THE FACE BEHIND
Hello, I'm Chantee Lackey, a plus-size fitness and wellness influencer, and a warrior constantly pushing boundaries. My tale is one of resilience, courage, and determination that begins in a neonatal intensive care unit. As a tiny premature baby, weighing only 3 pounds and 9 ounces, I was thrust into a battle for life from my earliest moments.
Despite the grim prognosis of never being able to walk, run, or play, I defied the odds, proving that my spirit was more robust than the constraints imposed upon me.
The shadows of challenges deepened during my teenage years. At the tender age of 13, an invisible battle began inside my body. My spine began causing discomfort, which slowly escalated into persistent pain and, eventually, a loss of balance. Each step became a battle as I lost feeling in my legs and feet. Trapped in a body that seemed to rebel against me, my struggle was misunderstood by the medical community, attributing my symptoms to my weight.
One blistering summer day, when the temperature soared to a scorching 99 degrees, an ordinary walk across a parking lot transformed into a painful nightmare. The hot tar under my bare feet felt like walking on burning coals. Suddenly, my legs buckled underneath me, leaving me sprawled on the sizzling ground, the skin on my feet scraping off in my desperate attempt to crawl to my car.
When my mom found me, my body was laid out, overcome by the merciless heat. Rushed to the emergency room for my superficial injuries, my visit took a sudden turn. The astute doctors present sensed a deeper issue at play and launched into a series of tests and MRIs.
My world changed in an instant when the diagnosis came back. A large, non-cancerous lipoma, braided intricately between my spinal cord, was the root cause of my deteriorating condition. I was quickly whisked into a life-altering 9-hour surgery, with my very mobility hanging in the balance.
Awakening from the anesthesia, my world was different. I could only move my eyes, everything else felt like lead, heavy and immovable. But my spirit was not extinguished, it blazed even brighter, fuelled by the words of the surgeon who noted how lucky I was. Had I waited a week longer, I would have been completely paralyzed from the neck down.
From this crucible of pain and challenge, my resolve was forged. My insurance was about to expire within a week, my surgery's costs spiraled to a quarter of a million dollars, and a specialist surgeon had to be flown in for my operation. Yet, the universe conspired to ensure everything fell into place just in time.
In the aftermath of my surgery, the warrior within me roared louder than ever before. Confined to a wheelchair initially, I resolved to rise again. I spent grueling hours in physical therapy, relentlessly pushing the boundaries of what was possible. One day, I was introduced to a treadmill, a piece of machinery that was at first daunting but eventually became a symbol of my power and resilience.
Inspired by the trials and triumphs of my own journey, I set out on a new mission - to align my mind, body, spirit, and soul to build a life that reflected my strength, not my struggles. I found a new purpose - not just to heal and empower myself, but also to inspire others who faced similar trials.
As an African American woman with a plus-size body and a spinal cord injury, I realized I was uniquely positioned to disrupt the status quo in the fitness industry. I started using my experiences and insights to create a platform for inclusion, body positivity, and mental health in the wellness space.
Every day, I am on a mission to shatter stereotypes, to demonstrate that physical limitations do not define one's capacity to pursue a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. My story serves as a beacon of hope, an affirmation that the spirit of a true fighter can transcend any barriers.
My journey, highlighted by its highs and lows, is an open book aimed at inspiring those who are grappling with their own challenges. I share my experiences, my victories, and my setbacks in hopes that it will kindle a spark in others to embark on their paths of self-improvement, inclusivity, and body positivity.
I am Chantee Lackey - a survivor, an influencer, a trailblazer in the world of fitness and wellness, and a testament to the indomitable power of the human spirit.