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How Amberly's Chronic Illness Changed Her Life

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

By Amberly | @amberlylagomotivation | March 16, 2018

“It’s a nerve disease. It’s serious. It’s very serious. And it’s incurable. Go home, get in your wheelchair, and stay there. You will be in terrible pain for the rest of your life. You’ll probably never function properly in society as a normal person. You’ll always be handicapped.”

On and on the doctor went, as if there was anything left to say—not that I was still listening. By the time I heard never I checked out.

Following my motorcycle accident in 2010, all I had done was push through the pain. I didn’t know what to do or think. I was a former professional dancer and had been in the fitness industry for over twenty years. I had learned from a very young age to push through the pain, to ignore it, to cowgirl up. For me, dealing with skeletal and muscular issues, such as torn ligaments and broken bones, was like dealing with a hangnail. But nerve pain is different. It’s the worst kind of pain and was not ever going away, so the doctors said. It would be with me every minute of the day for the rest of my life—the life I might apparently, want to end sooner rather than later, according to the CRPS’s sardonic nickname, the Suicide Disease. But I knew, even in my darkest moments, suicide was never an option for me.

At first I lived in denial and pretended nothing was wrong. Behind my smile, I was dying inside from physical and emotional pain. Everything I read about CRPS left me feeling hopeless. Still, I continued moving forward, despite the feeling of a vice grip on my foot and battery acid through my veins. I tried every kind of treatment for my pain, including a spinal stimulator, nerve blocks, ketamine infusions, Eastern and Western medicine, and anything that claimed it could bring me relief.

It wasn’t until I snapped out of my denial and accepted that I a woman with a disability, that I was able to accept what I call my new normal and show myself the self-love and self-compassion I needed to start to feel better.

How it changed my life...

Call it my stubbornness or my love of a good challenge, but I wanted, more than anything, to chase after my daughter like a mother should and be free to do the things that make my heart sing, like hiking, dancing, and exercise. Just because my body was “broken” on the outside, I was still the determined athlete on the inside. I learned to truly listen to my body and to be the healthiest I could be, despite my circumstances. We may not get to control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it. So, getting on with my life was a series of three steps up (to the degree the I could take steps) and six steps back, both physically and emotionally. Every one of my surgeries, that totaled 34, I viewed as bumps in the road. I couldn’t think of them as anything but that. If I had, I would have given up. And nothing, not even a doctor’s advice, could get me to do that. Although I love my doctors, and they saved my leg from amputation, I had to think for myself when it came to my own health and happiness.

At first I was so caught up I my past accomplishments that I couldn’t live fully in the present moment. I went from being a dancer, athlete, and fitness trainer to fighting just to stand upright for a few seconds at a time. I was so embarrassed of my scars and tried to pretend that nothing was wrong with me. Allowing others to see my scars crushed me. Slowly, however, my perspective changed and I took ownership of my story. I then viewed my scars as battles I had won. Instead of looking down at my leg in anguish, I looked at it as a blessing. I still had my legs. Once I embraced my imperfections and learned self-acceptance, I truly began to heal and be comfortable in my own skin.

I realized for the first time the importance of having purpose. I now needed my clients more than they needed me. I needed to get back to work. I needed to give my life purpose above and beyond learning to walk again. Purpose was what would save me mentally, psychologically, spiritually—and, for that matter, physically. Purpose was what would get me on my feet and, someday—or so I prayed—running again. Some days it was all I could do to sit up in my hospital bed situated in the middle of our living room. But all I needed was to hear my younger daughter’s voice in the morning and it was enough motivation for me to fight through the pain and get up for her. I wanted more than anything to be a good mom, no matter what, to my two daughters, and still somehow be a good wife to my husband.

Without the traumas and heartbreaks of life, I wouldn’t be able to serve the way I do now. It’s not about circumstances but about what you decide to do with them. I focus on what I am grateful for and don’t leave any room for self-pity. I make my purpose bigger than my problems. What I have learned in life is a series of choices we make regardless of our circumstances. I could either make the choice to give up and let my life be determined by my circumstances, or fight to create something positive out of my situation. My choice is to notice the gifts life offers, which are particularly plentiful when you look for them. I believe in seeing the good in every situation and learning something from it.

I believe we can have the life we always imagined, even if our circumstances have narrowed our possibilities. My sincere wish is that my story will inspire each reader claim their own power and belief in themselves and their dreams, and find their own resilience to move forward and choose a life filled with laughter and love, even when things don’t go as planned. We can’t choose what life throws our way, but we can choose to be happy and live a full life, despite our circumstances. Through our trials, we can embrace our challenges, connect to our innermost resilience, and change our perspective on life. We are all strong, but together we are unstoppable!

Amberly Lago is a speaker and the author of True Grit and Grace, Turning Tragedy Into Triumph.  By coming together, we can forge onward and find the strength to persevere.  Please connect with Amberly and receive daily inspiration on:

By Amberly Instagram: @amberlylagomotivation

Facebook: @amberlylagomotivation

Twitter: @amberlylagoPlease

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