Triumph Over All

TONI’S STORY

A career in law enforcement was always in the cards for Toni Lacey. The Toronto community she called home as a child was rife with crime, and after visiting the local mobile command station at the age of 15 she knew she was destined to be a police dispatcher. Toni nabbed her dream job when in 2001 she signed on to the York Regional Police force as a communicator, taking calls and doing dispatch. But, as Toni explains, answering emergency calls day in and day out can be taxing on a person. “There were lots of great days with awesome outcomes, when I was helping people in need,” she says. “But there were also calls that would haunt me.” On August 23, 2013 she took a call unlike any she had fielded before – and what she heard affected her deeply. Soon after, post-traumatic stress disorder took its grip. As Toni explained, “Although I did not know the victim or his family, I felt a kind of survivor’s guilt. Like I should have been able to A career in law enforcement was always in the cards for Toni Lacey. The Toronto community she called home as a child was rife with crime, and after visiting the local mobile command station at the age of 15 she knew she was destined to be the police dispatcher. Toni nabbed her dream job when in 2001 she signed on to the York Regional Police force as a communicator, taking calls and doing dispatch. But, as Toni explains, answering emergency calls day in and day out can be taxing on a person. “There were lots of great days with awesome outcomes, when I was helping people in need,” she says. “But there were also calls that would haunt me.” On August 23, 2013 she took a call unlike any she had fielded before – and what she heard affected her deeply. Soon after, post-traumatic stress disorder took its grip. As Toni explained, “Although I did not know the victim or his family, I felt a kind of survivor’s guilt. Like I should have been able to help the caller more.” In the throes of a severe depression and unable to attend work without crying uncontrollably, a few days after taking the call she reached out to The Trauma Centre in Sharon, which specializes in cases involving emergency service workers. But the counseling didn’t help, and her therapist commended that she be admitted for inpatient treatment. “I was scared, felt like a failure, and didn’t want to leave the safety of my home, but I also didn’t want to live like that anymore.” And thus, with some trepidation, she began the eight-week  PTSD inpatient program at Homewood Health in Guelph, Ontario. Now Toni is on the path to health, performing outreach to her “fellow sufferers” through Facebook groups and any other way she can. Today Toni speaks freely about her struggles in the hope she can help others. “Even though I am no longer able to be a 911 call taker, I can still help people like me,” she explains.

motivational story of Tonimotivational storiesLISA’S STORY

Always physically active, Lisa Nigh thought her second pregnancy with twins would be fairly easy. After all, she had daughter Alex only three years earlier and she had exercised throughout her entire pregnancy, which made dropping the weight almost effortless. But her second pregnancy, this time with twins, had its share of issues, and after a premature labour at 27 weeks, Lisa had to stay in bed on rest for another nine weeks. Sadly, the second labour of her pregnancy ended with both joy and sadness. “Howie Jr. was born to a newborn’s cry,” she recalls, “and Hope to tears and silence.” Lisa was understandably heartbroken. It was not easy to stay strong, but with a young family to care for she did what she could in the shadow of sorrow. A proper funeral for Hope helped Lisa grieve and find some closure, as did the snuggles and love that radiated from her “little peanut,” Howie Jr., and the laughs that Alex provided daily. But Lisa says that in retrospect that period of time seemed like a blur. Staying active was a significant item in her get-better toolkit. These days, years after saying goodbye to her infant daughter, Lisa is the owner of numerous worldwide powerlifting medals and once held the position of VP of the Ontario Powerlifting Association. (Just prior to stepping down from the role after two years, she had the privilege of sitting at the head table for the powerlifting portion of the Invictus Games – and even met Prince Harry in the process.) She also hosts free outdoor fitness classes in a small village near her hometown, a charity endeavor that has up to 50 people “paying” for the privilege with a non-perishable food donation for the local food bank. “I’ve volunteered my whole life, and this was a way to join forces, get people of all fitness levels active, and give back to my community.”

motivational story of ToniWITH HER 50TH BIRTHDAY SET TO HIT
IN MARCH, LISA IS MORE POSITIVE OF HER PATH
THAN EVER.

Last year, tragedy struck again for Lisa when her father was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. She became his caretaker, leaving her Northwestern Ontario home for three months to join him in Southern Ontario. The strength she gained through powerlifting, both mental and physical, allowed her to care for her dad in his last months – she even carried him when he could no longer walk. With her 50th birthday set to hit in March, Lisa is more positive of her path than ever. What she wants people to take from her story is the power of optimism. She says, “Be thankful. Give back. Surround yourself with people and things that bring you joy.” And above all, love yourself, no matter how hard you may sometimes find it.

ANGIE’S STORY

motivational stories of LisaOn September 23, 2013, one month before her 47th birthday, Angie Burke’s husband heard a crash in their home. When he rushed to the source of the noise, he found his wife on the bedroom floor, unconscious and seizing with the left side of her body limp.  She had suffered a stroke.

After spending some time at a major trauma centre, Angie was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital where she was worked with doctors to get her back to the point she could stand and walk again, and regain the use of her left limbs.

A few weeks later she was discharged, and she continued her rehab at home on the treadmill and with easy free weight exercises. “Initially I could barely walk on the treadmill and couldn’t lift any weight with my arm, but at least I was trying,” she remembers.

With time she began to walk faster and longer, and eventually she could lift 2.5 pounds with her left arm. But it didn’t feel fast enough, and the darkness soon enveloped her. Angie was caught trying to overdose and was quickly admitted to a mental health unit. “I went into a major depression,” she says. “I lost all determination and quit fighting to recover.”

motivational stories of angieAs for many others in the same situation, Angie found strength in activity. Fitness fortified her will to survive, and soon she was running a 5K race and competing in a fitness competition. At her last neurologist’s assessment, she was given two thumbs up; her recovery was nothing short of remarkable.

“I feel that I have recovered as well as I have largely due to the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle,” she notes. And when it comes to staying mentally and emotionally on point, Angie has some guidance to impart: dream big, and be crazy enough to believe they can happen. With enough effort, they just might.

 

 

 

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