Joe is supposed to be competing today in his last Banked Slalom before the Paralympics. Unfortunately, he's not. But let's back up a little bit.
There’s nothing like a change of plans that reminds out of how not in control we are and how we take things for granted.
So those engagement photos, right?! Incredible! I couldn’t have been happier with how those turned out (Thanks, Hope!). We had so much fun, despite the cold. And we were just excited to be together and snuggle up in the cold. It looks like everything is great in those photos, and for the most part it was. But there was a lot going on behind the scenes.
As Joe said to me, he feels like he hit a brick wall going full speed.
Not even 48 hours after our engagement photos, Joe was on crutches. Again. He has a bursa sac (it's basically a blister underneath the skin) at the bottom of his stump that's also resting on a nerve and it continues to fill up with fluid, despite having it drained multiple times. Just before this trip to Canada, he was told he needed another surgery.
Definitely not the news we wanted to hear.
Joe’s been through so much. We’ve been through so much. I will never say I understand what Joe’s going through, because I'm not an amputee and I will never understand to the full extent what he's going through. But being by his side through this journey, I at least have somewhat of an understanding of what can happen and what emotions amputees can go through.
One minute your riding down a jump throwing and landing a back flip like it’s no big deal, and the next, you can’t even walk.
It would be so hard for me to sit here and say that I am always strong and I am always able to get through this, but the reality is, I’m not. I get frustrated. I get angry. I wonder why these things happen to an amazing person like Joe, who all he wants in this life is to excel and do what he loves. Yet has it constantly stripped away from him.
I could sit here and ask, why him? Why can’t he catch a break? Why can’t it just go easily for once? There are people out there with two perfectly good legs and they don’t even use them, and yet here is Joe, and all he wants to do is walk and some days he can’t even do that.
We take so much for granted in our lives.
We’ll be going along and everything’s going great, and we’ll forget what it’s like to get knocked down. What it’s like to be on crutches. What it’s like to have to have somebody do everything for you. And it’s humbling how quickly you’re reminded that anything and everything can be taken from you at any point. And while I know we will get thru this, as we always do, it doesn’t make these moments here and now any easier.
The hardest part is feeling like there’s nothing I can do. I have no quick fixes.
So here we are in Canada.
This whole season, we've been really unsure whether Joe would make it to the Paralympics or not. His category is the largest, with some tough competition. And this is his first year. He's only been training for this for about 4 months.
Just after the new year, he found out that there was potential for him to snag one of the last spots on the US Paralympic Team, but it all depended on how he did in Canada. He's been working his butt off for weeks for this. Training on the slopes every morning; spending every afternoon in the gym or training at Woodward. And it was just after finding out he still had a chance to make it on the team, that he formed this bursa sac.
I know Joe won't like that I say this, but it's the truth: he's in a lot of pain. He really shouldn't even be riding. But he is. On Monday, he trained on the Border Cross Course, and on Tuesday, he competed in the last World Cup to qualify for the Paralympics in Border Cross. For being injured and needing surgery, he completely rocked it. He made 15th in the World and qualified for the second round, only to be beaten by Canadian Alex Massey, who went on to win the silver medal for the day, by two board lengths. To do that on an injured stump, I'd say that's pretty freaking awesome.
Unfortunately, he's paying for it. As soon as he got home that afternoon, he couldn't walk. His stump has been swollen since and he's not able to walk regularly in his socket. He won't be competing in the Banked Slalom Course today like he originally planned, and basically this means that at this point, any chance of getting to the Paralympics is slim to none.
He may not say it out loud, and I may not agree with it at all, but he's disappointed. Disappointed in himself; in his leg; in this situation that he had absolutely no control over, whatsoever. He's handling it like a champ though. His spirits are up, and he's doing well, but I know it's not easy for him. He would give anything to be out there on the slopes with those guys, and today, it's just not in the cards. It breaks my heart.
The good news in all of this? He's still so young. He's one of the younger and newer riders on the Paralympic circuit. He now has four years to get himself healthy, train and kick ass before the next winter Olympics in 2022. And I cannot WAIT to see how well he does, because I just know he is going to do great things.
This is absolutely his passion, and I love seeing the person this experience has made him. He has grown up so much these past few months and has worked so hard. I couldn't be prouder of him.
A huge, HUGE thank you to the coaches and managers of Adaptive Action Sports, Daniel & Bryant, for being incredible along this journey. They have been amazing through this and so helpful and supportive as Joe is figuring out this new part of his journey.
From here, Joe will get healthy, continue to train and work for the 2022 Paralympics, and I know he is just going to kill it. So stay tuned, because this is just the beginning.