Out Paralympians digest: Angela Madsen

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This amazing woman is a real hero of our time – from inability to move to sport career, from homelessness to worldwide fame. She fell many times, but she always rose up. And if you think that your life is too difficult, read her story, stop whining and thank God for what you have.

The Marine officer received a spine injury in 1993 and had to say goodbye to her career in engineering she devoted her life to. Terrible, you may say. No, it is only a beginning of horrors she had to come through. Her health condition became completely hopeless due to surgical errors, she had to spend much more time at hospital than she expected to. And when it was time to come back home, there was no place to come back to anymore.

But even this was not the end. Since the spinal cord injury, Madsen has undergone a double mastectomy for breast cancer and numerous other surgeries and treatments relating to carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve problems. She has also been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease pertaining to the fatigability of muscles.

But despite it all she did not give up. She has always been in sport and she did not betray her passion. Madsen has played and continues to participate in all kinds of wheelchair and adaptive sports, but one of her more exceptional passions is rowing. Madsen has rowed non-stop around Britain, a 2010 mile stretch from London’s Tower Bridge to London’s Tower Bridge (made very challenging due to unpredictable weather patterns), and across both the Atlantic and Indian oceans. In doing the latter, she became the first person with disabilities to row across two oceans and the first woman to row across the Indian Ocean. In 2009, Madsen was added to the Guinness Book of World Records for her achievements.

“Situation and circumstance,” Madsen says, “should never be allowed to dictate who we are and what we will be able to achieve in our lifetime. Allowing situation and circumstance to oppress us is a choice… I knew I was going to row an ocean. I did not allow the situation of being a woman and a paraplegic stop me.” On her website, Madsen displays a Latin phrase which reflects the above philosophy: “Vita mutatur, non tollitur.” Translated: Life is changed, not taken away.

Madsen already has one Paralympic medal: bronze from London 2012. This year she hopes to improve her results. And is there something impossible for this amazing woman? Good luck, Angela!

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