Mountain dream alive for Rugby woman who threw away disability badge after losing 35 pounds - The Rugby Observer

Mountain dream alive for Rugby woman who threw away disability badge after losing 35 pounds

Andy Morris 21st Feb, 2018   0

A DREAM to climb a mountain in South Africa is to become reality for a formerly wheelchair-bound Rugby mum who threw away her disability badge after she lost 35 pounds.

Karen Kirby says she has ‘been given another chance at life’ after finding love and, with it, the motivation to regain her mobility.

Karen, 55, was was six months pregnant with her third son when she fell and injured her back 30 years ago.

While the baby was unharmed, Karen was left with a debilitating injury and had two operations which left her suffering chronic pain and depression.

“I had no feeling in my legs below the knees and struggled to walk,” she said. “I was devastated – I cried bitterly. I felt old, and I was unable to see any meaningful future.”

She had to learn how to cope alone when she and her then partner split up in 2005.

In 2014 she met Chris, a physically fit man 11 years her junior, who said he would help her become fit again – even promising her that one day he would take her up Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa – the country where he grew up.

Chris and Karen when they first met in 2014. (s)

Karen said: “Chris made it clear the future for us would be challenging, but he intended to challenge it!

“I was worried and a little upset with him if I am honest. His positivity scared me and I thought he was ignoring reality. I didn’t think I would be able to keep up with him. I thought he was deluded.”

But, with Chris’ encouragement, in 2015 Karen joined Weight Watchers and started going to the gym – and after just a few weeks had lost 10 pounds.

So Chris booked a flight to South Africa – but Karen suffered a setback two weeks before they left and was bent double with a walking stick for most of the trip, unable to walk far.

“I wasn’t ready,” she said. “When my back went and I was unable to walk again, I was devastated.

“When Chris took me to Table Mountain, I was nervous and can honestly say I did not fully appreciate the awe and beauty of such a wondrous place.”

The couple on their first trip to Table Mountain, when a setback meant Karen was bent double with a walking stick for most of the trip, unable to walk far. (s)

Not to be beaten, Karen continued to lose weight – taking pressure off her weight bearing joints and allowing her to recover.

She said: “When my disability badge ran out, I decided I was going to put the disability label behind me.

“I was so excited. I never believed in my wildest dreams that day would ever come.

“The sun was shining in my heart as we took that battered blue disc and placed it in the bin, almost like we were burying the past.”

Now a regular dog-walker and swimmer, Karen has reignited her passion for life – and now runs Weight Watchers classes in Rugby.

And the couple will return to Table Mountain in October after Chris surprised her with tickets as a Valentine’s Day gift.

“I feel so excited and privileged to be able to return and appreciate the wonders of going up the mountain and seeing all the things I missed the first time,” she said.

“When I think back to the day Chris first talked about doing all these things, it’s like I have been given another chance at life.

“I can’t thank Chris enough for the faith he has shown in me. He said he fell in love with my spirit and my energy and now I just want to show him that he was right to believe in me.”

And to people in the position she was in 30 years ago, she says: “Don’t accept your fate – argue with it.

“If I had accepted everything I was told, I would still be wheelchair-bound today.

“If you believe in yourself and believe something is possible, then you can make it happen.”

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