Christopher Johnson McCandless a.k.a Alexander Supertramp:
“I read somewhere, how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once.”
For the longest time I framed my existence around the world of sports. From the tender age of five kicking a soccer ball, to the day I hit the trails with my high school cross-country team or lifting weights for hours on end just so I can throw just an inch further in javelin, I became addicted to testing my limitations. And for the most part I would conquer them and exceed past those barriers.
It’s the wildest feeling when you can run over 10 miles under 7:30 pace and not even break a sweat, the days I felt immortal. And for the longest time I felt unstoppable, until three years ago I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
After that, the only thing challenging thing I faced was not passing out from the incision of needles that extracted my blood into several test tubes to check the levels of my arthritis. I was 50/50 with that ordeal.
Until this fall, I was in denial of being unable to compete in one of my greatest passions, running. However, the arthritis attacked my lower extremities, especially my knees making it almost physically impossible to compete. The pain I could handle, it was the notion of not participating to my full potential that was heart-breaking. I had this impression I was cheating my teammates out of giving them my all, and with this it drove me nearly insane and desperate to get back on the crimson oval track and to hear the pop of the starting gun again, to prove my worthiness to a team.
Because my body would become fatigue and fragile to the regular workouts at practice, I went to my Athletic Trainers nearly 3 to 4 hours of my day doing intensive rehab and workouts. Every season for the past three years, I would convince myself, “Okay Migre, this is it. You’re gunna run again.” Yet a new complication would rise and set me back.
And when I was unable to compete I made the solid effort to at least keep trying, and to go to all my teams track meets, because I knew I owe it to my teammates that even though I can’t compete, I can support them. I took the role of being a support system and mentor for them. And this was shortly recognized after my own teammates, the one I thought I was failing, elected me co-captain of The UMass Dartmouth Track and Field Team.
UMASS DARTMOUTH WOMEN’S TRACK AND FIELD 2010-2O11
Ignoring my Athletic Trainers and families wishes, I underwent a serious of cortisone shots in my knees and hip to relief pain. That back-fired. The cortisone shots in my knee actually weakened my ligaments from not being able to rehab, affecting my LCL (Lateral collateral ligament) which goes from the top part of the fibula to the outside of the lower thigh bone. Now when I run, jump or do workouts for javelin, my fibula head shifts and dislocates. I have dealt with this for over a year and half now, and a month ago, it took one sharp corner on the track to make me realize it’s time to hang up the spikes.
It was a bittersweet moment that realization. I don’t consider that I was defeated, none whatsoever, if anything living with RA as an athlete has made me stronger and is a growing experience. I may not be able to put in the mileage or lift an absurd amount of weights (HOWEVER, AS OF RIGHT NOW I AM ABLE TO COMPETE IN JAVELIN), but I captured a new meaning of strength. And that’s being a reliable and supporting teammate. My strength is measured by the content of my character and through leadership, and that’s one thing I REFUSE to let RA strip me away of.