My disability and chronic illness are what make me a different kind of trainer!
My name is Kelly Sipe, and I am the founder of Beyond Your Limits Inclusive Fitness and Recreation. Why is that important, well, I have lived with a chronic illness since I was 28 years old. My illness came on suddenly and unexpectedly and has forever changed my life and my family’s.
When my daughter was 8 months old, I was diagnosed with acute gallstone pancreatitis. The infection was so severe that it actually destroyed my kidneys and caused me to have End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD). This disease means that I will either have to use a dialysis machine for the rest of my life or receive a kidney transplant in order to live.
So, for the almost twenty years, I have been on and off of dialysis and received two kidney transplants from my family; one from my aunt and the other from my sister. Now, I know for a fact that without my family’s complete support and their gifts of donations, I would not be alive today.
I am not looking for sympathy
Unfortunately, I have had to deal with more than ESRD. I have had several complications due to the many different treatments, procedures, and surgeries over the years. I have had countless surgeries, broken bones, and multiple ports, grafts, and catheters.
I am not telling you this because I want your sympathy. I am telling you this because I have a “been there, done that” perspective that not many fitness trainers will have.
I am not cured, but I strive for more good days than bad. I still live with my illness and disability and struggle daily, but I truly believe that my purpose is to help those who are like me.
I want to help people who may struggle with different physical or cognitive disabilities or people who face a chronic illness which can weaken their body, their mind, or their spirit.
I grew up an average suburban kid. This was the pre-cellphone time in the eighties when kids actually played outside all day long. We played until the street lights came on and never checked in and no one was concerned where we were. We played pick-up games, organized games, and games that went on for days.
I was definitely a tomboy too.
I played all kinds of sports – although softball and basketball were the school sports, and skiing and swimming were outside of school (I was actually a lifeguard for a couple of years). I was SUPER COMPETITIVE and still am.
In fact, I still get myself in trouble sometimes. One time I forgot that I am actually “differently abled” and spent twenty minutes smack talking my nephew about beating him skiing down the mountain before I realize that I cannot even walk wearing ski boots much less actually ski down the mountain. I had to spend the next twenty minutes backpedaling!
As a young adult, I spent my time (when not working) playing sports as recreation: snow skiing, water skiing, camping, canoeing, tennis, etc.… My husband (then boyfriend) and I spent our time planning weekends and yearly vacations around these types of activities. So when we finally got married (eight years later BTW), I had no doubt that we would raise our children the same way.
Unfortunately, I became sick soon after I had our daughter and was not able to fully participate in this type of active lifestyle for her or me. Thankfully, my husband and our families helped to provide her with the recreation and activity that every child needs and I was able to be there on the sidelines for most of it.
So how did I get from there to here?
At some point, we all have what I call the AH-HA moment. It is the day we wake up and realize that this is it, this is the body that I am going to have from crib to grave and I better make the most out of it.
Well, over the years I have made MANY deals with GOD, and I am not a very religious person. They sort of looked like this: Dear God, let me live until my daughter makes it until school; Dear God, Let me live until she makes it until middle school; Dear God, let me get her to High School; Dear God, let me live until she graduates. Every time the yardstick moved just a little further.
Then, not that long ago, I read a story about a woman in Ohio who needed a kidney transplant but was being denied by her insurance company because she was 56 years old and has already had two transplants. The insurance company said that she was too high a risk even though it was a familial living donor transplant (meaning a very good match for her) because of the other two failed transplants. Now, I never confirmed if this was true or not (internet stories so you can never be sure) but in my personal story, this is a very scary thought.
THIS was my AH-HA moment! I decided that I needed to do everything I could to ensure that this kidney transplant I do have stays healthy and that I stay as strong as I can.
So I started to look for things that I could do to get active and healthy and soon realized that there aren’t many options.