Corina Diehl

Survive and Thrive

This was my dream to start a company that honors those who overcome challenges in their lives who found not only the strength to carry on but also the desire to help others literally or symbolically rise above their personal hurdles. We all aspire to Thrive & Survive. That’s why this site is named Collectively, we represent every survivor, of every travesty whether large or small. I want to build a sense of community on this site but also wish to recognize each and every one of us through a line of apparel to wear what we believe. We fall, we crawl, and we get back on our feet, never looking back other than to share the gratitude of having survived and walk away better people. When we do, we Survive and Thrive.

Welcome to my story. My journey is a long one filled with tragic events that have helped formed who and what I am.  Honestly, it’s made me stronger, better, and more thankful for the joys that life brings every day. 

My story begins walking down the hall of a hospital’s ICU floor holding both my 18-year-old son’s and 12-year-old daughter’s hands. We were there to visit their father, my husband, who was clinging to life while hooked up to every conceivable lifesaving device available… at the best trauma hospital in Pittsburgh. I recall telling my son and daughter that I wished I could fix everything and make it all well again but I couldn’t. My husband’s fate had been sealed two days earlier when I found him at home. He was brain dead and paralyzed having suffered a starburst-effect stroke.  We removed him from life support shortly thereafter on April 17, 2007.   Thankfully, Matt was removed from life support surrounded by everyone who loved him. 

When Matt passed, we owned a car dealership in Butler PA. We had bought it in hopes of leaving a lasting legacy for our children. Four weeks after his death, I walked in and sat in his chair. The journey to keep his legacy alive was left up to me and his management team. Hello reality. Ground zero to survive and thrive.

I’d like to say that I knew exactly what my choice would be… become fully vested in the dealership or sell it. I chose the latter in hopes of realizing our dream. And what an amazing journey it’s been. Highs and lows. I worked in a male dominated industry. I was challenged at every turn by employees, vendors and the manufacturers.  I was told I would fail by some of those around me. I was told what I was trying to do hadn’t been done. But that just made me stronger.

I learned a business in which he was a master and I wasn’t even a student. I watched the financial industry crumble in front of my eyes in 2008/2009. But I held on for two children who are my life and a team of people who clung together to get through the worst of times. I told myself daily “this too shall pass!” I fought battles alone more times than I could count.  Survive and thrive!

I wasn’t grateful for all that was placed on my plate at that time. I wasn’t grateful at all some days. I’d cry alone at night wondering what the next day would bring. Every step of the way I was simply surviving. I struggled beyond words to keep faith for my children, my team at work, to keep food on my table at home, and support my family.  But I survived, grew, and learned to have gratitude along the way.  Gratitude for the two amazing children with whom I was blessed, the parents who supported and never doubted me. The friends that loved me and remain my biggest cheerleaders.  The strangers who simply smiled when I needed it most. The people who I worked with that believed. The fact that I was simply able to put my feet on the ground every day, get out of bed, and take a breath in the morning by myself.  

I worked overtime, tirelessly, sometimes at the expense of my children. No, I certainly wasn’t the best mother every day. When you become a single parent and work 60-80 hours a week, much is sacrificed along the way. It was certainly at the expense of my beautiful baby girl. She was a latchkey kid. She will tell you she lived on chicken nuggets for several years. She certainly didn’t understand fully why her world fell apart so quickly. And some days neither did I. Regardless, I will tell you Rachel is now 25 and one of the most well-adjusted women I have ever met. She is a shining light to everyone she meets! When Rachel left for college, I bought our second dealership and since have bought three more.

My daughter Rachel is my rock! I am truly blessed.

But life has an odd way of course-correcting just when you think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. So when my father had a stroke at our home on April 19, 2014, I rushed to the hospital only to be informed that his cancer had returned with a vengeance and his time with me was short. Another decision to make. I could leave him there in hospice or bring him home with me. I knew exactly what to do, but first I had to tell my father, my friend, my protector, my biggest cheerleader in life that he was dying. I walked into his hospital room alone and looking into his big, beautiful blue eyes saying “Pop, you’re dying and I want to take you home now.”  He looked at me and said, “we all have to die sometime. Let’s go! “ My father lived for a week at my home with hospice care. I never left his side.  We sang German songs, watched TV, and talked about life.  I was told I shouldn’t take him home, my house would never be the same. Let me tell you, it was the greatest gift I could give my Pop and myself. Love and dignity when it mattered most. Not only did I learn most of life’s important lessons from my incredible dad, he taught me to Survive and Thrive. 

After my father died, I was blessed with the wonderful news that next generation of our family was on its way. In what seemed to be another challenge, my grandson spent the first 6 months of his life in the NICU, PICU and other departments in the hospital receiving treatment for a rare congenital defect. The doctors called it a defect, I call him perfect.  I look at that little man and know he is destined to do amazing things.  He’s fought for his life more times than any little soul should. Better yet, he is currently exceeding everyone’s expectations. Wyatt is another perfect example of Survive and Thrive

I am not looking for sympathy, pity, or praise for my journey.  It’s been a gift to feel pain at its deepest and joy at its greatest. My mother taught me at an early age that life isn’t fair or easy. She always told me to make the best of it. It’s mine to share and let anyone who will listen that they too can grow and see the best, in the worst of times. We all make tough decisions. It’s a choice. Survive and Thrive.

To the friends who I’ve lost to cancer, the people that fight disease you can’t see, the young and old in hospitals, the friends that fought through drug addition, divorce, wars, and tragedies that seem insurmountable yet walk away better people with a new view of the world. Here’s to the gratitude for the journey that makes us all survivors. Wear it. Join our community. Reach out and share your story right here. We promise to make donations to a different charity every quarter in honor of all those who Survive & Thrive!

Note from Corina:

Please feel free to share your story on “Our Story” page. We certainly understand it’s not easy. It’s about facing personal trials, making choices, mistakes, owning them, and learning from them. It’s acknowledging the journey and the gratitude that comes from that experience.  Its fighting to survive and then taking the lessons learned and thrive.