Sunday, April 1, 2012

Inspirational Story: Because I Can by Janet Oberholtzer

What happens after a sudden and tragic accident when you go from being a healthy and happy runner on a family vacation to being in an unexpected battle for your life? What happens when the recovery process brings physical, mental, and spiritual pain? Janet Oberholtzer was vacationing with her family in California when a horrible accident left her left leg and pelvis desperately broken. Doctors were not sure she or her left leg could even be saved and there were certainly fears that if she survived walking might be an impossibility too. Running? Surely never again! Because I Canis a story that documents the slow healing process that Janet undergoes in her quest to recover from her injuries and ultimately to recover her stride and her spirit as she makes her way back to running.

Because I Canis not a self-help or self congratulatory book that offers easy answers as easy answers were not to be for Janet. It is more a  book detailing Janet's personal and painful  journey during the process of recovery. It doesn't tell you how to deal with the the emotions and pain of such a trauma. It doesn't tell you how to transform a battered body back to the point where it can recover enough to run and it doesn't tell you how to deal with the spiritual discomfort that comes when you question your innermost lifelong beliefs. Instead, you learn  how Janet overcame the impossible situations and the many struggles that marked her life following the accident.

When I was a kid, I would often read through old copies of Reader's Digest when I was bored. It seemed every issue has some fantastic survival story about how someone overcame a tragedy or illness of some sort and beat the odds of survival. I always enjoyed these short stories demonstrating the power of the human will and spirit. Janet's story is more in depth than any Reader's Digest story. It gave me the appreciation for the length of time and the many emotions that someone goes through as they overcome an adverse situation and that is something that no Reader's Digest condensed story could ever do.  The book is not really about running, but we do learn how Janet started as a runner willing herself to build up to a 10 mile workout within a one year time span. Janet accomplished her goal on the last day possible. While in the hospital her words certainly define her as a runner:
Thinking of running made me want to get off the bed and run! My brain works better when my body is in motion, so running around the block would have helped me process what I was in the middle of. Or even better, run away from the nightmare I'd been in for the past seven weeks.
And later on her journey back to running:
With each step I took I again realized that there's something about running that makes me feel alive. I can't even explain it, but I am drawn to it and find meaning it it. So the months of half-marathon training were not only good for my body, but also my mind and spirit.
But before that, we find Janet in California on vacation with her family. She gets into that terrible RV accident leaving her at death's door. The injuries and slow progress towards healing lead her to a place of pain, confusion, and doubts. The book is a memoir of her many struggles while in and out of hospitals.

Janet gives an honest appraisal of her emotions and thoughts as she tries to piece herself back together. Her struggles in the hospital made me realize how difficult it is for someone to fully recover from trauma  as she rebuilds her fractured body and spirit. As I struggle with minor injuries that keep me from my athletic goals, I can certainly  admire someone with much more severe struggles and use it as a lesson to enjoy my own health and what I do have. Janet's journeys through multiple surgeries and recoveries were eye-opening to me. I am not sure that I would handle her situation well at all and because Janet emphasizes her frailties rather than describing herself as a hero, I was able to identify with her more closely. That is what made Janet's book fascinating to read. She tells it like it was and it wasn't always pretty. Her doubts were real, but through the process she eventually finds herself in a new place. Her body does more than she and others imagined. She learns to run again. She works through difficulties in her marriage and her tendency to blame her husband for the accident. She appreciates more deeply the struggles of her sister Rosene and she redefines her relationship with God.

I enjoyed reading about Janet's journey throughout the book. As I was reading it on my Kindle, I had a hard time picturing Janet, even though I felt like a family member reading her intimate story and it wasn't until later in the book that I got a grainy glimpse of Janet on my black and white Kindle. I kept reading about her troublesome "deformed" calf and at the end of the book she finally "revealed" her injury. I think it is a battle scar that should not be hidden, as she reluctantly learns, for it is a testament to her strength and resolve.

I understand that Janet's journey continues on and she is looking forward to running her first marathon since the accident near the end of  May. How great is that! If you want to keep reading about Janet's adventures and her writing you can visit her blog here.
 Don't ever think you can't!

1 comment:

Janet Oberholtzer said...

Thank you Jim!
What a articulate and kind review. I appreciate it!

Run on... because you can!