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    Posted December 1, 2012 by
    Phoenix, Arizona
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    CNN Fit Nation: 2013 Triathlon Challenge

    From Broken to Tri-Athlete

    Hi, I'm Monica Quijada. There are a million ways to describe me; mom, instructional designer, volunteer, nerd, words with friends addict...but none of these have really mattered to me more than the label that I gave myself 10 years ago. Broken. That's when I climbed up on my dining room table to get a balloon out of the chandelier, promptly fell off and broke my wrist. I had emergency surgery, but that was just the beginning. I underwent another surgery because it didn't heal properly; leaving me with a permanent gap in one of my arm bones that will break if I carry anything heavier than a gallon of milk. After all that, I didn't feel right. I hurt all the time. Cooking meals became a chore, so we ate fast food. Shopping at the mall hurt, so we browsed eBay instead of walking the mall. So when not at work, I laid in bed and missed out on life. On my kids sporting events, spending time with my husband and my favorite activities. The feeling of being broken started to settle in my brain.

    My doctor sent me to a rheumatologist because I tested positive for some antibody I never heard of. I was told I had Sjogren's Syndrome. But this didn’t seem to be the right answer. During a follow-up visit I explained the constant pain to him and he said, "Really, you hurt that much?" He asked me more questions and he handed me a pamphlet on Fibromyalgia and a prescription. Here it was, medical proof that I was indeed broken.

    The medicine was a mixed blessing. It suppressed the pain which allowed me to get out to enjoy time with my kids and husband, but it also suppressed my stomach's "full" signal which helped me gain about 40 lbs. I say helped because come on, really, I helped myself gain that weight too. Exercising had became much more challenging. In the past, I played tennis, softball, and hiked with friends. Now these were off-limits because my arm couldn't bear the weight or I feared falling. I got kicked out of pilates class and downward dog was not an option. I convinced myself that I was just broken.

    A few months ago I was re-telling the arm story to someone who asked about the scars on my arm when I realized it had been 10 years since the accident. I had been making excuses for 10 years. Something clicked. I decided 10 years was enough time to feel sorry for myself. I signed up for a running class at the community center. I fought for every minute I added to my intervals. I walked and jogged a 5k with my classmates who were more advanced than me. While being the last is nice because everyone is there to cheer you on, you're still last. That stupid broken message creeped in my head again.

    I just recently reached a milestone of being able to run for 30 minutes straight. I have only done it a few times, but I am still pretty proud of myself. I feel much better and have lost about 1/2 the weight I intend to lose and was contemplating what's next. Then I saw the call for tri-fit participants. I thought, that's it. I want to do that. I refuse to think that I am broken anymore. I mean really, if you complete in a triathlon, how could you even possibly think you were broken? I want to do it for every other person lying in bed in pain trying to muster the energy to wash their face much less find the energy for the exercise program their physical therapist has laid out for them. I want to show them that they aren't broken. Maybe my journey will inspire them to figure out how take control of their pain and their life. And I want to do it for my kids. My daughter deserves to shop for prom dresses at the mall, not online. And my son deserves a standing ovation when he makes a basket at his game. It would be an amazing, crazy journey. Especially since I don't think I really know how to swim, it would be the longest I will have ever run, and I could conquer my fear of falling off a bike. That would be so awesome. But to rid myself of that stupid label would be best gift I could give myself. Thanks for the consideration!
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