Get on with it: part two

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on July 19, 2017 # Mobility

So, there I was, flat on my back on a bed, blinking to focus my eyes through a searing bright light, when my eyes locked on someone staring at me. But my attention was consumed by my legs, were they floating 3 inches off the bed? And a painful buzzy, achy, tingling in my legs was irritating me.

“Candace, Candace can you hear me? Do you know where you are?”

Eyes closed, I was remembering; I saw the road rise up in the dark, the Jeep tilt, then flip and I was falling, simultaneously I opened my eyes and sucked my breath in.

Doctor: “ Relax, take a deep breathe Candace, can you feel this?”

I’m thinking what is he talking about, I didn’t feel anything?? I tilted my head forward to see my body and I saw he was touching my feet.

Doctor: “Candace, can you wiggle your toes for me?”

Impatiently I wiggled my toes, as I watched, my toes aren’t wiggling.

Doctor: Try again

Nothing, except that achy buzz.

Doctor: “Candace, you’ve had a bad accident, the x-ray shows a crushed vertebra” you’ve broken your back and damaged spinal cord, you’re legs are paralyzed.”

Now that sent me over my edge, without hesitation I said “broken back, broken leg, put a cast on it, it should be fine in 6 weeks; I gotta get out of here, I have a job to get back to.”

Doctor: “You don’t understand….”

NO! I shouted this and before he could speak, I said, “you don’t understand, I have a life to get back to!”

And that’s when, unconsciously, consciously or all of the above, I checked out, not of the hospital of course I couldn’t even sit up, but I checked out of what was happening in my life in that moment.

One week, two weeks, a surgery and 3 months lying in that bed in South Lake Tahoe. Daily I would look out a floor to ceiling window at the grass I couldn’t feel my toes in or the hills I couldn’t climb. Family and friends came daily.

After 3 months, I was shipped to an LA Rehabilitation hospital and I smiled and did what I was told. I learned how to get dressed, bathe, just think of all the stages a baby to toddler to child goes through, well, that was my path.

Truly, all I wanted to do there was sleep until I was back in time 60 seconds before I got into that Jeep so I could flip this script and wake up to what I was before that 1 minute. The physical pain coupled with my self-loathing, loneliness and separation pain in my brain, heart and mind isolated me. I immersed myself in anything I could to make that pain go-a-way. I didn’t want to go forward, but those 18 months are a story for another time.

So how did I wake up? One day I said, “I don’t want to do this any more, I need help.” I got help from my family and I went through more than a few psychologists after many hours on a couch learning I could, with some skills, redefine who I wanted to be.

My greatest struggle was, then, and can still be at times, learning to be Ok with what is happening right now, I call this "Being OK with What Is.” It sounds like a tongue twister but the truth of it for me is, giving up what I think I want an experience to be and surrendering to what is happening and learning to go with the flow.

Once I had some life coping skills, I connected with people like me, those wheeling around, we hung out and I began to feel connected to the world. I was finding joy in living, again. Those shared experiences and just wanting to hang out with my friends, gave me confidence to try my first sport. I discovered I was a natural athlete, who knew.

These two things, developing life coping skills and socializing were the massive pieces of what steered me to and formed my sports and athletic career. My athletic career gave me so much, the ability, through seeking, repetition, practice, failing and succeeding to accept but even more then that, it’s embrace what is, in the moment and go with it to see and feel where it takes me.

The people I’ve met because of my athletics platform helped me find my place in the world and shine. I’ve learned I’m a teacher of possibility and maybe even hope. I’ve rebuilt a life I love, I want to be awake for and get on with it.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.