Casey is 31 and from North Carolina and works in academia studying sociocultural issues and kinesiology. Casey has continued to engage in multiple sports activities, even after a spinal injury. Various sports have come and gone – spinal injuries will do that – and experiences include triathlon, running, road cycling, belly dance, hooping, West African Dance, powerlifting and Crossfit. Here, Casey shares bits of life after sustaining that very serious injury, and about the fight made to get proper medical treatment while fat.
I tried a lot of different sports as a kid and teenager but was never really good at any of them. As an adult, I decided I wanted to take formal classes in something that would be fun and active so I started taking belly dance classes when I turned 24. From there, I just got adventurous. I tried Afro-Caribbean dance, various styles of belly dance, took yoga classes, did triathlons and the MS 150 (a two day, 150 mile charity bike ride for the MS Society). More recently, I’ve done more strength work because I have a spine injury that keeps me from running. I did a non-contact Mixed Martial Arts class for about a year, did Crossfit for a while, and now I do mostly weight lifting (with hopes at getting back into powerlifting). I really do whatever my body lets me do and what I think would be fun or hallenging. Sadly, with my spine injury, belly dancing just isn’t working for me. I really miss having a fun and artistic outlet that lets me move my body. So I fractured my L5 vertebra in late 2007. What happened is that I had a slipped vertebra that I was treating with sporadic chiropractic.
At the end of a belly dance class, I was being overly aggressive trying to stretch out my lower back. After an audible pop, I couldn’t get myself back up. I went to Urgent Care and the doctor dismissed it as a strain without even x-rays. It wasn’t until months and months of pain went by, with chiropractic not helping, that I had xrays and an MRI that showed I had the fracture along with the slip and a degenerating disc. Fast forward to more recently, and it’s still a struggle. There are lots of athletic things, like running, that I can no longer do. There are some things that I can only do with pain medication, like walking and swimming. I have the go-ahead with my orthopedic doc that I’m allowed to and required to stay as active as I can, which is sometimes hard. I love being active, but all physical activity causes me pain, so keeping active for me has really been pretty hedonistic. I do what my imagination thinks sounds fun. I keep up with some weight lifting, and would love to compete in a bench press competition one of these days. I still dance a bit in my apartment, even though it hurts, just because I like doing it. A lot of people assume that fat causes disability. That happens for some folks sure, but some people are disabled first then become fat. I’m specifically thinking of folks that use the motorized scooters at stores, and how people roll their eyes when a fat person uses them. People act like “if only that person would move more, they wouldn’t be fat or disabled,” but bodies are much more complicated than that.
The assumptions people make about fat disabled folks get really awful, and just scream of healthism. More personally, I use a walking stick to be able to walk further across campus (I’m a graduate student and employee at a University). I get some dirty looks from people when I use the elevator, because they assume that I’m a lazy fat person. They have no way to know that using the elevator may help me be able to walk more later, or that I use the elevator because my spine is broken. They usually see the fat first then make assumptions from there.
Societal attitudes really need to change regarding both fat and disability. People have the right to live in their bodies in the way that they see fit, in the way that they find enjoyable, and in a way that doesn’t cause physical or mental trauma. Health is multifaceted
and we should be able to find a personal definition of health that allows us to be happy people.