By Alyce Collins
DOCTORS told this woman to prepare for life in a wheelchair after surgeries to remove the TUMOUR on her spinal cord left her with severe nerve damage, but she’s proved them wrong by walking again.
Enrichment instructor, Krystalynn Chee (29) from Arizona, USA, noticed numbness in her right foot in 2009 which led doctors to run many tests on her feet, but to no avail. As the numbness began to spread up her leg, they decided to do an MRI scan on her spine in 2010.
The MRI located an intramedullary tumour growing inside Krystalynn’s spinal cord on the nerves, so surgery was arranged imminently to remove the tumour. The nine-hour surgery was successful but in the days that followed, Krystalynn noticed weakness and numbness in her legs, which doctors suggested was to be expected after surgery because of how close they’d cut to the nerves.
Two months after surgery Krystalynn was able to walk again but the weakness persisted in her legs. Unfortunately, Krystalynn returned for surgery in September 2016 because a build up of scar tissue was applying pressure on the nerves in her spine again. A month later, Krystalynn returned for a third surgery due to a fluid build-up which required draining.
The recovery was harder after each surgery, but after the third doctors warned that she should prepare for a life in a wheelchair because they didn’t think she’d walk again due to multiple surgeries which caused nerve damage. They also said that her back strength was diminished so she’d never be able to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.
This was crushing for Krystalynn, but she remained optimistic and became determined to prove them wrong. She spent six months in a wheelchair before shocking her doctors by using a walker and returning to the gym to lift 25-pound weights.
“I was experiencing numbness in my right foot for about a year. So, in 2010 they did most of the testing in my feet, but after a while the numbness was going up my leg and that’s when they decided to do an MRI on my spine,” said Krystalynn.
“That was how they found the tumour in my spinal cord, growing on the nerves. In the summer of 2010, I had my surgery done.
“I did chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a year. The first surgery went well, but I noticed weakness in my legs right after I woke up and regained sensation.
“My doctors told me that I was going to lose some feeling in my legs because of how close to my nerves they had to cut.
“Two weeks later, I was slowly moving around but I got fatigued after about 10 minutes. It took about two months to fully get back my strength and I had to work on it.
“Then a few years later, in September 2016, I had to have a second surgery because there was a scar tissue build-up and it was putting pressure on my nerves inside my spine.
“The third surgery was in October 2016 because there was fluid build-up, so they had to go back in and drain it out. They cut as close as they could without paralysing me.
“The recovery after each surgery got harder. The third surgery was the hardest one to recover from because my right leg was completely dead. I couldn’t move it at all, even if I tried. It just wouldn’t move.
“After having the third surgery done, I was told I may not walk because of how close they had to cut to my nerves. They also told me that my back may not get as strong to handle over 10 pounds.
“My doctors told me that I may have to adjust to being in a wheelchair, but I used that as fuel to prove them wrong. I’m a determined person and if you tell me I can’t do something I will find a way to do it.”
Krystalynn was devastated to be told that she may spend the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair, so she determinedly carried out rigorous physiotherapy sessions involving walking on a treadmill, using an exercise bike and leg strengthening exercises.
Now, her doctors are amazed when Krystalynn walks in for her check-up appointments and they marvel at how she’s able to move the leg that was once completely numb.
“When they told me I might never walk again, I felt completely broken. I was in shock but I’m a go-getter and I love proving people wrong,” said Krystalynn.
“I told myself that I wasn’t going to allow my condition to stop me from living my life and I wasn’t going to stop without a fight. I told my doctors that I would show them what I was capable of. My faith in God has kept me calm and strong. My faith is what I lean on when I get frustrated.
“The thought of being confined to a wheelchair scared me, but I learned that the wheelchair could either be my wings or an anchor, it was up to me to decide which one I wanted it to be.
“The recovery from the third surgery has been such a roller coaster. It’s tough but it has made me a stronger person mentally and physically. I feel like I’m in better shape now than I was before I had the surgeries – life is funny that way!
“It took almost a year to be able to walk more than a few steps. I was in a wheelchair for six months and then I started doing more with a leg brace, but I had to drag my right leg.
“My physiotherapy entails the bike, doing side steps, stairs, step ups, walking on treadmill and other exercises that work the muscles in my legs. I’m also back to lifting between 25 and 30-pound weights, and I do squats and lunges to strengthen my trunk.
“I love the reactions my doctors give me when I go for my follow ups. They smile and always ask me how I’m able to move my leg. They still wonder because of how much nerve damage was done. According to them, my leg shouldn’t be moving, and I shouldn’t even be able to use a walker.
“Even though life gets tough, it’s vital to keep pressing forward. We may not understand why things happen but know that there’s something greater that’s going to come out of it.
“Take those baby steps forward and keep a positive mindset. Life is still worth living so never allow the wages of this world bring you down.”
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