The 8-year anniversary of Christine's spinal chord injury (SCI).
Nicolaas Harding | World Paddle Awards - Christine is Canada's double V1W World Champion (2010 – LTA/TA/A combined, 2011 – LTA) who won a further 3 silvers and 3 bronze at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships from 2009 to 2012.
On 18 December just gone 2014, she tweeted:
A mistake 8 yrs ago turned my life upside down and also awarded me amazing opportunities.
Moved by these words, I contacted Christine. I wanted to find out what her 'wheelieversary' meant for her today and how she has become so positive about a life-changing event that people would automatically assume to be a very difficult memory.
Following an abseiling (rappeling) accident near Kamloops in British Columbia in 2006, a fractured vertebrae in her lower back rendered her paraplegic.
“It was a catastrophic injury that changed just about everything in my life (but not all in a bad way) - it gave me a new way outlook on life, new friends and an entirely new set of dreams and goals.
“In a lot of ways it's like a birthday, and so I take the time every year to celebrate it. There isn't always a consistent thing that I do, but I typically grab a drink with friends and take the time to reflect on how far I've come since that day in 2006.
“I am the same person but I'm also not the same person. I'm still Christine, but I have much bigger dreams and a much greater respect and understanding of the world. I know what it's like to be judged based on your appearance and I know the frustration of being defined by one part of your life.
“I have also met some pretty amazing individuals (including my partner) and had the opportunity to experience more in my 28 years than some people experience in all their lives.
“I am still in contact with the wonderful nurses from Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops that got me through the toughest days as well as some of the fabulous team from Wascana Rehabilitation Centre that helped me find my way after I returned home to Regina.
“I am so grateful for everyone who has been with me all the way and supported me in all my crazy adventures.”
Pursuing positivity and sport
“A lot changed in the first year after I sustained my SCI. I learned the true definition of the word friend (by living in a hospital for three months), I learned that most things in life are pretty minor (even though they may not feel like it at the time) and that being happy really is a choice you make.
“I had a pretty positive outlook even while I was in the hospital, and though I have a lot of people to thank for making that possible, it was also a choice I made every morning. I knew that I could wallow and be sad in that moment, and that most people wouldn't blame me for being so, but I also knew that I wasn't going to get any further ahead if I did that.”
Before her accident Christine always loved being active, but never really felt that sport was for her. This then changed.
“After my SCI, I knew that sport was going to be a great way to get to know other people who had gone through something like I had – I wanted to meet and be friends with other people who had sustained SCIs or that had other disabilities. As I grew into loving sport, I really grew to love that aspect of it - getting to know the other people that participate.
“I love being able to have hilarious conversations about the challenges that we (as a group of individuals with disabilities) face every day. I like having the opportunity to learn new tidbits about every day life from other people, and I love being able to show others the things I've learned as well.
“People with disabilities have been passing 'life hacks' (pieces of advice) on to each other for generations and being a part of that on an international level has been so much fun.”
Now retired (but perhaps not for long!), Christine misses paddling at international level:
“I miss the travel, the camaraderie, my teammates and the exhilaration of race day. I'm sure I'll be back some day!”
Lessons for 2015
“For those who have acquired a disability, I think it's important to take the time to think about how far we've come. I remember lying on my side on the ledge I landed on and thinking that so many things in my life were over. I questioned everything about how my life would move forward.
“I have come so far in the last 8 years, and taking the time to reflect on that pushes me to keep doing it. To keep breaking barriers and working hard and making every moment worth it.”