No one survives life’s toughest challenges alone. Sometimes we have our family, friends and medical professionals by our side to help us. And sometimes, the most important thing we can do is learn from other stories of survival. When we meet people who have not only experienced something similar but actually came through it better and stronger, it provides hope and inspiration. We invite you to Share Your Story of “Surviving & Thriving.” Your words could be just the thing someone needs to keep moving forward. Share the gift of hope.
As told by Elaine Krugman:
“…[B]elieving in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations.”
It was only the end of a sentence in a movie review of “The Little Princess,” written by Karla Peterson; however, those words jumped off the newspaper page and stuck in my head.
When the review appeared in a 1995 edition of The San Diego Union-Tribune, I was experiencing yet another setback from a physical injury, something that happened often to my genetically inferior body. (Thanks, Dad.) Feeling down after each injury, I often asked myself, “What next?” It was becoming an all too familiar situation for me.
I soon realized it was time to take Karla Peterson’s words to heart. Why let my limitations bury me? Why live by my limitations? Instead, it was time to pick myself up and find ways to work around my physical roadblocks so I could achieve what I wanted out of life.
“Believing in your dreams can be far more rewarding than living by your limitations” were the words I wrote on my desk calendar every month so I would see them whenever I sat down at my desk. They became the words I lived by.
At no time did those words become more meaningful than when I experienced my worst injury of all, which was in 2002: Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a work-related repetitive stress injury. It was so bad that my arms were practically useless, due to the nerves and veins being compressed at the thoracic outlet. My strength was practically gone; I could not even hold my arm up to comb my hair.
Attempts at physical therapy were failures; rehabilitation was no longer possible. It got to the point I was experiencing serious nerve damage that would leave me paralyzed, so I had no choice but to undergo a very serious operation, one that ended up taking 4 ½ hours to complete.
I had asked my surgeon if I would ever be able to swim again, and he said I would, as long as the operation was a success. This became my motivation to make it successfully through the operation and recovery. It was sink or swim time, and I was going to swim.
Upon awakening from anesthesia, I could imagine no feeling of relief greater than seeing Dr. Braun’s smiling face. The surgery was a success, and he squeezed my hand as I thanked him. It was at this very moment I decided never to live by my limitations ever again.
Believing in my dreams has been so much more rewarding than living by my limitations. Those limitations keep accumulating as I grow older, but I always manage to find a way around them.
What started as a timid and careful return to the pool for fitness swimming has grown into life as a U.S. Masters Swimming competitor, complete with trips to national swim meets from Alabama to Arizona and North Carolina to California.
The rewards for my dreams have been many. Not only have I won trophies and medals, I have far exceeded every expectation Dr. Braun had for my recovery. When I wrote him a letter of thanks and to tell him about my swimming, he responded in part, “You are swimming 3,000 yards each day? I don’t even walk 3,000 yards. If I want to go 3,000 yards, I get in my car!”
I have seen Dr. Braun twice while visiting San Diego. The second time, he couldn’t wait to show me the Senior Olympics medal I had sent him, now proudly displayed in his office. I have become his success story for the surgery technique he pioneered, and he was my ticket to having the opportunity to believe realistically in my dream.
My body has experienced plenty more injuries since my surgery; however, I never let them get me down for long. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and I read those words daily to remind myself that believing in my dreams is more rewarding than living by my limitations.