Melissa is 62 years old and describes herself as someone who had not been active throughout most of her life. She says that she was an overweight, out-of-shape kid who didn’t play sports and had insecurities about her body.
By the time she hit her 40’s, she decided that something needed to change. She wanted to run a 5K and hired a trainer to help her prepare. “It was a dream of mine all my life,” she says.
By that point, she had already experienced back problems but hoped that she could overcome them. Unfortunately, they struck again during her training. “I ended up blowing out my L4-L5 disc,” she says.
With two back surgeries under her belt already, Melissa hoped to avoid surgery again this time. “I waited way too long though,” she says. By that time, she had extensive nerve damage and her right foot was completely numb. She had surgery but was still in pain.
She tried physical therapy but says she felt discouraged when the therapist told her, “Don’t ever carry a basket of laundry down the stairs, because you don’t have good enough balance and you have a numb foot.”
“I finally just gave up,” she recalls. “I just thought, I’m going to live with pain for the rest of my life. And for ten years, I did nothing. I would not carry a basket down the stairs. In fact, I was terrified. And I fell a lot.”
That ten-year period was a tough one for Melissa. She says it makes her sad to think about the pain and depression that she suffered through those years.
A Turning Point
After years of living in pain, Melissa had a moment of introspection while on a mission trip to Ethiopia. She wondered if there might be new treatments available that didn’t exist a decade earlier. She decided that she would try again to find relief.
When she returned from her trip, she talked to a friend who had just undergone hip replacement surgery. “She was raving about her PT,” Melissa says. The friend told her about Joy Pfuhl at KCP, and Melissa booked an appointment.
As she tells the story about that initial visit, Melissa says, “This is gonna make me cry. The first time that I went there, I sat in one of those little rooms and just cried. I told Joy my whole story about my three back surgeries…and she just looked at me and said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’ And I just cried.”
At the beginning of her physical therapy with KCP, Melissa says, “I’m telling you – I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even brush my teeth. I could not lean over a sink and brush my teeth because my back hurt so bad. I could not stand for longer than about five minutes…I couldn’t even get dressed by myself.”
They began to build her strength back slowly.
Melissa started off with light weights and basic exercises, focusing on what her body was telling her. Eventually, she was doing strength training for her arms, legs, and core. Once Melissa saw success and how this translated to her day-to-day function, she was excited to progress to higher levels of fitness.
The road was long, with many bumps along the way. Over the next few years, she also suffered from plantar fasciitis, a torn bicep, a bone spur, and underwent shoulder surgery.
But Melissa stayed the course and continued with physical therapy. Regardless of what was happening, she focused on making progress in whatever ways she could.
“The thing that I love about KCP is they can always modify everything,” she says. “They know what they’re doing with modifying. Even when I was significantly injured, I just kept going and stayed faithful.”
Melissa says that working with someone who respected her limits and was willing to work within them was important to her. “Joy was the first person that said to me, ‘If it hurts, stop. We’ll find another way.’ That was the biggest key for me, because every other time I had worked through the pain. I got injured worse.”
Melissa persevered through every setback she encountered.
Joy says, “Melissa is the most dedicated and inspiring person. Through all of her injuries and surgeries, she never stopped training. She took control of her body instead of letting it control her. It has been my honor to be a part of her journey!”
Stronger at 62 than at 50
Today, Melissa participates in KCP’s Fitness Training classes, which are 60 minutes long and consist of a mix of cardio and strength-training exercises. She is proud to report that she just completed a four-mile hike that she said was “easy” for her.
“I’m stronger at 62 than I was at 50,” she says. “It blows my mind. For someone like me that was insecure about their body to begin with –never had a history of being in shape, playing sports, or doing any physical activity – and then to have three significant back surgeries, to give up, and to be depressed…to be able to heal and get stronger…that’s why I love KCP.”