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E06: "If I Can, You Can Too" ft. Vanessa Cantu

December 9th 2019

On this episode, Vanessa Cantu joins us from Grand Prairie, Texas. She was the runner up for 2018’s Fittest Seated Female in Crossfit, recently competed in Wodapalooza 2019, all while recovering fr... More

this is disabled girls who lift. We are reclaiming what's rightfully ours one podcast at a time, it's mary Beth Chloe and Marcia bringing you the thoughts and unpopular topics to get you out of that a bliss comfort zone. Mhm Good morning, Good morning. Welcome back to our show. You've supported us so much by listening to our raw truths, unique stories and unapologetic language helped us spread the message of existence and for that we appreciate you on this episode. We'll discuss spinal cord injury awareness and activism, the adaptive training, foundation and adaptive crossfit for wheelchair users. We've got just one disabled girls who lift host joining us today. That's me mary Beth from sunny but currently cold in rainy California. But we have a guest, a lovely guest joining me today from Grand Prairie Texas.

She was the runner up for 2018, fittest seated female in Crossfit recently competed in water pollution, 2019, all while recovering from eight abdominal surgeries and a spinal cord injury. She started the disabled truth podcast, which I absolutely love. Vanessa Cantu is a mother to a beautiful daughter and overall an unstoppable horse. Vanessa, thank you for joining us. Of course, I'm excited. I'm excited. I'm just hoping we can fit it all into one episode, there's so much to impact when it comes to see awareness, wheelchair users in differently abled athletes as everyone's story is unique. They're healing and coping processes differ. The active recovery and physical therapy, you know, getting your normal life back and making those goals for yourself. Whether it means getting into sports dancing, what playing an instrument or going outside. Well tell us a little more about yourself. Okay, awesome. So my story, my story starts back at 15 years old, which is in 1998.

So if you remember what being a teenager is, like, it's all about, you know, figuring out who you are feeling yourself, starting to really just get to know yourself. And so, um, but you're also very, very, a lot of this comes from like your friendships and what you're involved in that helps right figure all this out. And so it's a really prime crucial age, very sensitive age as a teenager. And so Being 15, I was involved in, you know, all sports. I came from a, I was in a little bit of high school. Um, but I did have a very active childhood and a very active parents and so like moving around and doing things like we were never the type to just sit at home and watch TV really. And so, um, easter sunday, 1998 my mom and my step dad will leave my grandma's house and it's my stepdad driving, my mom's in the passenger seat, I'm sitting behind the driver's seat and my little sister who's three years younger than me is with me in the car also and she's, you know, sitting right next to me in the back seat and my stepdad does what we all do every single day, which is, he leaned over to tell my mom something and took the wheel with him without realizing that he was doing that.

And so we're on a highway, like a back highway. It wasn't like a main highway, but it was a back highway to where um, when he took the wheel with him, we got off of the highway, went into like some grass and he was going to try and auto correct and get back on the highway, but he didn't see a big ditch. And so um we basically went ahead on into this ditch and just came to a complete stop and very quickly and alert throughout the entire thing and my seatbelt didn't work basically. Um I had a defective seat belt, the lap part locked and the shoulder part did not lock. So if you know, every time you break in a car, you know how you can feel your shoulder part? Yeah, mine never held the tug, it was just loose and so on impact, I hit the seat in front of me and that force of hitting the sit in front of me basically, The only part that helped me in was the lap belt and that caused all of my injuries because the lap belt pushed such a force into my abdominal stomach ruptured all of my internal organs and then nothing in my back on my back fractured because nothing supported my spine from the shoulder part.

So on impact, it basically felt like I was drowning in a swimming pool, just trying to catch my breath and I couldn't because I was bleeding internally. And so right then, and there was like, lights out in a matter of like, I don't know the real lifetime, but for me, it felt like, you know, minutes of just like, I can't breathe, I can't breathe and then I wake up two months later and so it's almost like, okay, well, this is what death feels like if you don't, you're not like worrying about your family, you're not worrying about anything else. Like, you're not even thinking about how much pain you're in. It just, it happens so quickly. And, and so from that moment, everything else that happened from that moment on, I was basically told to me by family. I know care flight picked me up and saved my life twice. I died twice because of all the internal blood loss. And so, um, once I actually got to the hospital, they did emergency surgery, removed my intestines, my kidney, my spleen, a large part of intestines.

And then I had a colostomy bag for a while and then my spinal cord injury was like, secondary to everything. So I like completely paralyzed, uh, and an induced coma. So I wouldn't move because, you know, spinal cord injuries, they don't ever want to move you while your back is still not stable, right? They need to make sure that your spine has either had appropriate surgery or whatever they need to do, but you don't move somebody right after an accident that has a potential spinal cord injury. So for me it was like a month of not moving in a hospital bed until my stomach was well enough to where they could do an eight hour surgery on my stomach to do my back. And so it was like um after a month of recovering from my stomach to get well enough, it was like okay now let's fuse your spine. So it was major surgeries just back to back the first couple of months and then the recovery process actually started and that's where the reality kind of hit home of like okay, like I have no idea what just happened.

I have no idea what I'm even dealing with right now and this sucks and none of my family really knew how to take it either. So it was not good right? Well. And not only that like being the only one to suffer from such a major injury from an accident that you all were in, that must have been hard for your, for your family too. It tears your family apart. I'm actually more passionate and there's not a lot of research or anything out there when it comes to how the family copes and how my siblings cope if you look at research or you do anything. Um It's all on the person that's been disabled. And so I learned so much from how much my family fell apart after the accident, that I pursued my bachelor's and my master's in sociology and Psychology and my focus of research and my studies were on the family dynamics and what happens to the family really with a focus on the siblings when something like this happens. And so um that's my passion and my love.

But I learned so much on my own and I just felt so bad for my sisters that lost a large quality of their own life because of what you know, I was dealing with. Yeah, well, I mean it's still amazing that you're able to think of it from the other perspective, but still the amount that you've had, you know, go through in the last, how many years now? How long have you been? So what? That was in 98, I've been disabled longer now than I was walking, which to me was crazy. So I think it's been 20 years 21, I have to think about it. But yeah, I know it's been about 20 years family. Eight. Yeah. So it um I didn't actually start accepting everything until Five years ago, six years ago when I turned 30. So from 15 to 30, was a lost cause. And um because I hadn't accepted what happened to me, I hated who I was, I had no self esteem, I was heavily involved in drug use. Um at the age of like 16, started using heavy drugs Until 30 years old until I got pregnant and that's when I was forced to sober up once I finally had to be sober, I was like okay now I have to deal and except that this is not really going to change ever, you know?

And so like now it was like how strong can you be in this body that you now have and it's not gonna change, you know? And so that that hit hard for me when I got pregnant, but that was when I learned a lot of cool new life lessons that I wish I would have learned way early on. It's just what we have now with this podcast wasn't around and you know, social media wasn't around where I could go and google and be like, you know what's out there now? Like I felt all alone and like who else is going through this ship? There's so many people out there but we couldn't right, it's not They're not in our backyard, we were always the only one in our classroom and you were 15, you know, like going back to middle school high school, that's that's tough after recovery. And so you were in the hospital for a few months and then did you also take some time off to go through physical therapy that became like second nature physical therapy.

So that just right after I went back to school, So my accent was in april. So I was out you know all of the summer which kind of worked out perfectly as far as school is concerned. And I know I went back in august probably or sometimes the following year as a sophomore but it was very different because um I was going back in a wheelchair. I was trying to walk in a walker with like literally leg braces at forrest gump or so like I couldn't I couldn't bend my knees. I just walked like swing my hips around somehow how to figure out how to carry my books, how to do everything. Luckily I went to a really small high school when I say small like my high school was one hallway and I had 25 people in my class. So it was very small. Which was very fortunate for me because you know I didn't have that many people that have to worry about 25 people was it? Um Everybody knew everything about you and they had never had a disabled person in that school setting ever. And that school setting had been there forever.

So a. D. A. Had to come in and make it compliant so I could just get into the gym so I could get into the bathroom in a wheelchair because nothing was accessible for me. It was it was really really tough. And so that school became a d a compliant as a result. But um a lot of people learn lessons as well as myself. So yes, I would go to school and then when I would get out, I used to do softball practice and golf, you know, whatever with my girlfriends while it was like, now you got to drive to go to physical therapy and I I hated it, you know, So I was now not able to do what my friends are doing and they try to keep me involved there. Like you can still be our water girl and you can still be here and they're like, I don't know, I can't if I can't play and do the things that you want to do and and it makes me really jealous that y'all can still run and I can't, I don't want to even be around and I wasn't and that's where I took a real hard left turn because I was around people that didn't do sports that weren't doing anything with their lives and I was like, I can kind of connect with y'all, you know what I mean?

Because you're, you're just chilling not, you know, partying and I was like, I can I can still party. So like I started to do that, but I was going to physical therapy all through high school, they were trying to get me to start walking again and get out of my chair and I mean, I always had friends and somebody with me by my side, I was never by myself, but that was, you know, I didn't want to do it by myself. It was it sucks. Yeah. And just a disclaimer for any like able bodied folks listening to what people often don't realize is wheelchair users don't always use wheelchairs. So a lot of people with cFS, chronic fatigue syndrome or spinal cord injuries either um use wheelchairs for a good majority of their day and then either walk or use prosthetics, leg braces, other orthotics. But if you see them standing or you know, not in a wheelchair, that's completely normal, you know what it is? And that's, I'm glad you brought that up because there's such there's when you have a spinal cord injury, no spinal cord injury is the same.

So either have a complete paralysis where nerves, you know, your spine is completely broke, is broken, I guess you could say. So disconnection, complete disconnect and partial paralysis is you still have some connections that are being made through the nerves, so I was incomplete, so there's complete and incomplete. And so when you see somebody that is getting out of their chair and walking with leg braces, or crutches or a cane or a limp, it's because they're an incomplete. And so just because you can walk for a little bit doesn't mean that you can walk all the time, You know, it's just you kind of do what works best for you. So I'm glad you brought that up. Yeah, totally. I feel like it's necessary. Um so has it been the last six years since your activism and advocacy and in getting people more aware of S. C. I. Or what what what has that entailed? So my remember I said my sister was in a car accident with me right?

And so she didn't acquire any severe injuries but she saw everything kind of going on. So she was like that on the outside looking in and so um she pursued her education. She wanted to be a physical therapist as a result of everything, but she um no okay. Say hi hi. Okay. Second guessed right. Isabella let me finish this. Okay. And then I'll come out and help you go watch tv. So my sister sit if you're gonna sit seriously. My sister was in the acting with me. She pursued um to become a recreational therapist as opposed to a physical therapist. And when she went to school she was all about helping people with disabilities and got really involved in that. And she had buried my brother in law who was in a wheelchair, they got married, she met him through like wheelchair rugby. And my sister, he owned a crossfit gym in spring texas.

One of the first ones to actually not only co own a crossfit gym, but he also was one of the first ones that was bringing in people in wheelchairs to train. I hadn't really ever heard of that, but this is how the connection started. And so um, I remember there was a crossfit competition, let's see about 56 years ago. And um they, they thought I was Krystal Cantu, they mistaken me for Krystal Cantu, which happens. And so they contacted me different disabilities by the way. Right. Exactly, completely different. Same last name, you know, most hispanic from the valley. But no, and so they were like, hey, can we interview you? You know, we have this competition coming up and I was like, well you have the wrong person, but I would love to do a competition. Would you like to know about me? And yeah, I told him like, you know, I introduced myself and I really had no idea what this competition was about, but it was a crossfit competition.

My sister, my brother in law kind of encouraged me to pursue it. And so I hadn't even started doing crossfit yet. I just signed up for the competition and I was like, well, I guess this is my time to like start training. So I trained for a few months and it was a real reality check for me because at this competition was when my whole world changed. Um it was here in the Dallas area. And at that competition I met Krystal Cantu, Kendra bailey, Zach rural chris Stoltenberg, all of them, you know? And at this one competition and this was like one of the first crossfit adaptive crossfit competitions. And so uh, this is where I met all of them. This is where I realized like the sports really hard, but I really want to do more because it was the first time I had seen young people with disabilities that looked hella strong, that we're doing incredible stuff and I was like, dude, I can do this, like I can relate to these people finally right.

And so that's when everything changed for me. And I was like, okay, I'm gonna do this also. And at that time that's when will watt had just started about a year after that. The study was talking about well about at that time and then created it shortly after, that's also where I met David bora with a T. F. Um he came to check out the competition, introduced himself to me. And so simultaneously both of those things happened for me at the same time at that competition by taking myself out of a comfort zone, not even realizing I was getting into this is what it takes. And so I just went all for it. So I met up with David a week later. He, we, you know, started working out with him, also started doing crossfit will, while started shortly at the same time. And that growth for me just, it all happened at the same time. That's amazing. Honestly, all of those worlds, all coming together at one place plus your sister and your brother in law was involved and actually owned that gym.

That's amazing. Holy crap. And then like the motivation you might have garnered from that day to like, have you picked up a go ask eric, I'm sorry, go ask Derek. I'm busy. Please go ask him, go ask him the door is open. Huh? Okay. Then throw them away. Don't come bother me until I'm off please, sweetie. They start missing you when you're gone. But when you're there, it's like, exactly. Um, so that's kind of where everything started. That's where I got motivated and this is when I realized that there is not a lot of females out there and adaptive profit. Yeah. And yet, have you picked up a barbell or anything before that day or knew anything about crossfit? Like I said, I started training when I signed up for that competition and so I only trained for like two or three months prior to the competition and no, I had not picked up a bar bell, I hadn't picked up dumbbells, like everything prior to that was physical therapy, whatever I did in the gym on my own.

And it was like always, I'm just trying to walk and I'm just trying to like, do you know, walk again. But no, I had never done that. And then the gym that I went to, I had never had somebody with a disability before. So it was like, you know, the coach that I finally found at the crossfit gym that I went to, I never trained somebody with a significant injury like I had and I had never been in that type of study to even tell you how to do this. So he would tell me, you know, come into my gym um, before any classes coming early in the morning, I'll start, we'll start learning together, he said, and for like a year I started, I trained with him for like two months prior to competition after competition. I was like, I want to continue to do this. So he was teaching me the lingo of crossfit. He, we were learning how to modify workouts and so again, this was all before we had like wheel wad and all of that, that was growing at the same time. But this is also something else that I learned along the way that was lacking and there's a lot of coaches, I've never had somebody with a disability in the gym and um, there's not a lot of athletes out that represent us on the competition floor doing crossfit, especially females.

So, um, my first major competition, that was a small one, but my first big major competition was probably, um, what? Um, working wounded games and that was my first major one and then I want to say, I did watch appaloosa and then I did the games in Canada was Saudi and so I did that leading up to the years after I did that first competition, But um when I first did the first competition for females, that was probably like 10 people in my division or less. And it was like the first two years, it was like the same females. And at that time like we you you didn't just all have spinal cord injuries, you could have a spinal cord injury, but if you had like a condition of your hip or you had, you know, um any condition that just you didn't feel comfortable competing standing, you were in the Ceta division, it's not like it's broken down now, so it was like, we were all just grouped together, you know, if you can't stand and do a workout and you feel better sitting then you sit and for me like you just, it felt unfair because you know, if you're not a spinal cord injury, you're competing against people that don't have spinal cord injury, it's a lot harder, but that was just part of the growing pains.

And so I was like, well somebody has to represent, we have to stay in this, we have to document it, we have to showcase it online, we have to show all of everything so it can grow because if there was 20 men, there was like 10 women and the next year, 30 men, 15 women. And so I felt like I said obligated to see this momentum grow. Um And and it and it certainly has grown and at the same time a T. F when I was at the adaptive Training Foundation, they, you know, they were helping me also trained to compete and and supporting me at these competitions as well. Yeah, so I mean, two questions based on that one. I mean, I feel like every one of us who have come to disabled girls who left or is part of the community, we are always the first of our coaches kind, so lots of adaptations, lots of different modifications and it's and it's amazing because people want to help us out and they want to be, you know, that force to keep us going.

Um But now do you see crossfit coaches learn or um get trained on, I guess we'll want or adaptive fitness, is it because it's a lot more common now? I know Strongman, um this is a question from Marcy, by the way. Strongman has, you know, the adaptive divisions, they have static monsters, they have seeded competitions, and since a lot of crossfit is also seated, like is that required, or do they have to go out of their way to use competition um for a crossfit coach, like is it required for them to learn about wheel wad or adaptive fitness? It's not required. I mean, no, that's completely, it's you would hope that these coaches would want to, because it is becoming more mainstream. Um A lot of them don't know where to look, they don't know, they haven't ever had somebody with a disability in there jim. But um they um are now becoming aware of l the crossfit adaptive certification that's out right, So crossfit has come up with, they've teamed with Saudi and Ogre and some of the guys to create um a seminar for the adaptive crossfit seminar.

And so what it is is they're teaching coaches now, hey, if you, if you're, if you're a crossfit coach, you might want to take this course because you know, you are, this is a growing sport in this division. So yes, there's a lot more coaches that are more wanting to, it's just a matter of like, you know, um when am I going to get that first person in my gym that's going to require it or am I ever, you know, it's not required, it's definitely um like I said, you hope that they do, but that another passion was just for me personally here in the DFW area, I was like, I'm going to personally go to every crossfit gym here in the Dallas Fort Worth area and I'm going to be that person and be like, hey, so um how would you modify? I want to, I want to drop in at your gym and what's your workout, you know, and this is what it is. Okay, so I'm gonna do the workout, I'm gonna do it the way I know how to adapt it and then at the end we can talk about it and you know, and so from there that's where I would introduce will watch so I would introduce adaptive crossfit because they would want to know more and I would tell them what here is, where you can go.

So when somebody does come in or if I want to refer somebody to your gym, you know I want to feel comfortable that you are comfortable to accept someone with a disability so they are definitely more inclined and wanting to because like you said it's becoming more mainstream, do they have to know and if they don't want to, I'd say don't go to the gym go to a different one. Exacting and it's constant education on your part. But you're paving the way for others who have never tried it before and are interested in starting rather than being sent to, you know, go complete a puzzle or read a book or whatever. We can be active if we want to. People just need to know what the resources are and the fact that crossfit even has a certification. Like I applaud them for that like power lifting. Where are you at there? We have, we still have to fight to like prove our worth on a platform or show them what our um are lifting tools or modifications are. So what are your major modifications? Like what have you done that's worked for you and coaches um a lot of them are, you know, they if they're doing like handstand walks or they're doing squats, so they're doing double unders, you know, it's like well, you know, I have no idea what are you going to do, and so I'm like well um try and think of it as your arms or your legs, right?

So like what movement are you doing with your legs, What can I do to mimic something similar? So it's like double unders Now, of course they have the the the the cheese, I forget what they're called, they're like individual ropes basically waited and so you are, you know um and I'm so sorry for the the company that developed these that I can't even think name um if you go to will want though, you'll look and you'll find them there, but they're individual ropes and so they're weighted on the ends and so this is what you can do for double under the ropes. And at competitions you're going to see them in their their real good burners, but like um box jumps, we might do um slam balls, you know, um or burpees I know for burpees we'll get down on the ground and we'll do they now require you to get out of chairs. So a lot of times of um coaches see somebody in a wheelchair and they're like, they think that they can only stay in a wheelchair and we're like no no no get them out of the chair, you know, because they need to be getting out of the chair to work on transferring, getting in and out of the chair quickly because that's like a life necessity, you should be able to get in and out of your chair quickly if you fall on the ground, you should get right back up and so a lot of people doing chairs don't feel comfortable and don't get out of their chair.

So you're maintaining a certain your not getting stronger, you're inhibiting growth because you're relying on your back, you know, your cushion in the back of your chair to hold you up for posture and everything. And then if you remove that and sit on the ground, you're like, I have no control of my core, my back, that's the point, right? So a lot of times we encourage get out of the chair and do workouts such as crawling, such as, you know, they do weighted crawls. Um So that might be like for handstand walks, they might do something where you will do a weighted crawl, you might do apply a push ups, you know? Um but you're trying to keep the same type of um heart rate and pace that you can, so you're going to try and find a moment that you can do to keep up with that kind of pace or heart rate. So it's like a lot of stuff that will do is burpees will get on the ground and rather than jumping up will come up on our knees right and um go from the floor to our knees and do a push up or you know, but we come up on our knees, we're just not jumping up on our feet.

Um for like I said, hands down walk sometimes they'll get in the wheelchair and I don't know if you've seen this yet, but they'll get in the wheelchair and they will stacked plates on the ground. And so you just stack a bunch of plates on the ground, you go in your wheelchair and you will up on them and then you'll try and hold a willy, you don't come down, you hold a willy the entire time. And so you pop up on these plates and it's an uneven surface which makes it way more difficult. But you're holding a willy while going over the stacked plates and then hopping down so that for us is challenging because you're using your core to maintain that willie, that's like a handstand walk for somebody that is able body, you know? Um So those are like some of the biggest modifications I think is just learning um like I said, if someone's doing box jumps or something, I might do slam balls or dips um But its arms, arms, arms, arms, arms, so, you know, people are like, I'm so sorry, you have to do all arms are like, well you use your legs all the time. It's the same thing, you know, it's like you just get used to it. So um they have now required you to swim a lot of times.

Um I had never swam before since my accident, I haven't done a lot of things since before my accident, so until I started competing, which is why I would encourage anybody to do one or two competitions because you're going to realize that you can do a lot more than you couldn't. So like for example, swimming, not just in the swimming pool, out in the ocean and so, you know, it was like for me swimming, I had never done and getting out in the ocean in Miami for what appaloosa or in Canada was like saying because I was like, I don't even remember, I, I only knew how to play swim before my accident, you know, and my legs don't really facilitate or help me much in the water, but you were forced to learn. So I got a trainer and a coach and I was like, can you help me learn how to swim? You know, it's like just learning how to swim using um, wetsuits, wetsuit shorts or like a wet suit kind of provides buoyancy, so you float a little bit, so I would wear those and I learned how to swim and before, you know, it we're out swimming in the ocean, you know, well with all sorts of disabilities are out swimming in the ocean, so it really pushes you to and it builds confidence when you're doing these kinds of things and realizing their potential, your confidence just builds competition by competition.

And at the same time, you can beat yourself up a lot because you're not doing what the person next to you is able to do, that has maybe a similar injury, so that can be also discouraging and that's something I learned along the way of competing is you know, when it becomes not fun or you're comparing yourself or you're stressing yourself out, it's time to take a little step back and you know, I had to do that and be real realistic with myself and what I had going on in my life, and that's kind of why I have come to a stopping point in my career as far as competing at that level in crossfit, but I had to, you know, I had to put myself in check and that's something that a lot of us should do. Once you build that confidence and get there, then you have to reevaluate, you know, on what's next. Yeah, I mean, it's amazing that there was a sport that pulled you out of your comfort zone in so many ways, like you said, like other people who are not comfortable getting out of their chair, um not realizing how strong in their upper body they are and how crawls and swimming is a possibility.

That's that's great. But did you ever feel unsafe in any of those situations or you you always had somebody quote unquote spotting you coaching you like by your side or? Yeah, I mean you always had as far as coaching you. Yes. I had someone helping. As far as being out there in competition floor. Yes. We had somebody that was nearby that was, you know, obviously watching how to give cues tell you raise a hand or something if you don't feel safe and you don't have to, if you just don't want to do it because you don't feel comfortable, you don't have to do it. You might lose some points. But you know what? If you can make up for it and another at the next wad, then you better bust your butt in the next one if you're not going to do it in this one, but you're not being out in the ocean though. Oh my God, that's scary. But you know what? Any, anybody that has a disability, you're already a fighter, right? Like every single day, just getting out of your house and going in public to do like grocery shopping or whatever.

When everybody's staring at you anyways, you're you're there to prove people wrong, right? So same thing and competing, like you're there to prove to yourself and other people that you can do it. So like the whole like I'm scared. I don't want to do it. No, it's like I'm gonna okay I've never done so many times. I've told scotty I and I know everybody tells me that I've never done this, I don't know if I can do it and he's like trust me, you can do it, just try, you know? And so sure enough every single time you could do it and I'll be like thank you so much. Like I couldn't even believe that I could do that, you know? And so if you're in the position of like signing up for a competition with your disability, you're you're up for a challenge. So like you've already taken the most biggest step and it's like whatever bring it on. I want to try it all. Yeah. Well and like you said, just people like stepping out of their house, people are gonna stare anyway so give them something to stare at. You know? I'm. Yeah. Okay great. Um And you mentioned a. T.

F. A lot um adaptive training foundation. What what kind of resources do they provide? How did they help you in in your sport? Um So the adaptive training foundation is, it's an amazing organization. It's a good way to like get sick. It's also to kickstart your recovery and they give you all the tools and everything that you need. So what they do basically is if you go to their website you can apply to the program and say for example you just got out of outpatient rehab or inpatient rehab and you're now like in physical therapy and you've exhausted physical therapy, you can apply to a. T. F. And the adopted training foundation. And it's a nine of free nine week course that when you apply, you basically go through nine weeks of intense training, they do what physical therapy didn't do or stop, you know, like physical therapy shows you how to live an everyday life, right? How to maneuver, how to get out of your car, how to cook, how to pick yourself up if you fall A.

T. F. Is like, okay, so like what's your biggest fear and what's your biggest goal? You know, like I want to be able to walk without two crutches. I want to walk with one cane so I can hold my daughter's hand and it's like, okay, well that's your biggest goal, like let's do that. And so in the nine weeks they'll assign you a trainer, so you get your own trainer and as um and so you get like a trainer and maybe two trainers, one is the trainer and the other one that is as somebody has gone through the class with a similar disability that will help you also. And so they're alumni's and so you can stay engaged by doing that. And so you go through the nine weeks, they make you very uncomfortable and they make you reach your goals in that nine weeks because they make you do things out of your comfort zone almost immediately. And so they are really showing you the tools also mentally. Um they have a class also for, it's like mind body and spirit basically. And so they will teach you how to cope mentally, They teach you breathing techniques, they teach you coping mechanisms and then they throw you on the floor and physically show you what you're capable of doing during this nine weeks.

Um, you have, you are training for a trip at the end of the nine weeks. So for example, the class might go like um to Utah to go skiing or to go somewhere and do a physical activity that you might not have done. So your training, not only for something, your training to go on this trip, um, they equip you to know what you need to do to go on this trip at the end of the nine weeks you have a graduation and then after that you can stay plugged in. The biggest thing is community. The adaptive training Foundation provides the community, It provides a way for you to stay connected with people with similar abilities. It gives you your acquiring confidence without even realizing it. And then after being there for so long you're like, okay, I got this and so you basically go out on your own and figure out what it is that you want to do after you've built that courage and anytime you have a setback or surgery and have new goals, you can go back there and reapply. So it's a really amazing uh foundation for sure.

That's beautiful. And these are professionals that you're working with, that either have a disability themselves or work with many, many, many people with disabilities. So, exactly. They all have various backgrounds, you know, therapist, physical therapist, personal trainers, they all have similar backgrounds, but they've all been hand selected for a reason. And so a lot of people want to be volunteers there and you can volunteer your time there. Um, but you know, you have to prove that you're capable of working with this type of community. And so they hand select everybody strategically for sure. That's that's amazing and they really, truly make it a community and have a graduation after nine weeks to that. Oh yeah, you have a graduation and it's like the most beautiful thing to experience. And um for the families to experience, they just created a TF battle buddies. So they've got a kids program now that has finally started for kids, you know, before they weren't accepting kids because it was growth, you know, a T. F. Is still growing. So they do have now what's called a T.

F. Battle buddies. So any kids want to apply or be a part of it. They have a program now that is being built for that as well, wow, that's and Marcy wants to know if you've ever met an Emma at a T. F, she used to treat her in the past. She's a physical therapist also, and she's gone there recently, was a physical thing, uh, sorry, Marcia was a physical therapist and she was a patient. Emma was a patient. What was her injury, do you remember? Hmm, I'll have to have her ask you, I want to say, I know that name and last name, but I don't recall. I would have to see her face to really remember. Okay, yeah, no problem. And you mentioned, um, you know, wanting to get out of, um, crutches or your, um, your braces to be able to use a cane. Has that, has that happened? Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I definitely walk with one crutch or a cane. I, my goals have been accomplished, you know?

Well, I've always wanted to walk without anything and just to be able to run again and I don't think that will ever leave me, but I don't dwell on it. And I don't compare anymore. You know, for what that used to be now, I'm just like, you know, I am grateful that I can, I've accomplished my major goal, which was walking on a cane. I will say this, I've been disabled now for almost 20, like I said, almost 20, a little over 20 years. You learn a lot of things. Okay, When you have acquired an injury, you go through a lot of phases and I'm now at that phase of my life, I'm 36 years old, about to be 37. I'm about, I'm at that phase in my life where I'm like, okay, longevity, right? You should always be thinking about, can I continue to do what I'm doing Until I'm 70, right? And with a disability or a lot of times using things incorrectly, you're moving in ways that's hurting other parts of your body. You have to constantly be and check and align with that.

And that requires a lot of times going back to the basics, like back on the ground doing pt stuff, you know, because if you're hurting one thing for the sake of just like I want to walk on one cane, you're, you're not being smart about it. And we all go through these phases. I went through a phase for a long time where I was like, When I'm done with my wheelchair, I'm chunking it over a bridge. And I did when I was like 16 years old, through the first wheelchair I had over a bridge when I got done with leg braces, I threw him over a bridge. When I got done with a walker, I threw it over a bridge, anything. I think it was a party and a celebration for my friends, like I don't need that no more. And so like I celebrated that back then but I was like really hurting my body along the way by how I was walking because I wasn't wearing the leg braces because I wasn't taking advantage of the wheelchair. And so like, now, you know, they always say, and I don't want to scare anybody, but you just have to be mindful. Like, I could have double knee replacements because I decided like, even though I don't have, I don't walk correctly because I don't have the muscle tone that I need to prevent hyperextension on my knees every time I walk on hyper extending my knees or I'm doing something that's tearing me apart in the long run where I might need these major surgeries later.

I don't want major surgeries. I don't want any setbacks. So that's a part of me that I had to reflect. And I was like, okay, you can't be stubborn, who cares what people think. Like, you know, you have to do basic things again. And so for me, I have a wheelchair, I have a scooter, which I never use, like, but it's there. I have a wheelchair scooter, I have crutches, I have a cane and I have my leg braces at any moment in time, depending on the circumstance I'm going to decide what I need to use. So, like my my car, I say it's like a it's like a medical supply store because yeah, whatever you want, like, I, I just know what I need. So it's like if I'm going to go really long distance, I'm gonna use my wheelchair if I'm going to go out and drink and I wanna look hot and pretty Yeah, of course. But if I'm gonna drink, I don't want to fall on me, you know, because I already have balance issues. I'm gonna use my chair, right? But like if I'm gonna walk a long distance, I don't want to push myself, like I'll use my crutches. It's a situational thing, you know, like if I'm going to compete, it's probably the smartest that I do it in a chair if I want to go fast or be quick or whatever.

So that would be like my biggest thing that I learned over the course of being disabled for so long as yes, you're going to get to a point where you're gonna want to push your push yourself and you're gonna see how far you can push yourself. But be smart, think about long term and you know, if you want to be able to, for me, I want to be able to walk long term, I want to be able to do things without major surgeries. So I had to start incorporating things that I thought I was done with a long time ago back into my life, but now I just own them and I'm not all like, oh my God, look at me, I'm in a chair. It's not like that anymore. Yeah. And it's so funny, just like picturing your your van or whatever that you that you have the story of an suv but like picturing you pulling every single one of those out of the river wherever you threw it over the bridge. Like, oh wait, I need the wheelchair. Exactly. Exactly. It was so expensive. That was so dumb of me to do. Like now I realized like insurance only covers so much for my medical supplies.

I I mean my wheelchair and my sports chair that I have right now, like that's from the community. Like I had to do go fund me because like that stuff is expensive. So I wasn't thinking back then as a kid. But yeah, don't do that. Hold on your stuff, nobody blames you. And there's there's, you know, especially growing up and growing up as a woman. Like the differences between independence, independence and how like, okay, we have to be as a disabled person to be dependent on. Um you know, things like this or um a caretaker or wheelchair or anything. And like you said, we don't want to work harder necessarily want to work smarter and long term. So whatever gets us to live to 100 shit. Use your chair. Yeah, exactly. Bling it out. Whatever makes you feel better. But I wouldn't have been to that point had I not gone through the organizations that I did with a T.

F. Had not competed and done what I did, all of that helped build and you know that confidence within myself to just realize potential because like I said, had I not done those things, I would have never known that I could go out and swim, you know, in the ocean, I would have just been sitting back on the sidelines watching and wishing right, or like just so many things that I would have held back on on life, I think going forward, had I not had that part of my life, So it is very important part of your life, It's very important to get connected and plugged in for sure. And then it's really important for you to realize what you've learned from that and that you don't need to hold on, hold hands, you know, like, you can't to these organizations, you have to learn what you learn and go do it on your own right and own it on your own. So that's it's all a phase, it's all very necessary to Yeah. And what you have to applaud yourself to for the last 20 years is the mental strength that you've developed, like, even in your hardest moments, your darkest moments, your mental strength was always there. Like, um you know, it's it's sad that there is depression and anxiety that comes with, you know, having a disability or um or, you know, being hit with uh an accident that um kind of chooses where you'll go in life, but the mental strength of um, you know, pushing forward, realizing that you're a mother now, you're taking care of a child and um on top of taking care of yourself, that's yeah, people, people all the time, we're like, you know, they freak out.

They're like, wow, you have a kid and you work like society is still so behind on disabilities even though we're proving, even though it's becoming more mainstream on social media and everything, like you still meet those people every day where they were amazed at you, like you get out of your house, you know, and that you work and you have a kid and this and that it just amazes me. But yeah, and it's something that we struggle with a lot too and you know, as as an athlete, uh every you're everyone's inspiration and that's what we try to strive so far away from like you should be your own inspiration. Everybody's going through their own different process and like you said, even others who are, who have suffered different injuries or are going through different, you know, things in their life. Um one might be five steps ahead of the other and comparing yourself isn't going to help and equal body folks who are comparing themselves to us and how like Yeah, exactly the same thing.

So she can do it. I can too well handles actually if you can or if I can can catchy, isn't it? It's so applicable though. It's true. Yeah. Um Yeah, so I mean let's talk a little bit about how this kind of intertwines with parenting moments. You know, we're out in public a lot. Uh Take her to school. You take her to the park and just out grocery shopping. Do you experience any um regular able ism or sexism? I want to give the ball. Mm hmm. Explain when you say like regular able ism Like what do you mean like, well, like you said people make comments um even though its dimensions are like, oh you can do that wow. Or how do you do it? Um Yeah. So it all makes a difference in how you carry yourself. I don't get that a lot because I don't, I'm very like, um I don't know how to say this, how you carry yourself.

So I'm very like on a mission, right? I'm very confident. I'm very like, get out of my way. I got this but not and I'm smiling. I'm not rude or mean about it, but like, you know? And so that would be the common sense. It's like, oh, can I hold the door for you? But I think because of how I carry myself, I don't get that all the time where people are like, oh you got it. Let me help you. Let me do. I get a lot of like you seem like you're very strong and you probably don't want the help, but I want to help you anyways type of thing. So it's not, I don't get that all the time, you know, in the grocery store is something like I'm going to be the person like, hey, can I have help getting something? Or I might tell my daughter, hey, climb on top of my wheelchair, climb the shelf, get that thing at the top, you know, or, or we'll ask somebody, you know? But no, I don't get that that often. I will get it if I'm getting in the car and they see me loading my groceries and then they also see my wheelchair that needs to be loaded. And then somebody might ask, you know, can I, can I help you? But it's not that bad. Um, it's very rare that I'll have the jerk that sees me walk in somewhere and they just stare at me and then they go the step further and they're like, you, poor thing.

What happened to you? You know, It's like, poor thing you, I'm fine, you know, like, and then that happened at the bank not that long ago. Yes. But um, I do have conversations where they started out with, I'm inspired, Your admirable or what happened to me? This happens the most of the nail salon and you know, and they're like, what happened to you? And then I tell them, they're like, oh, you poor thing. You have baby. You know, like, yes, they're just blown away by me, you know? And I'm like, okay, yes, I have a kid. Yes. It still works. Like that's where I feel like I have that conversation the most at the nail salon. But um as far as like being a parent with a disability, I will say that um your kids are very, they adapt just as much as you do to the situation. And so for them, that might be the only thing that they know and it's not until they go to school that it becomes hard because they start comparing and so I'll never forget when I picked up my daughter one day from school, we had never really had that conversation yet.

Um she came outside and she saw a parent pick up their kids and they swung the little girl around in circles and then my daughter looked at me and she was like, you will never be able to do that with me, right mom. And I was like, not like that, but like we could do it differently this way in the chair, you know? I was like, no. Yeah, that was a moment where I had been waiting like that moment. I knew it was going to come at some point in time and then you know when I go to her school to eat with her sometimes, you know, she will say, you know my friend, you know, why don't you know what happened to you and I told you you're in a chair and you're in a car accident. She loved telling the whole story now, But um you know it's it's one of those things where when I go to her school you see a lot of the kids are like wow, they either want to help or they're like taken back by it and it takes it took me a while to like go in, just roll with it, explain it, be okay with it um which leads me to my next point, it's very important and it's something that Wesley, my friend does a lot and it's something that I would love to do these schools, especially elementary, I need to see people with disabilities coming in and speaking to them because it is mainstream.

It is something that's going to happen, it is inevitable. They need to know how to act towards it, how not to be scared towards it. They also need to know that when that point in their life happens that they have something to remember and recollect, oh I remember Miss Vanessa came and talked to us in a wheelchair and she was fine and she did this and that to where they don't have a stigma associated with It when something happens to them when they're 18 1920 later on in life they have something positive to relate it to. So I think getting into schools is very important and I realized that it's you know now they're more comfortable with me but it was really hard at first, you know like you have to be okay with all of the stairs and all the kids like wanting to touch and doing this and that, you know. But um parenting hasn't been as hard as I thought it was. My daughter has adapted. I think getting your kids out and an environment, a lot of people bring their kids to the adopted training foundation, you know, able bodied people will bring their kids or trainers will bring their kids to A T. F. And it's so good because they don't see disabilities anymore.

They're the kids when you go to school and there's another kid with a disability. My daughter will be probably one of the first ones to befriend them or say, you know, I like your brace and not be afraid of it, you know, So um, it's very important. I think that kids somehow our, what's it called? Um um thank you like Barbara. Yes. Yeah. Just taught at a young age and, and like cultural competence in general is just so important at a young age and I think it's taught in, you know, elementary grade school. But seeing that there are so many other people that are different from you and they exist, you know, someone who's a different race, a different like size, um, differently abled. Um I will never forget though. Like it's funny like you saying, um, you know, bringing disabled people in to speak to the schools and speak to the students just to know that like we are normal like everybody else.

Um but in elementary school I was actually brought around to all of the classrooms by my school nurse and it was luckily, you know, again like we are brought in with a lot of confidence and I was a very confident child and I didn't have any um issues with it, but she had me stand in front of every class and be like, look, she's different than you look at her hand. Um if any of you make fun of her, you'll get expelled or you know, you know, there will be some consequences and I think back at it and I'm like damn, I was put on the spot and I was you know, luckily I, I loved who I was as a kid. It wasn't until much later that I started hiding it caring about what people thought of me in high school, but um yeah, showcasing one of us, you know, how did that make you feel happy to do that or you're like, this is really awkward and embarrassing.

Well it didn't seem like a problem with me because my family treated me like you know very normal. They, that's what I was lucky and I was smart and I had all these like you know special italian it's about the board of the disability, but the nurse, you know, doing that was kind of the first moment for me realizing that I was different from everyone else and I am something to pick fun at. And I didn't understand it at first until I was picked fun at. So there was actually an incident like a few months later where like three or four groups of um other kids, I think they're in a younger grade. They were just laughing while I played handball. I played all the sports too, you know, and and they wouldn't stop and I'm like, what the hell? Like what? And so I think I ended up crying to my teacher and they got um I don't know what happened to them. They had to come and apologize to me. Good.

Yeah, but it's important, right? Like it is because kids, kids can be mean and they just don't understand. And I mean, yeah, a little girl made a comment to this past weekend um when we were at my daughter's friend's birthday party and she didn't mean it in any harm. She just said, you know, they were playing a dance machine and she was like, I feel sorry for you because you can't get up and dance with us. And I said, don't feel sorry for me, like I'm fine. You know, I mean, I was like, um I don't really even want to do that stupid dance machine. No, I'm just joking. I was like, I don't want, I was like, I'm fine. I was like, there's nothing wrong. I was like, I can do pretty much everything I want to, you know? And she was like, okay, I just wanted, she wanted to make sure I was fine, you know? She was like, okay, you know what I mean? Because she was one of the ones that wanted to help push me around and do this and that. And so they really just, they just don't know, like we just have to be the ones to get out there and and and expose that and teach them and but parenting for me, like I said, my daughter is very independent. Um She's very, very like protective.

A lady came and asked me the other day getting in the car. My daughter is very, a lady asked me in the car, she goes, she rolled down her window and like made me roll down my window and I was sitting next to her and my daughter sit in the back seat and the lady goes, what happened to you? How did you hurt your knees like that? You know? Because I have my leg braces on and I was like, I was in a car accident, but I'm fine now, you know, I was like, I'm gonna go ahead and go and so like Izzy thank goodness I rolled out the window because she was like, mom, why is that lady all in your business? Like, you know, not to be in other people's business, nobody could be in your business, but me and Derek, you know? Which is my boyfriend, I was like, you're right, Izzy and some people are curious and they want to know so you know, but she doesn't, she's very protective over it and she will speak up for other people and it's like, it hasn't been as hard as I thought it was going to be, you know, like it's taught her some very valuable lessons and so I don't see it like, you know. No. And and kids were always like the hardest for for me to, you know, like seeing someone missing a hand or um meeting someone for the first time, like the stairs are inevitable, but they're also filled with such like curiosity and and amusement, you know, and all totally fine.

But there has always been explaining that had to be involved. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. I definitely want to get into schools and start talking just schools. I just can't get my foot in the door and figure out, you know, when and how to go about doing that, but totally necessary. For sure. Yeah. Alright, well I wanna um end this with a little like, can you give us some advice for new wheelchair users or newly injured sc I um people that are in your situation, either non athletes or athletes, you've already pointed out some amazing resources which we're gonna add to our website um because we want people to to find them in their area nationwide, but a piece of advice um I would say get plugged into a community as soon as possible after your injury, start looking online through social media for you know, um friends and then start following other friends that might not be your friends too.

Be encouraged because it's so easy to be very, very depressed and discouraged right after an injury. It's totally normal to like you need to go through all those feelings, but when you stay home and you are feeding into that sadness and then you one thing could lead to another like I did for self medicating and then just before you know it years past of not making yourself any better, I would say it's very, very important to plug in and look for at least one person to be a mentor to you and then look for something that you used to like to do that. Um You can continue to do and it's out there, but you don't know until you start looking and then when you find something that you want to do show up completely, just go out of your comfort zone and just show up because you have to take that risk to grow and to move forward and um and then once you show up, be a part of it, get active somehow, but you need to get into something as soon as possible would be my biggest advice and find a mentor somebody to talk to as soon as possible that is, you know, your age or whatever and and then that speeds up the amount of mental recovery that it can take and allows less time to just get into a really, really dark hole for a really long time, definitely thank you for that.

And when we say mentor, we don't mean like fit sparacio ins that you find online super popular, like cross fitters, powerlifters, what have you, but people that truly care about your growth and your commitment to your goals um whether they've, they've experienced, they have experience in people with disabilities or not. Amazing. Um well thank you so much. It was a wealth of information that you provided to a lot of um new athletes that might be joining your sport. Um it was so much fun having you, I can't wait to hear about um you know, a return of your podcast or because these conversations have to be normalized, you know, we have to be seen as everyone else um and thank you for continuing that. Yeah, my honor. It was, I love it and I'm awesome. That is awesome that you all are doing the same thing and like I don't, it's encouraging whenever you see more people that are just tuning in in their own unique way.

And so it was a pleasure being on your podcast as well and I will be sure to share the information with friends and family as well. Yeah, yeah. And what's next for you just so people know to look out what's next for me. Well right now I've had a lot of focus on family, like I said, kind of re evaluating a lot of stuff. Um I would love to start writing, um I would love to start just mentoring more on the back end um of upcoming, like I said, athletes and really just really just um educating the people continuing to educate through, like I said through just close friends, the podcast with Wesley there. I mean there's all sorts of ideas out there, so it's really just, I'll keep you all posted if you follow my social media, if I can. You can too. Um that's where you'll most likely see where, what direction I'm going right now. It's everyday life, it's, you know, my boyfriend, um it's my daughter, it's my family and embracing that and so um but yeah, we'll stay tuned, we'll see where it's going.

Beautiful, thank you so much Vanessa Vanessa can to you guys, Bye bye. Disabled girls out. Thanks for listening to disabled girls who lift. Don't forget to follow rate and like us on Spotify Itunes and player FM. You can also find us on instagram at disabled girls who live

E06: "If I Can, You Can Too" ft. Vanessa Cantu
E06: "If I Can, You Can Too" ft. Vanessa Cantu
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