After my successful stem cell harvest on December 12th, I spent the next two weeks feeling high as a kite. I went to Nagib’s Christmas Party dressed to the nine’s, connected with friends, discovered interesting restaurants, hosted friends at home and started new projects.
But recently, my body has been sending me a message: “Slow down!”, it seems to say. I wake up tired, every bone in my body hurting. I will myself to get out of bed. I wonder if life will be like this after my stem cell transplant. But, what keeps me going is my faith and stories like that of Janine Shepherd.
Janine Shepherd was a champion cross-country skier who overcame tremendous odds after an injury to find a way to live fully and fearlessly. Janine was training for the winter Olympics when she was hit by a truck and became a partial paraplegic. She was not expected to survive, let alone walk again. Janine’s hopes of being an athlete were gone. But she refused to believe what medical staff were telling her and instead she focused every effort on healing her broken body and crushed morale.
After spinal surgery and months in the hospital, she returned home in a wheelchair. A turning point came when she saw small planes flying overhead. In that moment, she decided: “If I can’t walk, I’ll fly.” So, in a full body cast, Janine was lifted into an aircraft for her first flight. Within a year, she had her private pilot’s license. She then earned her commercial pilot’s license and instructor’s rating. Janine also served on the board of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and became its youngest and first woman director.
I have not met Janine personally. She has, however, become my inspiration that anything is possible if you have faith and perseverance, that miracles do indeed happen and that the human spirit is not to be denied. Janine’s story is about the human potential for recovery and rejuvenation. It is about how you sometimes need to give up old dreams to make room for new dreams.
Today, Janine Shepherd is an author and speaker who travels all over the world sharing her story with others. She is also a mother of 3 children, which is a miracle, given that doctors had told her she would not be able to have children after her injury.
As I listened to Janine’s story, I learnt that we tend to define ourselves by things that are outside us: our work, our relationships, our credentials, yes, even our own bodies. But what would it mean to have your life drastically altered? Who would you be in your core? How would you find meaning and fulfillment in life? As Janine says, ‘It is only through the process of losing everything we thought we needed, that we find who we truly are.”
I understand the value of this statement as I battle cancer and find that I am asking myself these very questions. In the process, I am learning what matters most to me and I am making room for that in my life.
To listen to Janine tell her story, please click on the following link: