It is possible to do the impossible, and I am living proof.
I am sharing my story in hopes of motivating each and every Chicagoan to take steps this year to achieving his or her goal, whatever it is. Combine determination, perseverance and faith in yourself, and you can accomplish anything. Don’t believe me? Read on.
My story starts like many other Chicagoans. A professional break dancer, I was struggling to raise a son and daughter and make it through the typical daily stressors. But a little more than six years ago, everything changed for me. My world turned upside down when a virus attacked my spinal cord. In the blink of an eye, I lost the ability to run, dance and even walk. I was paralyzed from the ribs down. I was told I would never walk or dance again, that I was a paraplegic. My profession and freedom were lost. How was I going to support myself and more importantly, my children?
So I refused to accept what the doctor told me. I was determined to walk again. In the rehabilitation center, I gave myself one day to cry and give in. The following day, I knew I would do what it took to dance again. Why? Because movement, activity and the freedom of dance is who I am, and no disease was going to take that from me.
One tiny step at a time, I fought back. In the beginning, I would engage the brakes on my wheelchair, put my walker in front of my chair and lift myself up with my arms. It took incredible effort to get into a standing position, but I was able to get there for a split second before collapsing back into my chair. After what seemed to be a 1,000 tries, I was able to remain standing for a second or two.
As soon as I could stand for a few seconds, I moved on to attempting to take small steps. Upon standing, I would take a few steps with my walker, immediately collapsing after the first few tries. But slowly, one step turned into two, three, four. Those first steps meant the world to me.
I called my wheelchair company to pick up my chair. I was determined not to use it. Next, I focused on my walker, navigating routes from my bed to my couch, from my couch to a chair and from the chair to the bathroom. Then, it was time to say goodbye to my walker. I moved on to a cane, and before long, I was able to put it away. For good.
Next up for me: the treadmill. At slow speeds, I worked on my endurance. I then focused on my strength and speed. And a year after contracting the virus, unbelievably, I was able to start break dancing again. The first time I was able to dance again was incredibly powerful. I was never going to let anyone tell me what I could or couldn’t achieve again.
This is why I am challenging myself again and participating in the Wings for Life World Run Denver on May 4. I have not run since my recovery, and in fact never ran for long periods prior to my spinal cord injury. Why am I running? Because I want to run for those who can’t: Wings for Life is raising funds for spinal cord injury research. I will join more than 100,000 runners in more than 35 cities around the world. Unlike any other event, there is no finish line. The Wings for Life World Run is truly for all types of athletes — each and every participant sets their own personal goals, whether it’s two miles or 60.
Every day I am grateful for my blessings and my experiences. The challenges I faced have made me who I am today, and I wouldn’t change any moment. I’m ready for today, tomorrow and the next day, and Chicago, I hope you are too.
To register and to learn more about the Wings for Life World Run, visit Wingsforlifeworldrun.com. To sign up for dance classes with Lady Champ, visit her new studio at 2608 N. Cicero or call (773) 458-6627.