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Janet Oberholtzer is an author, blogger and motivation speaker. Her memoir, Because I Can: Doing what I can, with what I have, where I am won a publishing contest and was published in September 2011.
Janet had big plans for her life. Waking up in the hospital to discover that she’d almost died in a six-vehicle accident twelve days earlier was not part of her plans. Nor did she dream she’d have to spend four years recovering from horrific leg and hip injuries. Somewhere between the ongoing surgeries, therapy and meds, she was sucked into the dark vertex of depression.
Finding herself debating whether or not life was worth living scared her enough to seek help from counselors. With their help and her determination, Janet has learned to live well again in spite of the pain, limitations and deformed leg she now lives with.
By doing what she can, with what she has, where she is… she has recovered better than anticipated. At least twenty doctors told her running was a thing of her past, but she was able to return to running four years after the accident. And on May 20, 2012, Janet completed a full marathon. She is now training for the New York City marathon on November 4, 2012.
MO: Janet, your story is so inspiring. It must have been an incredible journey to face such a life changing accident and then use your experience to motivate and inspire others. Can you please share your story and the turning point of taking a personal tragedy and turning it into a platform to help others?
Janet: On the morning of May 20, 2004 I went for a run on a beach. It was a perfect Kodak moment morning and I could have stayed on the beach forever. But sadly, a few hours later the vehicle I was in was in a six-vehicle accident and I was fighting for my life in an ICU.
I needed 45 units of blood in the first 24 hours (an average person has 8 units of blood) and I hovered between life and death for about two days. Twelve days later, I woke up to discover that my lower body had almost too many injuries to count… broken ribs, punctured lung, at least a dozen fractures (many requiring rods and screws) and multiple wounds. My pelvis was so shattered, the doctors called it Humpty Dumpty because they didn’t know how it would heal. And for a few days my doctors debated between amputation or saving my left leg, where I had lost about 70% of the soft tissue and skin between my left knee and ankle. They took a chance and preformed daylong surgeries to save it.
I had ongoing surgeries for about four years and for two of those years, I was sad, angry and depressed. Many days I wished I would have died. With time and counseling, I realized life is beautiful and I don’t want to miss mine… so I began doing what I can, with what I have, where I am and I recovered better than I ever dreamed possible.
When I realized how many obstacles can be overcome, I wanted to help others who were struggling with unwanted circumstances and frustrating obstacles (real or imagined). So I began sharing hope through living, writing and speaking.
MO: How have you managed to stay motivated and inspired despite any obstacles or limitations you’ve faced?
Janet: Along with an optimistic personality, I’m determined (some people call me stubborn, but determined has a nicer ring to it) and there’s many places to see and things to do in life, so I need to be healthy to do them.
Plus, my younger sister Rosene was born with Cerebral Palsy, which affected every muscle in her body forcing her to spend at least half of her adult life in a wheelchair. Despite her limitations, she always tried to do the best she could in everything. Her motto in life was bloom where you are planted and she did that even with her limitations. She passed away in 2008 and at that time, I decided she always did what she could with what she had, why should I do anything less? So I do what I can, not out of guilt, but because I can!
MO: What is the best feedback you’ve ever received after a speaking engagement?
Janet: I enjoy connecting with as many people as I can at speaking events and people often say the kindest things. I think my favorite was hearing one attendee say, ”Your book is amazing, but there is nothing more impressive than meeting you and hearing you speak in person.”
MO: In the last 13 months, you’ve done 4 half-marathons and on May 20, 2012 a full marathon (26.2 miles.) What inspired you to take on physical challenges that most people would shy away from?
Janet: Setting goals and reaching them is one of the keys to having a meaningful life, plus over the years I have found that having a challenge in my life gives me hope and makes me feel fully alive. Plus, I’m a big believer that our bodies are meant to move and running works not only for my body, but also for my mind and soul, so the challenges I pick usually involve running.
MO: How do you give your readers and listeners tools for whatever obstacles they encounter, whether they are physical, professional or personal?
Janet: So much of what I’ve learned applies to numerous situations in life, so simply sharing my story inspires people to work harder to overcome obstacles. In this instant gratification era, we like to go from point A to point B overnight, but most obstacles take more time to overcome than we like, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t begin tackling them step by step. And I often remind others that they are stronger than they give themselves credit for.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally for 2012?
Janet: I enjoy each of my speaking events, but I have a few exciting ones happening this fall. I’ll be doing an Ignite Fitness Speech (which is a fast-paced presentation with auto-advancing slides) at a conference called Fitbloggin’. And I’m looking forward to a speaking event with nursing students at West Chester University.
And I’m doing the New York City Marathon on November 4, 2012! I’m excited to run one of the most famous marathons in the world and I’m equally thrilled that by doing the 26.2 miles, I’ll help others who have obstacles to overcome, because I’m running as a representative for the IM ABLE FOUNDATION.
The mission of the IM ABLE Foundation is to remove obstacles that prevent people affected by disabilities from being physically active by providing grants, resources, fitness opportunities and motivation.
Because of the obstacles I’ve overcome, I want to do what I can to help others overcome obstacles (real or imagined) in their life, so I’m honored and excited to have partnered with IM ABLE. I know thinking of others who have major obstacles to overcome will carry me through many miles, both in training and on the day of the race.