Wife of Disabled Veteran Becomes Strong Advocate – Dallas Frisco Portrait Photographer – Me Ra Koh
Meet Rising Phoenix, Brandi Sanford-Fischer, whose determination and joy have defied multiple devastating diagnoses in her family. Through every Discovery Call, our Team fell more and more in love with Brandi’s resilience and heart for others. She’s an incredible example of super-human strength, with a spirit that lights up a room. Describing her as the wife of a disabled veteran becomes strong advocate is only the tip of the iceberg.
SUPER-HUMAN STRENGTH AND A MAGNETIC SPIRIT
Brandi’s dream was to teach overseas and that dream came true when she took a job at the American School of Kuwait after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Her reasoning: to learn about a culture and people whom she felt she was not getting the whole picture from media. No stranger to traveling alone internationally, Brandi set out for an adventure in the Middle East that she never knew would take her to where she is today.
It was during a day off in July 2003, poolside in Kuwait, when Brandi unknowingly met her future husband, Marcus, a deployed Gunny Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Right away, her Kuwaiti friends could see how their spirits were perfect for each other, but Brandi’s focus was on finishing her Master’s and international life and travels. However, fate had already set their paths in motion. Marcus continued to serve in Iraq because Brandi was in Kuwait. On April 27, 2004 Marcus sustained a traumatic brain injury from a vehicle IED while on convoy which, unbeknownst to him, would turn out to be the catalyst turning their life upside-down beyond imagination.
After starting a life together, building their careers and a surprise duty station to Stuttgart, Germany, Marcus received his promotion to Master Gunnery Sergeant of the U.S. Marine Corps representing his country at the HQ Marine Forces Europe and Africa Command just weeks after their son Jackson was born. Fifteen month later they were blessed with their daughter Mackenzie and their life felt perfect!
Mass on His Brainstem
In 2013 with a routine medical visit, Marcus was told he had a mass on his brainstem and the ‘clock was ticking’. Brandi knew something did not add up and for three years worked with German doctors to track and trace his causes, researched and reached out to international and U.S. medical for inquiry and forensic support to get answers she needed to defend Marcus’s fight that she knew was coming — And it all went back to that 2004 IED in Iraq.
Secretly, Marcus’s cavernous malformation grew to 1.5 cm by January 2016 and required a dangerous, extensive surgery. In February 2016, an incidental finding discovered that Brandi was at Stage 3b for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma with a spleen the size of a football and needed chemotherapy right away. Marcus felt she was more important. So much had to take place and priorities made. Within the following nine months Brandi survived chemo, had an emergency spinal fusion re-do thanks to some broken bolts unseen for a few years.
Nineteen days later, the entire family moved from Germany to Texas to assure Marcus would be close to the best Neuromuscular Brain Surgeon in the world, established a new temporary home, established the kids in Kindergarten and Pre-school and maintained reasonable health while Marcus handled all the Marine Corps side of his priorities. And yet she still was fighting with military and doctors for his right to have the best surgeon — all while ‘bald and bossy’ and in recovery for everything. You can see why the title of her post is WIFE OF DISABLED VETERAN BECOMES STRONG ADVOCATE.
On November 8, 2016 Marcus finally went into a rare brain surgery. Unfortunately, he incurred a stroke to his right cerebellum that left him semi-hemiplegic and kept him inpatient for seven months; Brandi still was fighting for the best and fullest care for him, and today he utilizes a wheelchair 100% of the time, while seeking rehabilitation for polytrauma and multi-injury and illnesses from his 32 year career as a U.S. Marine.
Brandi has survived chemo, spinal fusions, battles with top brass and medical specialists here and abroad, and had to give up her career all while raising her children and being a full-time caregiver! If that is not the epitome of ‘super-human’, we don’t know what is! The way Brandi see’s it comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13 “God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear and will provide a way out.”
She sees too many who do not fight for their rights and love and she will not give up till the end.
That single sentences, how Brandi words it, leaves me speechless.
Brandi’s response to her cancer diagnosis was one of immense strength and determination.
WE’LL FIND A WAY
Brandi describes herself as stubborn, resourceful and goofy which is evident throughout her story and the stories told by her family and friends. In this season, and throughout her life, Brandi’s determination is in the heartbeat of everything she does. She fights for the highest quality of life possible for her husband and for her family and uses humor and joy to remind others that a smile can change someone’s day and life is worth living, regardless of immense struggles and pain.
Brandi’s response to her cancer diagnosis was one of immense strength and determination. Brandi is a champion when it comes to ensuring that Marcus gets what he needs from the VA and military, stating often, “we’ll find a way”. She takes pride in her ability to research and find resources to assist her in her mission. Furthermore, while feeling happiness is rare at times, she believes it is essential to not just surviving but thriving.
Brandi’s response to her cancer diagnosis was, “Is this going to kill me or slow me down for a while? Because I don’t have time for this.”
CRAWLING OUT OF A HOLE IN SEARCH FOR DISCOVERY
For many people, we’ve noticed how the Rising Phoenix Experience is about crawling ‘out of a hole’ and discovering the joy of living again.
After years of getting bogged down in the day-to-day of care giving, Brandi has found herself living for others and not as much for herself. One of Marcus’s neurosurgeons said, “Don’t let anyone tell you he can’t recover. He’s going to fight. There’s no stopping for him. He doesn’t have time to stop.” Taken to heart, Brandi has plunged head-first into the non-stop, fighting for Marcus and all he deserves.
After a while, she realized her life was all ‘fight’ and she hadn’t allowed herself time to slow down and rest and absorb the moment. She wants to be able to look at her Rising Phoenix portraits and see purpose, see HER.
I want to see the new me but still the old me.
She told us, she wants to see “the new me, but still the old me” and she said, “I miss my happy, fun self who was almost-obnoxious. Whatever is in the moment, I become really passionate about.”
You can see the joy and determination, the fight and the purpose, and joy and happiness, written all over her face in her beautiful portraits.
WHAT HER HUSBAND LOVES ABOUT HER
Brandi and Marcus have been married for 18 years and have endured and overcome more than most in the span of their relationship. Brandi’s laugh has always been one of the qualities that Marcus finds most attractive. When asked about the Top 3 things he wants to say about her, he mentioned her laugh first and foremost. “It was what I heard first poolside before I approached her and never turned back.” Then, he said how much he appreciates how she takes care of him, the kids and their pets. Last, he describes her resilience, “Nothing seems to bother her. She always rebounds.”
We asked Marcus what he thought Brandi’s superpower is and he said, “She researches a lot so that she will know what she’s talking about and can argue intelligibly. I tend to be quiet but Brandi loves conflict and is not afraid to fight for what she believes in.”
What is More Beautiful About Her Than Ever?
Marcus speaks of her most beautiful qualities with admiration. “Brandi always sees the bright side, she makes lemonade out of lemons.” He speaks of her strength as she has to ‘take over everything’. All he has now is ‘veto power’ but he doesn’t need to use it often. Brandi listens to him and respects his brain. “Brandi is my biggest advocate and for the kids too.”
When we asked Marcus what these portraits remind her of, he responded, “I hope these remind her of her good nature, her laugh.. I’m worried she does too much. She’s always taking care of everybody; I hope these help her forget about the reality of life and see the laughter.”
PRETTIER THAN EARTH
When Brandi’s daughter saw her Rising Phoenix artwork installed in her parent’s bedroom, she said something we’ve never heard. She looked at her mom and said “You’re prettier than the earth.”
What a response!
WHAT AMP HAD TO SAY – FUN AND MISCHIEVOUS
Amp, a dear friend of Brandi’s, whom she’s known for 28 years after meeting at college, took our call to discuss her life-long friend. Her friendship sees beyond the wife of a disabled veteran becoming a strong advocate.
“She always has a way of making things fun! I’ve always been the opposite, so quiet – but she was lively!”, Amp gushed. She also said, in sincerity, “Brandi’s one of the most supportive friends I have. She’s always there to talk it out with me, when there’s a problem and she’s such a great listener instead of being engrossed with her own life, like so many do. She’s amazing!”
Amp believes Brandi’s superpower is having an effortless way of bringing fun. She can liven up the room when things happen that usually bring everyone down. She will get people to laugh. Amp gives an example of recently visiting her friend. She says they were standing in line waiting on food with strangers, just minding their own business. Before long, Brandi gets everyone into a conversation. Amp remembers thinking, “What are you doing?! These are strangers!” Amp says Brandi’s eyes twinkle with mischief. Her hands and fingers make a steeple and tap each other and you can tell she’s up to something. Amp hopes that this artwork reminds Brandi that she is capable of rising above and overcoming obstacles that can break a lot of people; that it’s a reminder of what a tough cookie she is.
WHAT BECKY HAD TO SAY – STRENGTH AND FORTITUDE
Another friend from college named Becky, describes Brandi as ‘one of the strongest women I know’ and uses the powerful word, fortitude. She says, “She has fortitude with everything in life: cancer, back surgery, fusion not going right. She draws it from love. She’s fueled by love and will take care of you.” Becky also describes Brandi as a ‘ray of light’! Laughter coming from Becky as she speaks of her friend, “She has this commanding voice and laughter! Before you even see her, you can hear her! She’s never met a stranger. She lights up the space! If she meets you, you’ll do things you never did!”
Becky says even at her lows, there is a spark in Brandi – you just know she won’t stay down long. Everyone agrees that Brandi is funny. Brandi loves making Becky blush because she’s a ‘bit of a prude’. Becky thinks sometimes it’s hard for Brandi to see how strong she is and how much she gives and that it’s more than enough.
She’s hoping this experience reminds her to take care of HER too. She wants her to see the beauty of who she really is and remember that she’ll ‘get to the other side’: “She’s capable of everything. I want her to have peace when looking at her artwork and believe that she’s more than enough. She will make it through the day and it WILL be a good day! That she has the strength, fortitude and attitude to make is a great day. I never want her to forget who she is at her core.”
“And yet, Brandi is still full of life and bold in how she lives.”
WHAT MICHELLE HAD TO SAY – BOLD AND DETERMINED
Shell’s words were just as powerful as the rest. She tells us that Brandi is BOLD, she doesn’t do anything in measures. With words of love spilling out, Shell says, “She lives life at a full run and sometimes that means you fall hard.
In the last decade I’ve seen her have 2 kids after years of trying and thinking she couldn’t, seen her husband paralyzed to the point of not being able to speak, seen her diagnosed with cancer and fight through chemo. And yet, Brandi is still full of life and bold in how she lives. She pushes her husband and her kids to ‘live out loud’ and be real and present. She always strives for better but yet still lives happy in ‘what is’. It is not easy to be bold. It is scary and sometimes lonely to find yourself as a caregiver. But Brandi never stops fighting.”
WHAT HER MOM HAD TO SAY – COURAGEOUS
Brandi’s mom, Karen, describes Brandi as being positive, very determined and family-oriented. She says that when she found out about Marcus’s stroke, she remembers hearing Brandi crying through the night, saying, “why did this happen to us?”, but then the next morning, she woke up and was determined to make the best of it. Though her children were little and didn’t understand what had happened to daddy and why he looked different, Brandi insisted that he was still daddy and that everyone was going to have to pitch in and help and be involved in his care. Karen says, “My daughter is amazing. She has courage and she has a powerful laugh. I hope that these portraits say to her, ‘Brandi, you did a good job. You survived. We will continue.'”
WHAT HER DAD HAD TO SAY – STRONG-WILLED
Don, Brandi’s dad, describers her as resistant, strong-willed and determined. He marvels at her ability to maintain a positive attitude through very difficult circumstances. Don says, “When Marcus would only have 1 hour of therapy a day and then just sit in bed, Brandi said, ‘this is crazy” and within a week, patients could leave rooms, socialize and the whole atmosphere changed, thanks to her fighting for positive change. She’s always been that way.” He recalls being so surprised that when the Florida hurricane happened, his biggest concern was what they were going to do, yet Brandi and her family dropped everything and came to help. It meant so much to him and he couldn’t believe their selflessness.
Don also says that Brandi is a good mom, laughing as he states, “I’m glad she wasn’t my mom!” She tries her best to give her kids all the opportunities they can. Don hopes this Rising Phoenix Experience reminds her that she is successful. He began crying on the phone as he said, “It’s not the life she planned. She is a good mother, daughter and wife. I know it’s hard as she’s always been so active, but she always keeps a joyful attitude. She gets Marcus and the kids to laugh and she likes to laugh. I hope this inspires her and tells her, ‘you’re doing a good job.'”
After having the opportunity to spend time with Brandi, one thing we know for sure – she is capable of anything she puts her mind to!
WHAT BRANDI SEES RISING WITHIN HERSELF
When we asked Brandi what 3 attributes she feels still rise through the hardship, she said, “My dad would say ‘stubbornness’ because I force the VA and Marine Corps to ‘do their shit’. I am forceful with all the people who need to do their jobs and not let them deny Marcus what he needs.” Brandi also said ‘resourceful’ and ‘joyful’. She loves travel and feels it helps her find herself again.
When we asked what this artwork would mean to her, Brandi said, “I hope it motivates me and gives me joy. I know my negativity and sadness can sometimes can roll off on my family.”
This artwork will be displayed in her bedroom, as her bedroom is her escape and where she feels most calm. She’s also hoping it helps inspire a new purpose, even beyond being the wife of disabled veteran becoming an advocate. She’s looking for a new, personal mission that excites her!
With such a fierce and joyous spirit, we feel confident that new passions will spark and Brandi will move into new chapters, rising as a phoenix, bringing laughter and joy to all around her.
Marcus always says, “I heard you laugh, so addicting, even before I knew what you looked like.”
Brandi, please continue to share your laugh with the world around you. We all need it. We will take Brandi’s story with us moving forward, forever changed, forever inspired by her strength, resilience and love for those around her.
Throughout their journey and recovery, Brandi has been touched by so many who have helped her with her own health, but also with Marcus and the kids with their needs. Some of those organizations are mentioned below but Brandi would like it known that this list is not comprehensive, as there have been so many over the years that have helped in ways they may not really know about, as they supported disabled veterans through bigger organizations. But to those individuals and to those nonprofit organizations who have and are still helping veterans with disabilities — KEEP DOING IT, as it is appreciated more than you realize and we do not always get to see the faces of those who are asked to help us out.
THANK YOU to the following:
- All of our Case Managers!!
- The Fischer Family & Sanford Family for Everything
- Semper Fi Fund/America’s Fund. https://thefund.org/
- Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program https://semperfifund.org/our-programs/integrative-wellness-program/jinx-mccain-horsemanship-program/
- Operation Heal Our Patriots / Samaritans’ Purse https://www.samaritanspurse.org/education-2/operation-heal-our-patriots/
- Wounded Warrior Project https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
- Neuro Community Care https://neurocc.com/
- VA Caregiver Support https://www.caregiver.va.gov/
- Operation Homefront operationhomefront.org
- Cowtown Warriors https://cowtownwarriors.com/
- Women of Valor / Soldier’s Angels https://soldiersangels.org/
- Travis Mills Foundation https://travismillsfoundation.org/
- Trinity Oaks https://www.trinityoaks.org/
- Reel Wives https://reelwives.org/
- Reel Thanx https://www.reelthanx.org/
- War Related Illness & Injury Study Center (WRIISC) https://www.warrelatedillness.va.gov/
- Folds of Honor https://foldsofhonor.org/
- Combat Marine Outdoors https://www.combatmarineoutdoors.org/
- National Military Family Assoc. / Operation Camp Purple https://www.militaryfamily.org/programs/operation-purple/
- Project Sanctuary https://projectsanctuary.us/
- Veteran Service Officer (VSO) Hood County Granbury, TX https://co.hood.tx.us/338/Veterans-Services
- CreatiVets https://creativets.org/
- TREAT Therapeutic Riding, Tarleton State University https://www.tarleton.edu/treat/
- Quality of Life Foundation https://woundedveteranfamilycare.org/
- Hope for the Warriors https://www.hopeforthewarriors.org/
- L4 Builders, Inc / Homes 4 the Brave http://www.l4buildersinc.com/
- Trinity Faith Academy https://www.trinityfaithacademy.org/
- Home Depot Granbury $6571, TX https://www.homedepot.com/l/Granbury/TX/Granbury/76048/6571
- Stonewater Church, Granbury https://stonewaterchurch.com/
- Independence Corps, Spartan Alliance & Carlson Mobility https://independencecorps.org/www.actiontrackchair.com
ARE YOU READY TO RISE LIKE A PHOENIX?
8 out of 10 clients are SELF-CONSCIOUS about APPEARING conceited or vain.
To have a big portrait of themselves in their home office, their bedroom, even their front entry, they don’t want people to get the wrong idea.
Cherie came from TN. We interviewed her friends and family. They all said she is STRONG! Every single one of them used that specific word to describe her resilience, what has risen from the ashes.
But she said, “I feel like if I put photos of myself on the wall, people will think I’m conceited.
I know people say I’m strong, I guess I just don’t see myself that way.”
The Difference Between Knowing the Truth about You and OWNING It
But Cherie’s friends and family want her to do EVERYTHING it takes to be reminded of it. They actually said, “When Cherie sees these photos on the wall of herself, we hope it makes her FEEL strong.”
That she OWNS it.
When you know it, you need to be reminded of the truth.
When you OWN it, you have an ENDLESS WELL to lend.
YOU GIVE TO EVERYONE
You’ve most likely given to everyone else. The time has come to give something transformational and lasting to you. Just read the following stories.
Have you achieved a weight goal? Read Jamie’s inspiring story of never going back after significant weight loss.
Maybe you need deeper healing from childhood trauma. You’ve done the counseling but still struggle to see the truth about who you are. You may relate to Tiffany’s story.
Jajuan flew from Seattle for his Rising Phoenix Experience! He wanted his daughters to see not only who dad is but where he’s come from. Sony spotlighted Jajuan’s Rising Phoenix story as one of the Best Of portraits in 2022! See Jajuan’s powerful story.
Or maybe you’re turning 40, 50, 60 or 70+ and want to reflect and celebrate who you are and the possibilities of what this next season of life holds?
The first step is to fill out our Rising Phoenix inquiry; CLICK HERE.
MICHELLE FOUND COURAGE TO STEP BEYOND GRIEF
Meet Michelle. She is definitely someone who has known great courage. At one time, she was an interrogator for the US military in the Middle East. This 5’4 woman knows confidence. But the loss of her mom swallowed that confidence.
There are some seasons in life when we feel unshakeable courage and other seasons that leave us feeling lost. After great loss, it takes great courage to step forward. Maybe you relate to Michelle’s story.
MEET OUR OLDEST RISING PHOENIX
She was in her 80s and never had her makeup and hair done. I’ll never forget the giggles we had over watching Oma that day in the studio. This beautiful 4’9 woman came to the United States with Opa when she was only 23 yrs old and pregnant with her first baby. All they had was $50. Leaving behind family and all that was familiar in the Netherlands, they boarded a cargo boat and set out to make a new life.
Krista, Oma’s granddaughter, had a FIORIA family experience with us last year. When she saw us launch the Rising Phoenix Experience, she thought of her grandma. Oma is the heart of their family and lived eighty plus years as a rising phoenix.
CRYSTAL DROVE TO US FROM LAS VEGAS.
A single woman who has always been known for being responsible and quiet, yet there is another side of her that wants to come out. A side that is brave and takes risks—that believes she is worthy of doing something special not just for others but for herself too. A year after her Rising Phoenix Experience, she sent us photos of her traveling solo in Europe! She told us how much her life has changed from seeing who she is every day when she looks at her Phoenix portraits!
What truth do you need to be reminded of daily to unleash your purpose and potential?
MEET OUR YOUNGEST RISING PHOENIX, A MIRACLE PHOTO SHOOT!
CLICK HERE to see the most miraculous Rising Phoenix portraits!
This is the first time Isabella has ever looked at the camera and smiled. This was a miracle photo shoot.
I’ll never forget my first Discovery Call with Isabella’s mom. She wasn’t sure this was a good idea because Isabella is very sensory sensitive. Photo shoots have never gone well in the past. She felt very hesitant to believe this photo shoot could be a success.
I felt her words on such a deep level. I didn’t want to set them up for disappointment either. But I just knew that there was something so special about this whole thing. I told her, “There are many doubts and fears I can struggle with, but this is something I am confident I can do.” She borrowed that confidence, and we witnessed a miracle photo shoot.
ALL THESE PEOPLE HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON, THEY WERE READY TO …
Rise above the ashes of what other people have said
Rising above their fear and doubts
Own their Rising Phoenix within.
Through our Rising Phoenix Experience, they not only did something special for themselves but also experienced transformation.
We invite you to experience the transformation too!
YOUR RISING PHOENIX EXPERIENCE INCLUDES:
- Signature Phone Calls with You and Loved Ones (collection of words that give you life)
- Professional Hair & Makeup
- Wardrobe Consultation & Vision
- Rising Phoenix Photo Shoot with Me Ra Koh (Sony Artisan, Disney Host, and Live with Kelly & Ryan Guest Expert—You’re in good hands. I will pose you, and Brian will drop shadows and light on you in the most flattering way that radiates your Rising Phoenix.)
- Same Day Cinematic Reveal & Custom Design Session with our In-House Design Specialist
- Beautiful Artwork of Your Rising Phoenix, Custom Designed for the Best Place where it will Speak Truth to You Every Day.
CLICK HERE to fill out the inquiry and begin your Rising Phoenix Experience!
I can’t wait to speak soon! Still we rise!
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