Last year at the National Speakers Association convention I heard Robyn Benincasa talk about her trials and tribulations. She is a firefighter and a 10-time Ironman, but she hasn’t always been as fit as she is today.
Seven years ago, Robyn was running in an eco-challenge adventure race when her leg gave out. She collapsed and dragged herself to the finish line. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with stage-four osteoarthritis in both hips, and her doctor told her she would never run again.
"I was in shock, because my body had never betrayed me before," said Benincasa, 47. "I always found a way to get through whatever it was, so I pretended it wasn't happening for a little while. And then I was being rolled into surgery for my first hip replacement."
Benincasa has since had three more hip replacements, but she never let it stop her. After the first one, she was inspired by a friend to start scheduling herself in events for which she could train. She realized it could also be a way to help inspire other women in their recovery so she started the organization Project Athena to help women recovering from medical or traumatic setbacks achieve their athletic goals.
One of those women, Alli Morgan, lived for sports. She was a cyclist, a climber, and played on her high school's softball and field hockey teams. That all ended abruptly her sophomore year on the day Morgan tore a ligament in her right knee during a field hockey game. She underwent ACL surgery, expecting a quick recovery. Instead, it led to 45 more operations on her knee, months in the hospital and a diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder. Morgan faced a difficult decision: Continue to undergo more surgery or consider amputation. "I thought of what I wanted out of life. I was on crutches for six years. I had a leg that was basically dead weight," she said. Morgan opted to have her leg amputated above the knee. "This was not about a loss of a limb," she said. "It was about regaining my life." During that process, Morgan found hope in Project Athena.
"Being an Athena, you're not just a survivor, you're an adventurer," Benincasa said. "We give them a different label to put on themselves, and it's something they become on their way to the finish line."
It's not about the setback; it's about the comeback. This is a reminder to the athletes and those around them to always try to see “challenges” in life and not “roadblocks”.
Today’s gift was a donation to the Project Athena Foundation. It inspires me to remember that it is not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it.