When, at 22, I ended up in a wheelchair, it was far from how I had imagined my future. I had to change my plans and look at what life still had to offer in my new condition. Today, I look back and see how many opportunities life held for me, which I seized. I’m proud of where I am and here, I share my life’s path with you.
When I was young, I was a real ball of energy. When I wasn’t jumping around breaking the springs in the couch or my bed, I was up to my elbows in paint and colour crayons. In addition to being a little whirlwind, when I was determined to have something, I wouldn’t give up until I got it.
When I was 4, my mom got me into gymnastics to drain some of my excess energy. I gave my first coaches a run for their money since I was always climbing on things I wasn’t supposed to. This sport became my first real passion, and a lifestyle, during my last 3 years of high school in the Sports-Study program. It even became my first job, when I worked as a coach for a couple of years.
At some point during high school, I also switched from skiing to snowboarding. Skiers were not allowed in the first snowparks, so I solved that problem by saving all my money for my first board. At that point, I had no idea how snowboarding would change my life!
When I went to college, I quit gymnastic to fully concentrate on my graphic design studies and snowboarding. Soon, my entire life gravitated around snowboarding; my friends, my pastimes, my projects. The sport was a source of inspiration and freedom for me. When I was on my board, everything else went away and I would be living in the moment!
From the magazines we read and the videos we watched for inspiration, I quickly realized that the snowboarding scene was in Whistler B.C. So I decided to go spend a summer there and see what this place had to offer me. I took the plane by myself, with my board and my dreams, without really speaking English or knowing what I was getting myself into. It turned out to be an unforgettable summer! I got a little housekeeping job and was living in a basement apartment with 3 other people as passionate about the sport as me, with the opportunity to ride the glacier all summer! That’s without counting all the new friends I made and the great parties we had!
When I came back, I knew I wanted to live in Whistler after finishing school. During my last winter in Quebec, I entered several competitions, got sponsored and even won the bronze in my first Canadian halfpipe championships. My mind was always on the mountain, though. I couldn’t wait to finish school because a part of me was still back in B.C…
Once I got my diploma, I left for Whistler with my boyfriend, Éric, whom I had just recently met. I will always remember, on the road between Vancouver and Whistler, this feeling like I was coming home.
Our first year over there was very memorable. We discovered the joy of riding powder in the backcountry, I was slowly making a name in the snowboard scene and I had a graphic design contract with the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. That contract gave me the opportunity to explore all the facets of my profession and helped me launch my company, Metamorfic. I had everything I needed to be happy!
At the end of that wonderful first winter in Whistler, I went to the U.S. Open, hoping to do better than the previous year. Summoning all my determination, I did one of my best runs ever, placing 2nd in the pre-qualifications. I finally had my spot in the qualifiers with the pros who had inspired me in movies and magazines. It was the best day of my life!
Despite falling during my first run, I was literally floating on air and I knew I had a second chance. I confidently threw myself into my second run. I felt like I was flying over the crowd and photographers and was enjoying the moment to the max. Everything was perfect until I fell again, but this time, I couldn’t get up. Intense pain enveloped my chest and waist and I couldn’t feel my lower body. When the first aid attendant asked if I could feel his hand on my feet, I knew it was bad.
I was airlifted to the hospital in Albany, New York, where I underwent a 7-hour operation. They used part of my hip bone to repair the broken vertebra. I had broken T5 and dislodged T6 by 1 cm. They fixed it all, as well as my rather significant scoliosis, using 2 long metal rods and screws.
After the surgery, when the doctor told me about my paraplegia, I was not surprised. I already knew. My life changed completely in that moment, but one thing was for certain. As I had already told my parents, I was going back to Whistler with Éric to continue my life.
One week after my surgery, I was transferred to Quebec for rehabilitation. I entered the rehab centre determined to make my stay as short as possible. I heard that some people had been rehabilitated in 3 months, so I set that as my goal.
Being in a place where most of the people are depressed and where you have to follow a schedule drove me crazy! I have never fit into a mold and I made them understand that pretty quickly. I was lucky to have Éric with me every day to help me through everything. I also had the wonderful support of my friends and family, which gave me even more strength.
The athlete within me soon saw rehabilitation as a challenge I had to overcome. To the staff’s surprise, I had already dealt with my grief and was ready to move forward. Thanks to my gymnastics skills, I was able to quickly learn to do weight transfers. After walking on my hands for so many years, moving around with the help of my arms was almost natural.
I sort of messed with the rehab centre’s plans, especially when I told them I had already purchased a plane ticket for Whistler, with a fixed date. They had foreseen a 7-month rehabilitation given the extent of my injury, but after 3 months, I was on that plane as I had planned. I had my contract with the Festival waiting for me and Éric was already in Whistler moving our stuff to a new apartment that was accessible to me.
Back in Whistler, I quickly felt the community’s support. The snowboarding crowd organized a fundraiser to buy me sit-ski equipment so that I could get back on the mountain. And the festival crew set up my work station in my apartment to help me make a smooth transition. I was therefore able to quickly get back to work.
I also got back into sports in no time. The first summer, I was swimming again and I did some adapted mountain biking and handcycling. When winter came, I started learning to sit-ski with my instructor, Chris, who became a good friend. He also helped me experience my first bungee jump, at the launch of his new bungee company. Such a great experience!
I traveled to the rehabilitation centre in Vancouver several times for follow-ups and to get my first everyday chair. That is where I learned to walk with braces and crutches, which I still use today.
With Vancouver in the run for the 2010 Olympics Games, I was asked to take part in an advertisement for the bid, which we filmed on the Rainbow Glacier. What a surprise to learn they used some of the photos in a print campaign! Several friends called to tell me that they saw my face in a bus stop in Québec City and in the Vancouver airport. I even received a photo of a billboard in downtown Vancouver!
We spent 3 more awesome years in that little paradise, enjoying the outdoors with good friends. I got busier and busier with my company, Metamorfic, as my contract with the Festival netted me several other jobs, so I had no time to get bored!
BACK IN QUEBEC
In 2004, it was time to return to our friends and family. We decided to drive across Canada and had a blast in spite of the long hours in the car. It was great to receive such a warm welcome back from our loved ones.
We bought a little condo in Québec City and started building a new life here. I continued with my business and quickly found new clients. Éric joined me as a Web programmer, which allowed us to offer a more comprehensive service to our clients.
My inner athlete and my need to always be moving led me to gradually equip myself for different sports, in addition to downhill skiing. I have bicycled, cross-country skied, wakeboarded, surfed and recently began paddleboarding, using a kayak paddle. I also love parachute-jumping for the thrill and the sense of freedom it gives me and I hope to continue making progress!
In the last several years, I also took up photography and painting, which I do professionally. I now offer photography services to my Metamorfic clients, for projects that are accessible in my condition. My paintings are available here on my site. I also take special orders.
I would also like to create fitness videos for people in wheelchairs. Being healthy is very important to me and I know it’s not easy for everyone and even harder for many people who are in wheelchairs. So to create something accessible and motivating for all those who need it would be awesome!
All these projects keep me alive and motivated. That’s why I’m always on the lookout for new challenges…