If you haven’t already I want you to take a look at that photo. It’s special. Not because of what’s there, but because of what isn’t. Honestly this is a once in a lifetime photo, because the event in this photo changed my life forever.

Have you figured it out yet? Let me give you a hint. There’s supposed to be 4 people in this boat.

I am missing. I am not in this photo, which is interesting because this photo is very meaningful to me (even though I’m not in it). It’s sort of like the “negative space” concept in theatre, film or photography. Sometimes the space that doesn’t have anything in it, called “negative space”, is actually the focal point.

If you’ve read my previous post this may make more sense to you. I had my very first “event” at around the 750m mark during the same race that this picture shows. This is the last picture of me rowing before I was a heart patient. My last picture before I had a cardiologist. It’s weird to think about how this day could have gone so much differently.

Today is my Life Day. It’s like a birthday…but not. I’m not really sure what it is, but I celebrate it anyway because any excuse to have cupcakes is cool with me. You could call it a celebration of my second chance at life, but that’s a mouthful so Life Day it is! It’s a bittersweet celebration though. I wouldn’t say it’s a happy or a sad day, just that it’s significant. I’m sad for all the dreams that got put on hold but happy because it could’ve been so much worse. Who would’ve thought a little genetic mutation could do so much? (Even better is that my mutation is weird, never been seen before. I am, in fact, special…and not just because I’m a millennial #thatexon3deletiontho)

Here are all things that have happened because of this day 5 years ago…

  • went to the ER for the first time
  • soooo many stress tests (never thought I’d say this but – they’re worse than 2k tests)
  • got told I would never row again
  • had surgery (LCSD)
  • started rowing again
  • won my first rowing medal as a heart patient (possibly the only rowing medal for a heart patient)
  • decided to do musicals and made some amazing friends
  • went to heart camp and got more friends
  • got told that I would never row again (that’s TWICE for those keeping count)
  • got a Wish from The Make A Wish Foundation (Happy World Wish Day!)
  • was interviewed as “Someone you should know” on TV
  • interviewed again to tell my story on a 2nd TV station
  • saw the RIO 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro
  • got to meet my rowing hero, Dr Gevvie Stone
  • got advice from Gevvie Stone’s coach (and father).
    • He told me that after all I’ve been through I can make it to Olympics
  • started rowing again…for the 2nd time
    • because living your worst nightmare once isn’t enough for some people
  • won my first collegiate rowing medal
  • got 4th at SIRA regatta in the Women’s 2x
  • part of a wonderful group of people that I get to call teammates
  • made a TON of “not dead yet” jokes (Monty Python and the Holy Grail)
  • and today I got to row ~24,000 meters with my favorite people

Today is quite a different day than it was 5 years ago

If you had told me this is how my life would be 5 years ago I likely would have laughed in your face. It’s been a crazy 5 years. I won’t say it was a wonderful time because sometimes it sucked. Just between us though, the sucky parts were more than made up for by the immense joy I get from proving people wrong when they tell me I can’t do something…and I’ve gotten to do it TWICE.

I have been so lucky to have so many people to help me through this crazy tangent and I want to extend a thank you to all of you. To all the people who told me I couldn’t do it, thank you. You are the greatest motivators of all. To all the people who told me to give up, to put it nicely, you stick that in your juice box and suck it. I’m a strong, independent mutant and I do what I want…as long as my cardiologist approves.