If you haven't been following Monica's story, here's some quick background, as well as three blog links to her tragic, yet so inspiring, story. I wrote a blog in November of 2011, after Monica completed her first IronMan Triathlon, comparing her struggles and hard work to the obstacles many of us here at SparkPeople have to overcome in our journey to health. She was so gracious in allowing us a glimpse into her thoughts as she achieved this amazing milestone. www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
Sadly, I had to write a blog about Monica in mid-October of 2012 telling you how she had been struck by a vehicle on her bike while training for her second IronMan event. Monica's spinal cord was severed. Surgery had to be performed. Having lost her job just before the accident, a donation site was set up to help offset some of the astronomical medical costs. www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
In late October I wrote a blog talking about how people came together to help with fundraising bike rides and events, personal support, visits, and meals for Monica and family. I wrote about how determined Monica was. On October 25th (remember this date later on in the blog) she said, "This is just a temporary setback. I'm going to do another IronMan. I have to crawl before I can run". She said this DESPITE the fact the doctors gave her a less than 1% chance of walking again. In that blog there is a link to the 4 minute news report on Monica. At the end of the interview she stunned and elated many of us by showing how she could move one foot a little. http://www.sparkpeople.com/myp
I urge you to read all three blogs and look at all of the pictures and the video before reading any further. I want you to have a sense of the kind of woman she is, the type of spirit and determination she possesses, and the physical and mental beauty that is Monica. During her time in the hospital she began rehabilitation. I love this picture of her flexing her muscles in the hospital!
Monica spent a month in the hospital. Once home, she had to adjust to life in a wheelchair and the obstacles and difficulties this presented. Can you imagine the frustration this would cause anyone, let alone an athlete who ran, swam and biked, and worked out at competitive levels? During this time she has gone to rehab classes, worked out at home, struggled, fought, and worked like the athlete she is to get stronger, better, and more able. Here are some pictures of her in action.
This was on November 10th when she posted, "Look @ me...Already back on the bike!"
On December 21st Monica posted, "Super proud of this post: Today was the first time post accident I swam, I swam! "Sink or swim baby!"
One picture I really cherish is Monica in late November, rolling her heart out in her wheelchair as she participates in the first annual 5K Run, Walk, Roll-a-Thon. You can see the joy in her face from being active and moving across that finish line. Bear in mind that this is just about 6 weeks after the accident!
So many people have shown love and support for Monica. Swim teams, Running teams, Biking groups...KIDS! On December 10th, Monica posted on facebook: "I have my own soccer Team Now, wahoo!! U14 Indoor, Team Monica! Loved loved loved seeing the Boys play hard! They won first game too! " Other teams, from high school athletic teams to swim teams have gotten behind Monica to show their support of her.
On December 14th, Monica posted a picture of her doing her exercises. She posted on facebook: "You gotta learn how to crawl before You can Walk!" ....yayy for me! My motivation for another great workout today!
Monica's accident, though so horribly tragic, has served to promote awareness of bike safety and paying attention to bikers on the road in a huge way. On December 19th she was in attendance as Police Chief William McManus and Mayor Julian Castro held a press conference in which it was proclaimed that San Antonio WILL be bike safe. Patrols are enforcing safe driving laws regarding proper distance and respect for bike riders now more than ever before. Here are a few pictures from that press conference:
On a personal note, if you have followed my blog for any time at all, you know that I, along with a number of other San Antonio Spark team members, trained all through 2012 to walk a Half Marathon. We named it the 13.1 Half Sparkathon. Our goal was to push ourselves, many of us with disabilities ranging from just being overweight to being truly obese, mobility issues, back problems, arthritis, breathing difficulties, or just being out of shape. For me, it was all of the above. I'm quite obese and have a plethora of health issues. It was a real struggle for me to train and at times I wasn't sure I could do it at all. I had so many setbacks. I had so many procedures on my back. I had stress fractures in my foot. Through it all I kept Monica in my mind. I thought often of her and how she, a true athlete of incredible measure, was faced with the struggle of a lifetime. I thought of how she was facing it with so much determination and faith that she would overcome. I used her spirit and grit as a motivation to get me through. On January 12th, I achieved my goal. It was the most physically difficult day of my life. The last four miles I was dizzy, sick, in pain, and trying to not faint. I started thinking of the people I walked and trained with, how they struggled, overcame, and pushed through. I thought of Monica and how much she had overcome and how she was working harder than ever in her life to regain what was taken from her, even though the odds of her complete recovery were enormous. I kept this image of her running in my mind:
Here's me finishing with my wonderful husband Charles and some of my family who joined in on the last miles to cheer me on. My triumph is tiny next to all Monica has achieved and is doing, but it is MINE and I am so proud of doing it. Being inspired by Monica kept me moving!
Here's the link to my blog about the Half Sparkathon event day: www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
Now let's move on to the best part of this blog - Monica's big news!
Monica has continued to make progress in her rehabilitation. These two videos from January 21st show Monica working with her therapist and moving (Yes, MOVING!) her legs. I would like you to watch her face in the video where she is laying on her side, pulling her leg back and up. See the determination, pain, and exhausting effort she puts into her workouts. You will need to click on the pictures to start the videos.
Her hard work and determination is paying off. Totally ignoring the original diagnosis of not being able to walk again, she has thrown herself 100% into getting out of that wheelchair. On January 23rd she posted, "Praising God....found out in PT today that I am getting fitted for braces to start learning how to walk again! Hopefully wont need that wheelchair much longer!!!" When I saw the videos for the first time, I cried. When I read her post, I cried. If anything ever motivated anyone to stop thinking that their dreams were not reachable, Monica's story should. If anyone needs further convincing that obstacles can be shoved out of the way when you want something enough, when the goal is important enough, check out the pictures from yesterday, January 25th. Three months to the day from when Monica said (remember at the beginning of this blog?) "This is just a temporary setback. I'm going to do another IronMan. I have to crawl before I can run", Monica - our Monica of the IronMan determination, took her first steps!
Monica WILL walk again. She had less than a 1% chance. She shoved that 99.9 % certainty the doctors had of her being confined to a wheelchair out of her line of vision. The next time you think or are 99% sure that you will never lose the weight, never run a 5K, never walk two miles, never do a push up, never get through 30 minutes of cardio, never achieve a dream you have, never accomplish something huge in your life - throw that thought out of your line of vision and focus on the goal, not the obstacles. Think about Monica. Think about how much harder what you want to do would be if you added in HER obstacles. Think about how much easier you have it and reach deep into your wellspring of determination and do what Monica did. Ignore the certainties of others and go for the 1%.
Monica's story is a long way from being over. Stay tuned and prepare to be further amazed. Be like Monica. Never give up, Never give in. I leave you with a beautiful picture of Monica and Erwin Caban at the Hispanic Chamber Gala last night here in San Antonio. As always, I love you all.