I’ve started and stopped writing this blog post several times over the last couple months, not sure how to put to pen what I’ve been going through. I wanted to be able to provide an update as well as some encouragement to others facing life’s challenges, but every time I sat down to write this, I couldn’t find the words. Today, I did. ♥

When I got Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS II) after my fourth surgery in 2012, I began down a path I never knew I would travel. If you don’t know about CRPS, I encourage you to do some research. It’s a devastating condition that can come on randomly or as in my condition, by injury to a nerve. While symptoms can vary by person, it caused me extreme burning pain, temperature change, hypersensitivity, and muscle contracture. When I got the ExoSym in 2013, it was a miracle because the device kept my leg locked in place and redistributed my weight-bearing which helped with my ankle injury and the CRPS. For the first time in several years, I could walk and run again without pain. I felt free. Because even the slightest sense of ankle movement, heat, or touch could incite my CRPS, I kept my leg immobilized in the device and protected beneath the sock as much as I could. This worked great for several years as I worked out and competed in events and races and lived some of the most #ExoSymplyAmazing years of my life thanks to the ExoSym, but when I fell from a rope ceiling at CrossFit in 2016 and landed right on my device, I knew I had badly injured my heel. As a stubborn athlete, I tried to push that pain aside and just adapted my way of walking in the device to accommodate [note: do not do this!]. But when the pain started catching up with me a year and a half or so later, I could no longer ignore the physical symptoms rearing beneath the sock. The injury had caused my leg to return to its purple, cold, contracted and burning hot ways in worse shape than I’d ever seen it before, and I could no longer bear to walk on the heel that I had injured from the fall. I couldn’t even bear weight on the device without limping. I had no choice but to face it head on. Little did I know how much courage this would take.

At the start of my extensive reconstructive nerve and soft tissue surgeries about a year + ago, I was caught by surprise learning how much damage I had done over the years by just pushing through the pain and I was devastated when I realized I had to put my ExoSym aside during the stages of surgeries. I didn’t want to take my “shield” off. Even though I knew deep down I had to, I struggled to put the ExoSym down. I was scared to be without it. As a fifth surgery turned into a sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, and one month on crutches turned into 13+, I felt like I had not only lost my sense of identity and community, but the one thing that had impacted my life so much, the ExoSym. But what I’ve come to realize in life is that the sooner we learn to embrace change, the more resilient we become. I didn’t think I could make it without my ExoSym (and I didn’t want to), but as life would have it, I’ve had to. And through two peripheral nerve stimulators implanted in my leg, extensive nerve repairs, tendons lengthened and repaired, in and out of Ketamine comas, infusions, ICUs, nerve blocks, physical therapy – my spirit has fought on in more ways than I ever knew it could.

When I look back to the “Beth” I see in the early ExoSym testimonial video, I see a girl who thought she had been through the worst of life’s challenges. Four surgeries, the onset of CRPS, traveling the country for medical treatment through several years on crutches. I know it was hard for her. But she persevered, found the ExoSym and life was on the up – she felt invincible. I think the “Beth” I see today five years later: a severe car accident and five more ankle surgeries has learned that no matter how tough you think life is/has been, it can always get tougher, but so can we, and so can our faith. The spirit holds on long after the body has resigned. If you ever feel like you can’t make it another day, hold on. You’ve got to find it in yourself to believe for better days ahead. Several times over the last year, I’ve considered just giving up, thinking I can’t do this anymore (yes, even sunshine Beth has bad days!). The quote “never give up” became hard to hold on to. The pain became too unrelenting. But God has never let me give up and my parents, family, friends, Team ExoSym, coworkers, doctors, nurses haven’t either. As I sit here today, over 400 days on crutches later, I’m still fighting. It’s not always easy to do when your goals and dreams feel far from reach, but you have to keep your head up and celebrate the small wins along the way. Two steps forward, one step back. It’s as much of a physical journey as it is mental. Know it’s okay to have some bad days and setbacks, just don’t let them keep you down too long. The sun always rises no matter how dark the night. Find that light and press on.

As I’ve been recovering from my latest surgery from about 3 weeks ago, I’ve been reflecting on this 8-year injury journey. I am grateful for the friends I have made along the way, the medical teams who have fought for me and never given up, and spirit of God who has never left my side. I feel hopeful, nervous and excited to start physical therapy soon and see how my leg progresses (fingers crossed). I am reminding myself to practice patience and remember that this is not a linear journey. In life, nothing is certain. Injuries happen, our health changes, but when we learn to accept our challenges, we adapt, and press on. But we have to fight for it. I will run again, I’m determined to. Will it be in the ExoSym? I don’t know yet, we will have to see how my ankle and leg progress from the last five surgeries and what steps will be needed next, but what I do know is that the ExoSym and Hanger Clinic #TeamExoSym family played a deeply important role in my initial injury/recovery and while my health condition changed over the last couple years with my second injury, I’ve had to learn to face these new challenges as I work towards this next stage in my recovery. With that being said, I don’t know where this blog will end up. I wish I had some Exo-fashion, workout, or wisdom to pass on at the moment, but perhaps all I can share is my story and hope that you can take something from it. We each travel a unique journey in this life, but we all get the life we choose to fight for. Don’t ever give up on yours – and I won’t either. 😉

Do not pray for an easy life; pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.

16 Comments

  1. Beth, you are an inspiration to all of us. I know beyond a doubt you will beat this and you will run and do whatever you have a mind to do. We’ve always heard that God never gives us more than we can handle, so I’d say God knows how strong you are and he has special plans for you. I can’t wait to see what those plans are. Stay strong you will get through this !

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Beth. You continue to be an inspiration to so many. The longer I live the more I’m convinced that life, by design, is meant to present us with challenges, some of them seemingly insurmountable. And that it is as we embrace and struggle with these challenges that we find life’s deepest meaning and purpose. We find love and we find that we are never alone; that God never leaves us, that God has equipped us with a spirit that can’t be defeated. And because of that hope is always real. Where we thought we were going seldom turns out to be where we go but where we go can be richer in meaning and satisfaction, a better place to be. May God continue to bless you and all of us through you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi paul, your kind thoughts and prayers are heartfelt and much appreciated. thank you so much for leaving this comment. god is always with us – we never walk alone. 🙏

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  3. Life can certainly be humbling! I’m reminded by it everyday with every step I take….
    Knowing you’re not alone in your struggle is comforting. Thank you so much for sharing your story! It brings a renewed strength to pick yourself up and forge ahead and adapt to life changes 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi elizabeth, having this network of friends and support definitely keeps us all going. we’re all in this together – thank you for sharing a part of your journey with me. stay strong too ♥️

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  4. Thank you so much for this update Beth.
    I know we have never met in person(like many ExoSymer’s), but to me(and many others) you have been nothing but an amazing inspiration of strength.
    There are several days that I have sat and asked “why”, why and/or who is challenging me to get over these hurdles of life. After many years, I have come to the conclusion that we are only given the tests that we will come out stronger from.
    I am praying for your healing!
    Exosymplyamazing is what you are!!♥️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi melissa, thank you so much for reaching out. your kind words mean more to me than you know — we’re here to support each other through our challenges and by sharing i think we help pull each other along. keep going my friend, you’re a fighter! ♥️ #nevergiveup

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  5. I feel so much admiration for you Beth. Your leg is shaping and polishing a diamond: YOU.
    If there is someone who gives hope to people in need of an Exosym, this is you.
    Now, if there is someone who can fight against a condition like CRPS II, this is you. Your possibilities as a person and as a healer are and will be limitless. The mission that God has given you is even bigger than you thought initially.
    You made me see my bad leg as an opportunity to be better overall, as an opportunity to make it worth it. I see you as the example of this being possible. Diamonds are made under high earth temperatures and pressure in order to become as hard as they are. I think that you can beat this condition, and once you achieve it, then you will help many others in the same situation. One day you will realise it was all worth it. Keep enlightening us, please.
     

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hi daniel, i can feel the the light in your words. i really believe through sharing our journeys we help each other. thank you for your kindness and support. us diamonds have to keep pushing each other forward 😉 never stop believing – through god, all things are possible. #fighton

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  6. I know this is hard. I know this is disheartening. You know this, you’ve been here before. I read this right after I got back from the Center for the Intrepid in San Antonio, and damn, girl, you remind me of everyone there. Different stages of healing, setbacks, hard falls, and crawling/clawing/fighting back to whatever “new normal” we can dig out for ourselves.
    You HAVE done this before. But you still get to be sick of it. You still get to be afraid, scared, mad, pissed, upset, hopeful, motivated, settled, dedicated, sobbing, whatever and where ever you need to be. You know you’ll end up in a new normal, and you’ll rock it, but the unknown is a scary thing. Just remember, you’ve been there, done that, blogged it.
    If it helps, what I’ve learned from your blog taught them a lot, the new IDEO kids at CFI. I told all the woman (there were an astounding FOUR of us!) about your blog, clothes, and shoes. You know your words have helped countless IDEO/Exosym users, now go back and read them. Go back and see where you started, how far you have come, and how hard you have worked to be amazing. I have a secret, though: It has nothing to do with the brace, love. It’s all you. The brace is nothing unless its got a heart and soul in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you SO much for the kind words. i don’t know what to say. it’s heart warming to know how i may have touched others lives and helped in some small way. such good advice and perspective, which can be easy to lose sight of in our challenges. you’ve helped me to keep on rocking forward. ❤️

      a shoutout to you and everyone for the sacrifices you give for our country. thank YOU.

      your friend,
      beth

      #nevergiveup

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  7. I stumbled across this blog in my search for more information on the exosym. I’m 25 and have struggle with right ankle pain after and injury 10 years ago. Over the last decade I’ve had 4 surgeries and now need a 5th in an attempt to fuse the ankle. I also experience CRPS following my first surgery almost 10 years ago and and had troubles in and off over the years and through the surgeries. I’ve been struggling lately as my ankle pain has kept me from doing the things I want to do (like walk my dog or pursue a job as a surgical physician assistant). After reading your posts I feel so inspired by you and your out look on life. It’s easy to get down in the dumps and angry at the cards you have been dealt. There’s not much you can do about your situation so the best thing you can do is change your outlook. Thank you for the gentle reminder! I’m hoping that I’ll be a candidate for exosym and try to find some relief!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. hi sarah, i’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. it’s not easy to go through these life challenges but i do believe when we learn to embrace them and not give up, we can find the strength to keep moving forward. stay strong and keep believing. ❤️

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