I first stepped on the ice at age 4. I had just watched Oksana Baiul win the Olympic gold medal and found what would be my life’s greatest passion and first love. Skating was always my rock. Through a rough and rocky family history, bad health and anxiety, and days when I felt I couldn’t cope, when I stepped on that ice all of my problems melted away – it was just me, and the ice. I have never felt freer, more confident, and happier than when I am on the ice. I was never a fantastic competitor, but I was in it for the training – I loved pushing myself and found that the rhythm of training kept me balanced and clear headed.
Three years ago, at age 23, my life came to a screeching halt. The back and hip pain I had suffered through for nearly a decade was becoming increasingly worse, so I finally went to see a spine specialist. They told me that I had permanent damage, two stress fractures leading to something called Spondylolisthesis.
I stopped training and began a series of intensive physical therapy and treatment. By the end of the summer, I hadn’t seen much improvement. Over the course of the next year, my health declined rapidly. I didn’t know then that my body was extremely ill and a disease that had been growing silently for years was coming alive.
After a year of chronic pain and illness and many doctor visits, I was diagnosed with chronic neurological Lyme disease and three other tick-borne illnesses, and began the long and tiring treatment road to remission. These deadly bacteria were running rampant in my body, uncontrolled and unchecked, for over a decade.
The treatment is scary. Your body is filled with high doses of antibiotics for a long time (years). You look in the mirror and see a similar face you’ve been staring back at forever, but you no longer have any idea who this person is, but it certainly isn’t you. You become Lyme disease and your life does too.
According to my doctor, I hadn’t seen symptoms or gotten sick earlier because the ice had been breathing life into me. Being on the ice kept my body going and prevented the disease from taking over sooner than it did. During this whole experience, I had a very strange but strong feeling that I had to get back on the ice. It was a matter of survival. This was physical, and visceral, and violent. And something physical was going to have to take it back. I knew that getting back on the ice wouldn’t literally heal me physically, but it could heal my spirit.
At this point, I had been off the ice for almost three years. And when I finally did, I realized just how much my physical health and stamina had been diminished. Rotating jumps used to be easy for me, in fact I was the queen of over-rotating, and now just a few laps around the rink and I would need to rest for 15 or so minutes before going again. But I learned that it didn’t matter if I couldn’t jump or didn’t have the stamina to skate to a song or if my balance was so bad that I could hardly do beginner spins. I had the ice back and I wasn’t going to let it go again. Just being out there, for five minutes, was all I needed to continue the fight.
Since that first step back on the ice after a three-year hiatus, it has been my goal to skate once a week. I have managed to work up to about an hour or so, with many small breaks, and have even managed to work on some spins, in the midst of my treatment. I am used to falling and getting up is just the next step.