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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Jessika Kattah loves to work out.
She always has.
“I was very active and very fit before,” she said. “I was a gym rat. And I liked to run.”
And she always will.
“I can do everything I did before, I just do it differently. I can’t dance with my legs, but I dance with my heart,” she said while twisting in her wheelchair at the adaptive gym at Markham Park in Sunrise.
Jessika is paralyzed.
She was first diagnosed with a benign lipoma tumor on her spine when she was 14 years old.
“They removed 75 percent of it successfully. I went back to school as my able-bodied self,” she said. “Never thought of it again. I led my life not thinking it would ever come back.”
But it did come back.
When Jessika was 26, she noticed she was losing sensation in the lower half of her body. The tumor had grown to its original size. She had surgery again, but the outcome was different.
“I didn’t want to believe I was paralyzed. In my head, I still thought I was going to recover. I didn’t want to believe the truth,” she said.
Jessika says through intense rehab, she did walk again. Doctors were calling it a miracle. But over time, she found herself relying on her chair more.
“I went back and the MRI showed the tumor grew back a third time,” she explained.
Jessika decided she wouldn’t let her spinal cord injury stop her from doing what she loves. She still works out, takes vacations to Disney World, and even scuba dives.
“This whole process is 90 percent mental. If you’re not in a good mental state, it’s going to affect your physicality. Especially since we’re sitting all the time, it’s very important to stay active and keep our bodies, whatever we can do, keep it moving,” she said.
Jessika keeps moving as a “Wings For Life” ambassador. The organization is determined to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.
“Wings For Life is just to give us a second chance at life. Those of us that are paralyzed. We’re looking for a chance to walk again,” she said.
Jessika has participated in the Wings For Life World Run since it started in 2014.
“The second year of the world run I came in second place in my category… It was a 5k. 3 miles. It’s intense. I roll. But you can run you can walk,” she said. “My boyfriend, who happens to be in a chair as well, last year did 13 miles. Which is a half marathon.”
Their team, which is named “It’s That Wheel Kind of Love”, is already recruiting members for next year’s event.
Jessika blogs about her experiences in hopes of showing people living with paralysis they’re not alone.
“I felt like that. Initially. You’re not alone. there are other people going through the same thing,” she told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana. ” It’s easy to give up. It’s a lot harder to continue and fight. I think that’s what makes me a survivor. I never gave up.”
Visit her website for more information on how you can sign up to join her team.