God has taught me so much through this process. He has truly taught me that He has a unique plan for each and every one of us and that he will lay it out in His timing. I have learned to listen for his voice and to trust him in every moment.
Q: How do you spend your spare time?
A: As a mom I spend much of my time driving my children to events. I am a coach for Women’s Ministries Institute, from which I graduated in 2015, and I am currently working on my second book, a celebration of all that God has done in redeeming my life.
Q: Did you always have strong faith?
A: I was raised to believe that God can do anything. I always had strong faith, but I didn’t always place that faith in God. I always believed in Jesus, but I didn’t hand my life over to him—not until the moment he walked into my hospital room and helped me put the pieces of my life back together again. I simply had to let him into my heart.
Cyndi Desjardins Wilkens is an author, international speaker, wife, and mom. She has a heart for sharing her story with audiences in hopes that her transparency will be a light for others facing an otherwise dark situation. She thrives in Ontario, Canada.