Competing means so much more to me than chasing medals or wins. I’ve been pushing boundaries since the day I took my first step. Growing up was not the easiest for me. I was in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices for most of my life. Doctors couldn’t understand why it was hard for me to stand, why I was walking with such an intense limp, and why I couldn’t walk without falling over. My parents and I went from doctor to doctor before finding one that could help figure out my diagnoses. My first diagnosis started with hip dysplasia when my hip socket wasn’t staying in place.
In my life, I’ve gone through fifteen surgeries and counting. From hip surgery, double knee surgery, multiple achilles tendon lengthening, bunion removals, to hammer toe surgery on all ten toes. On top of all of these surgeries, I had gone through several different ordeals that included a full body cast, pins and needles, ongoing spasms, ankle foot orthotics to assist my walk, numerous hospital stays during Christmas, and physical therapy since the age of one. I was born with hip dysplasia, which means that my hip socket is not in the correct position to completely cover and support the femoral head. I had surgery when I was a toddler where they took a pie shaped piece of my pelvic bone and wedged it into the socket to close and lock in the femur bone. My femur bone is locked into the socket now, but due to bone growth it has made my hip extremely stiff, making walking and standing for long periods of time difficult. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Spastic Diplegia, which is a form of Cerebral Palsy (CP).
Cerebral Palsy is a loss or impairment of motor function, which is actually caused by brain damage. It affects my body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex, posture, and balance. What that means is it’s ten times harder for me to walk from place to place compared to an able-bodied person. That is why staying active is such an important part of my life, because it keeps me strong and mobile to get around let alone continue to compete in sports.
My whole life, I was raised no differently than anyone else. I didn’t want – and still don’t want – to be treated any differently because of my disability. I was as active, if not more active, than most people in my life and I’ve always competed against and with able-bodied athletes. I started playing softball at the age of nine years old and continued playing in high school until I tore both of my achilles tendons. Since then, I’ve participated in dozens of athletic competitions, raised money for charitable causes, and have trained with some of the world’s best athletes at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
I set goals and I do everything I can to accomplish them. A few years ago, I had a dream to compete in a triathlon. I thought it wouldn’t be possible because I’m not able to run. I made the “impossible” possible and completed my first full triathlon with my race chair for the run section. I left it all on the start line that morning and gave it my all. I do things beyond normal pain thresholds that others wouldn’t even consider moving at because if I don’t, I won’t have a life.
The truth is you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different. I’ve always dreamed of competing in the Olympics. I thought my dreams were pretty impossible to accomplish due to my challenges, but then I learned about the Paralympics, which completely changed my perspective.
I have a chance and opportunity to compete on the world stage for the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games. It won’t come easy and there is a long way to go, but I want to represent my country and be the best possible para-athlete I have the ability of becoming. Inspiring others means the absolute world to me and is one of the main reasons why I want to compete at the highest level possible. This is only the beginning!