Life is a Marathon

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on September 29, 2015 # Advocacy and Policy

People with SCI have so much more than a damaged spinal cord to take care of. We must tend to all the organs of our internal body as well as our external body and then there is the equipment we need to be mobile in our communities that often lack simple physic.al access for our wheelchairs. Our lives can at times feel so complicated, vast, yet alone and confusing so that we find ourselves overwhelmed and then isolated.

During this month of Spinal Cord Injury, SCI, Awareness, there has been much information on the Reeve website and beyond this site to guide us, support us and connect us so that we can live fully capable and connected in a world that doesn't yet embrace fully all people with disabilities. By staying engaged with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation community much of what feels like an unbearable burden is lifted.

This Reeve Foundation community didn't exist nor did the American's with Disabilities Act, ADA, the civil rights law for people with disabilities when my SCI occurred in 1975. As I said in a past blog, “I was dangling without hope for a stretch of time following my SCI.” The only people I knew with a SCI were the six battered humans who slept with me in the same huge, long room for four of the six months I was in the rehabilitation hospital and once released from those confines, we went our separate ways, separately.

It was only eighteen months later when I rolled on to the Long Beach State University campus during the late 70's that I found “my people” in the disabled students services lounge, that I had hope for community connections. They were there MacGyver-ing their dreams from entirely different directions without feeling the dreams had been downgraded or gone altogether.

Adaptations were the order of the day for my people, my new and needed community, and some of the greatest adaptations were happening in the area of sports. The words of Carl Jung, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become,” come to mind as I think back on those beginning days of my wheelchair racing career, and precisely my marathon career and my tribe.

The power of play and sport brought me dreams I didn't dream before my SCI, and it brought me a community with a purpose. I say dreams I never dreamed because I wasn't an athlete before the SCI and secondly there was a purpose now, to make a space for us, people using wheelchairs for daily mobility and sport, to expand back into society.

The non-disabled running community wasn't sure what to do when a group of people using wheelchairs showed up in those early days to the start line of a road race, but they were open to suggestion and we were willing to show them the way to include us. We all, the runners with and without disabilities, had to be brave, bold and adaptable to make through the 26.2 miles to the finish line.

I made a choice after my first marathon that this is where I felt I could excel at a sport and in my purpose of showing that no matter what happens in our lives we always have an option. My purpose was defined in those 26.2 miles of 112 marathon finishes and 84 wins. I learned along those miles that none of us are alone in our quests and that a community makes us stronger, braver, bolder and capable. I also understood that what happens along those miles will change me and that I must keep an open mind for creativity to enter, offering me solutions to keep moving forward.

I see my life as a marathon, it's a long run and I have to stay in it to win it. And to stay in it, means sticking with the idea that I am connected to a community, always connected, always supported, always adapting and always contributing to a community. And that's what I cherish about the sports I have been a part of and the Reeve Foundation is that I'm connected, have a part to play and it's fun.

Blessings to All, In Joy Candace

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