Previous illness won’t slow me down

Rita Forbes - Staff Writer

Rita Forbes – Staff Writer

Rita Forbes

I walk fast.

For those who don’t know, I struggled with illness for five years before coming to Missouri Southern. For five years, over 1/6 of my life so far, I lived in a prison-like world in which my body was punished for every activity I attempted. I was virtually homebound.

The steps I took during this time were small, slow and unsteady.

After five years of being sick, I had few friends, no achievements to point to, and very little remaining hope for the future. At 22 years of age, I had no college degree and had never held a real job. Instead, I knew the ins and outs of my parents’ health insurance plan and the phone numbers for several doctor’s offices and the local pharmacy by heart.

But even though the bulk of my hope had vanished long ago, I did get better. After five years, I finally talked to the right doctor, who scheduled the right test, which indicated the right treatment.

I came to Missouri Southern in 2004 with a rolly backpack and a disabled tag for my car. My steps were still slow, but I was walking. I took the elevator rather than the stairs and stopped frequently to rest. I still remember the first football game I attended that fall. I wanted so badly to stand like the rest of the fans as we waited for the Lions to score, but I had to sit.

As I continued my treatment and conditioned my body to the demands of everyday life, though, I got stronger. That rolly backpack went by the wayside after a semester or two, and I started working on-campus after my freshman year. My 12 credit hours a semester grew to 15 and then to 18, and by my junior year I was healthy enough to study in Germany.

I’ve never been sure exactly what a normal energy level is, but today, I feel strong. A classmate once called me “the perkiest person she knows,” and I’ve been referred to as a ball of energy.

And I walk fast. I have the freedom to walk across campus, knowing that I’ll have plenty of energy left over. Sometimes as I walk to class, I go so fast that I gasp for breath and my legs hurt. I like being conscious of those muscles in my legs, feeling that they are there and that they work.

After those years, I’m making up for lost time. So if you see me striding across campus with a determined look on my face, or with my arms spread out like an airplane and a goofy grin on my face, don’t assume I’m crazy. I’m just happy!

And you know what? Misery isn’t the only thing that loves company. Come speed walk with me!