I grew up in the Bay Area of California where I was always an active child and was in decent shape. I had been taking ballet lessons for a few years before I got into competitive figure skating where I spent roughly 4 years practicing 7 days a week. I was forced to hang up my skates after fracturing my spine, so I dedicated myself even more to a nonprofit community service organization called, the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls. During my time as an active member I made life long friends, all of whom I consider family. I also learned many valuable lessons that helped shaped me into the person that I am today. Prior to aging out, I had been awarded the highest honor the organization can give to its members, in addition to being appointed to serve as a State Officer.
One thing that remained constant was my love of cars, and some of my fondest memories are those where I spent time watch my Dad fix them and sometimes I even got to help. It had been my dream to become the first female Crew Chief in NASCAR (though I started out wanting to be a driver), so in 2005 I took a big risk and moved across the country where I had no friends or family, to pursue my dream. I enjoyed college, but I had some rough semesters because I was silently dealing with the trauma and psychological effects after surviving an assault. I used fitness classes that were offered at the university as a way of coping with the anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Being in a male dominated field didn’t help matters much, and I also face a lot of discrimination because of it, though surprisingly the discrimination came from outside the College of Engineering.
There was one Professor in particular who wrote tests for a 2 hour class, even though the class was only 50 minutes. I think only one student the entire semester finished each test. After handing in the last test before the final he asked me what my major was, and I proudly told him that it was Mechanical Engineering. He then told me that I did not have what it takes to become an engineer, to which I responded “You’re wrong. Just watch me!” I used that statement as fuel to push forward in my studies. Becoming an engineer was a dream, but I had even more drive because I wanted to prove that Professor wrong. The day finally came, and I walked across that stage with the biggest smile. I had achieved my dream, and in the process had proven all the naysayers wrong.
Working in NASCAR as a Crew Chief was something that I thought I was meant to do, after all it had been on my heart long enough. The Lord had other plans and kept pulling me towards the corporate world and the energy production sector, where I got my first job. I was so happy to get the call with the job offer, and was excited to start a new chapter. While at that company, I met a fellow fan of the BBC show, Doctor Who, (I had a tumbler from the show, so it was a perfect ice breaker). We had an instant connection and within a week or two of knowing each other, we started planning a trip to London. Through some of our conversations, I had learned that she taught herself English by reading the Harry Potter books. I had never caught onto the craze when the books first came out, but I wanted to have more to talk about. So I ordered a set of the books, and when they arrived I was hooked after the first sentence. I had been a normal, able-bodied person (with only a few flare ups of some muscle spasms in my back), when that all changed a few months later.
On March 14, 2014, roughly 5 months before my trip to London, I was rear-ended on the shoulder of a freeway. All of the energy from the impact got transferred to me from the way I was hit. I was in pain immediately, but I had no idea just how bad it would get. I had gone to a few doctors to try and figure out what exactly happened to my back in the accident, but they really couldn’t find any answers, so I was started on steroid injections into my spine. The goal of the injections was to help reduce some of the inflammation that was going on, and sometimes it helped and sometimes it didn’t. Thankfully the injections I had before I left for London worked, and I was able to enjoy the trip.
A month or two prior to the trip, I had come across an article that was posted on Facebook by Runner’s World, and it was about a Harry Potter themed virtual running club, now called Potterhead Running Club (PHRC). Being relatively new to the Harry Potter fandom, I was very excited and sent the link to my friend and signed up for my first virtual race, the Department of Mysteries 6.2442k. That race benefited the Brotherhood Ride which is a group of Police Officers, Firefighters, and EMTs that ride bikes to honor those who died in the line of duty and to help the families that were left behind. That race raised $62,500 for the Brotherhood Ride. I didn’t think I would be able to register for the first 3 races that I missed, but my friend had a surprise in store for me when I flew down to Florida to visit her for her birthday. She got me registered for the 3 races that I missed, and surprised me each day at Disney World with a printed out race bib for that particular race. She pushed me around in a wheelchair all over Disney World property for over 12 miles, without complaint. She has always been there to help me when I needed it the most.
My Amazing Friend Sandra
Through my involvement in PHRC, I have met amazing and inspirational people from all over the world. I was able to serve as a lead admin for one of the subgroups before moving on to an overall admin type role to help with Direct Impact Projects for PHRC and the two other sister clubs under the Random Tuesday Inc. umbrella. In the nearly 5 years since its inception, PHRC has raised over $2million to various charity partners, walked/ran/biked/wheeled over 8 million miles, and donated the following through the Direct Impact Projects: 5,733 pounds of coffee were sent to the people of Puerto Rico, 17,814 scarves were and 81,611 were donated to the needy, and 1,770,430 bandages were donated to Noah’s Bandage Project. That is a whole lot of good done for a lot of people. One of the many things that I love about PHRC, other than their goal to change the world one mile at a time, is that the encourage everyone regardless of ability to participate in the races. They always say that it is your race at your pace, and for someone like me it was a perfect way to try and get moving more.
Since the accident there have been some incredibly trying days. I didn’t miss too much work because I want to try and work through the pain as best I could. In retrospect, there were several times that I went into the office where I probably shouldn’t have. I had great coworkers who would push me in a wheelchair from my desk and to the bathroom and wheel me out of the building to my Mom who was there to pick me up. On those bad days I could not walk, let alone dress myself or bath myself. During some of the exceptionally bad days, all I could do was scream from the pain and cry myself to sleep.
My Beautiful Mom
My Mom did everything for me from cutting my food up and feeding me to dressing and bathing me. She did this despite the health issues she was battling, and she sacrificed so much just to take care of me. I really don’t know how she did it. I spent a majority of 2017 in a wheelchair and lost a bit of muscle in my legs. Towards the end of the year, I was able to get a procedure done that numbed some of the nerves, and while it didn’t take care of all of the pain, it took enough away that I was able to function a little better. In January of 2018, the Lord pulled me in another direction and I took another risk and relocated to Florida for work, though this time I had some support already in place. My new company is an amazing place to work and I absolutely love the compassion and understanding they have for those with different abilities and mobility issues.
I finally felt like I could get walking again, and wanted to work back to the 12 minute/mile pace I had been at prior to the accident. I completed 2 5ks in April that were two days apart, and I was emotional after completing the 2nd one as I did it in memory of my maternal grandparents who were US Navy veterans. Sometime around June I got a crazy idea, and decided to register for the Disney Princess Challenge in addition to registering for the 5k that same weekend. I mostly wanted to get all the medals and cool shirts that came along with it. I wanted to improve my corral placement, so I also signed up for a timed 10k in November. The weekend before the 10k, I completed my first ever Disney race, the Fall Feast 5k, and had beat my 5k time from my two races in April. I had been training since June, but I was still nervous about that 10k because I had never been able to walk that distance in one go.
Race day came, and the nerves just went away as I was lining up. My main goal was to finish the race regardless of time, but I really wanted to finish in under 2 hours. The race started and I put my headphones on and started listening to my Christian workout playlist. About halfway through, I felt like sitting down and resting for a minute as the trail portions of the race were a bit more challenging than I had anticipated, but I kept on pushing not really aware of how long I had been out there. As I rounded the corner and the finish line was in sight, the tears started flowing. I had done it, and finished my first 10k. The best part was that I finished it in under 2 hours.
I truly felt proud of myself for surviving and battling so much, and to finish my longest race yet. I am so grateful and blessed to have the support of my amazing parents and friends. Though nervous about the Half marathon in 2019, I am looking forward to that weekend and crushing more goals. Even though I have felt like giving up on more than one occasion, when I thought about it, it wasn’t who I was and definitely wasn’t in my DNA. It was always about what was next. I couldn’t do a lot of the things in the same way I used to, but I found different ways to accomplish the same task. One of the many quotes I keep close to my heart is, “What lies before us, and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” Never give up and never give in.