Texas chapter member Candice Caesar had that attitude when she joined the Army in 1994, following her father and grandfather into service. Her plan was to stay in for about twenty years, get her commission, and become a physical therapist. But 7 ½ years into her career, while on active duty in Germany, she was involved in a vehicle accident that left her partially paralyzed as a “walking quad.”
Candice remembers the despair she felt. They told her she would never walk again, and because her vocal chords were damaged during surgery, she thought she might never speak again, either. She worked with a speech language pathologist to regain swallowing and speech functions. At the time she had a two year old son, and Candice fought hard to adapt to her new condition and perservere despite her challenges.
She became determined. “I leaned on my faith and said, ‘I’m going to walk a marathon.’” She became active running and walking marathons and half-marathons across the United States. When that became a little too hard on her body, she switched to cycling.
Before the pandemic, she was riding about 26 miles a week with the PVA racing team and various clubs. Today, she rides 400-500 miles a month participating in PVA’s virtual rides about six times a week. “We talk to each other as we cycle, and it’s like a cycling support group. Without it, I cannot tell you where I’d be mentally.”
She also attends PVA’s virtual yoga sessions three times a week and is grateful for the emotional support these events provide. “When you are paralyzed, you’ve lost your old life, and you can easily succumb to the ‘woe is me’ feeling,” Candice says. “Adaptive sports gives you your momentum back, makes you feel powerful, and gives you a sense of community.”
Candice has two bachelor degrees and a master’s in speech pathology. Once unable to speak, she now helps autistic children communicate.
“I didn’t understand the different activities and organizations that I could be a part of and learned all of that by going to Wheelchair Games and being hooked up with the Paralyzed Veterans of America. They just have no idea how they’ve changed my life.”