When I was born with spina bifida, the doctors weren't sure I would even be able to sit up on my own. Fortunately, no one told me that. So I did sit up. Then I stood up, attached to a metal “stander”, with which I could swivel around. Then I began to walk with a walker, followed by braces and canes.
Ultimately, guess what? No, I didn’t run out of my braces across a field like Forrest Gump. Living in the real world, I in fact decided to sit back down again in a wheelchair, finding that the extra energy and independence it gave me trampled the lure of “convention” and walking. I had to learn at an early age, however, how to stand up for myself – in this case, by resolutely sitting down.
That matter settled, my physical achievements actually took off. Having started karate when I was five, with both fists now free to shatter boards, I discovered the true range of my strength – to the shock of many, including myself. In the last year of training for my black belt, I worked through months of pain from my shunt tube needing to be fixed, landing myself in the emergency department twice to seek relief, and finally talked my way into the operating room in the middle of the SARS outbreak for brain surgery. One month later, I tested for and earned my black belt at the age of 13. My second-degree black belt followed three years later, fortunately without quite as much drama.
My journey through those milestones and up to now, has spanned 30 years, seven neurosurgeries, two leg surgeries, several bowel and bladder surgeries and countless other invasive tests and interventions. (On the positive side, I rarely have a cold!)
All of which is simply to say that when it comes to dealing with teams of doctors, hospitals, medical procedures, pain and the psychological impacts of it all, I have been around the block. That experience, combined with my Masters of Social Work from Dalhousie University and a passionate desire to help others through their medical challenges, drove me to create Phoenix Attitude Inc. My fundamental goal is to take the perspective and lessons I've accumulated and wring them out to others’ benefit.
In my “spare time,” I have sat on the Board of Directors of the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of BC, have volunteered extensively with children with medical needs (and their families), am the innovator behind the healthcare sidekick app "Medical & Motivation", am a Rick Hansen Foundation ambassador - a fervent advocate of patient empowerment, also thought doing Tough Mudder was a good idea...I did it in 2016 and my ego's still bruised.
And this is what I've learned so far after...all of it: there is no substitute for the support and encouragement of those around you; deviation from the norm might uncover a better outcome; comparison is indeed the thief of joy; and YOU are the expert on your own life.