At just 20 years old, Krystalynn Chee was told she might be wheelchair-bound for life.
After brushing off some numbness in her right leg for about a year, she was finally diagnosed with a tumor on her spinal cord in 2010.
The MRI spotted an intramedullary tumor growing inside Krystalynn’s spinal cord on the nerves, requiring imminent surgery.
The nine-hour operation was successful but her weakness and numbness persisted.
Doctors insisted it would fade, but it didn’t, and in 2016 doctors found a build up of scar tissue applying pressure on the nerves in her spine again.
Then, there was the third surgery to deal with fluid build-up.
The recovery was harder each time, but after the third doctors warned that she should prepare for a life in a wheelchair because they didn’t think she’d walk again due to multiple surgeries which caused nerve damage.
Krystalynn was warned she’d never be able to walk again, but she has managed to defy the odds and rebuild her fitness
On the left, Krystalynn’s surgery scar, and the right is her back now after building her strength
They also said that her back strength was diminished so she’d never be able to lift anything heavier than 10 pounds.
It was crushing for Krystalynn, of Arizona, but she remained optimistic and became determined to prove them wrong.
She spent six months in a wheelchair before shocking her doctors by using a walker and returning to the gym to lift 25-pound weights.
‘My doctors told me that I may have to adjust to being in a wheelchair, but I used that as fuel to prove them wrong,’ Krystalynn said. ‘I’m a determined person and if you tell me I can’t do something I will find a way to do it.’
She was devastated to be told that she may spend the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair, so she determinedly carried out rigorous physiotherapy sessions involving walking on a treadmill, using an exercise bike and leg strengthening exercises.
Now, her doctors are amazed when Krystalynn walks in for her check-up appointments and they marvel at how she’s able to move the leg that was once completely numb.
‘When they told me I might never walk again, I felt completely broken. I was in shock but I’m a go-getter and I love proving people wrong,’ said Krystalynn.
Krystalynn was told she wouldn’t be able to walk after three surgeries on her spinal cord caused so much nerve damage. But physical therapy (right) has helped
Krystalynn hated to be told that her hopes of walking were slim, so she was determined to prove them wrong
‘I told myself that I wasn’t going to allow my condition to stop me from living my life and I wasn’t going to stop without a fight.
‘I told my doctors that I would show them what I was capable of. My faith in God has kept me calm and strong. My faith is what I lean on when I get frustrated.
‘The thought of being confined to a wheelchair scared me, but I learned that the wheelchair could either be my wings or an anchor, it was up to me to decide which one I wanted it to be.’
It took almost a year for Krystalynn to be able to walk more than a few steps.
She was in a wheelchair for six months and then she started doing more with a leg brace, but she had to drag my right leg.
It took almost a year for Krystalynn to be able to walk more than a few steps
Her physiotherapy entails using a bike, doing side steps, stairs, step ups, walking on treadmill and other exercises that work the muscles in my legs.
She’s also back to lifting between 25 and 30-pound weights, and she does squats and lunges to strengthen her trunk.
‘I love the reactions my doctors give me when I go for my follow ups,’ Krystalynn said.
‘They smile and always ask me how I’m able to move my leg. They still wonder because of how much nerve damage was done. According to them, my leg shouldn’t be moving, and I shouldn’t even be able to use a walker.
‘Even though life gets tough, it’s vital to keep pressing forward. We may not understand why things happen but know that there’s something greater that’s going to come out of it.
‘Take those baby steps forward and keep a positive mindset. Life is still worth living so never allow the wages of this world bring you down.’