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Beating Spinal Cord Injury One Day at a Time: Mason Ellis's Story

by Jessica August 16 2017 06:09
mason ellis beating spinal cord injury quadriplegia

Vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of spinal cord injuries. In fact, more than 35% of new spinal cord injuries each year are from car or motorcycle accidents. In 2015, just after the second semester of his senior year of high school began, Mason Ellis was involved in an car accident that left him a quadriplegic. From the beginning, he refused to allow his injury to beat him. Instead, he has made it his focus to defeat his injury one day at a time.

mason ellis quadriplegic

The Accident & the Aftermath

Mason couldn't have ever imagined that a fun night out with a friend driving along country roads in his home state of Indiana would lead to life in a wheelchair. After an unexpected four-way stop that dipped into a decline on a loose gravel, his car went out of control and hit an embankment, ejecting Mason nearly a hundred feet away. The car was totaled, but Mason was still alive, against all odds.
mason ellis SCI car accident
He was rushed to the hospital, and the doctors and nurses weren't sure he'd make it due to the extent of his injuries. In the crash, Mason's left shin, left femur, left collarbone, top and bottom jaw, the palate in his mouth, and some of his teeth were broken. On top of that, he cracked his skull and sustained a traumatic brain injury, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh cervical vertebrae in his neck were injured. He was now quadriplegic (C5, C6, C7).

Mason recovered in the hospital for 30 days before being transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana to start physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy (due to his brain injury). The rest of his time was devoted to learning how to gain independence back with skills like eating and brushing his teeth on his own. 

Although he looked forward to returning to his old routine after he was released from rehab, when he got home, he realized that life as a quadriplegic was going to be far more of a challenge than anticipated. Mason says, "I was clueless when I came home, and I didn't know anybody else who had my level of injury." After a few visits from a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, Mason was left on his own to learn how to maneuver in the world again as a newly paralyzed young man. 

On top of navigating life in a wheelchair, he also had to become responsible for his own catheterization routine. Mason was introduced to 180 Medical through his rehabilitation hospital, and once he discovered an intermittent catheter that worked well for his limited hand dexterity, he began to feel more confident about self-cathing.

mtg ez gripper closed system catheter mason ellis

Mason says, "I have to say the MTG EZ-Gripper really helps in preventing UTIs for me. It's a closed system, so you don't have to touch the tubing, and it has an introducer tip to bypass bacteria in the urethra." At 180 Medical, we have one of the largest selections of intermittent catheters, since no type or brand will be the right fit for everyone. We're always glad to take time to listen to our customers so we can help them find the right catheters for their individual needs and preferences.

Making a Positive Impact

Sharing Knowledge Through Videos 
As time went on, Mason says, "I hadn't really figured out how to do many things post-injury." Left with few options for information on how to complete tasks as a quadriplegic, such as daily strength exercises and getting dressed independently, he began scouring the internet for helpful resources. Unfortunately, his search came up short. The few videos he found weren't quite what he was looking for, and he figured that others like him might also be searching for the same information. He wanted to share his experience and how he has learned to do daily tasks that quadriplegics might want to know more about. That's when he decided he would take matters into his own hands; he would use his prior experience of making YouTube videos prior to his injury to create new video content and upload it to share on a YouTube channel

Soon, he started to hear from other people with spinal cord injuries who wanted to let him know how helpful his videos were. Family, friends, and loved ones of those living with spinal cord injuries also gave him positive feedback. To his surprise, he even heard from doctors, caregivers, therapists, and students learning about quadriplegia in medical school. 

Every day, more and more people discover the multitude of helpful videos Mason has personally worked so hard to create. He has hundreds of ideas left to offer, and he's excited to continue on this path and further develop his channel to connect and talk with others.

Some of Mason's most popular videos include:

Peer Mentoring Others with Spinal Cord Injuries
mason ellis peer mentor"People say I came a long way based on everything I broke. I haven't had many complications, and I feel really thankful for that," Mason says. Quadriplegics often face complications such as pressure sores and UTIs (urinary tract infections), and knowing this, Mason wanted to do what he could to help them.

He is now a certified Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation peer mentor, and he visits his old rehab to talk with recently injured patients before they are discharged to go back home.

During these mentoring sessions, Mason likes to share some of what he's learned, such as:
  • maintaining and gaining strength
  • proper hygiene
  • products that have helped him
  • staying mindful of the importance of doing pressure reliefs to minimize the risk of pressure sores

"I'm passionate about peer mentoring, because [my injury] really affected my life. I like to try and help out the community."

Staying Active & Meeting New People
Mason is more physically active now than he was before his injury. "I feel like I took being able-bodied for granted," he says, "So I never tried. Now, this is like proving to myself that I can do it and proving to others they're wrong if they say I can't do it." Some of the things he loves to do is hunt, fish, and ride in his adaptive UTV to visit friends and roam around the town where he lives.

mason ellis at camp possabilityOne place he loves to visit in the summer is a local camp in Indiana for disabled adults, ages 18-35, who have conditions like spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, and spinal cord injuries. At Camp PossAbility, young adults get the opportunity to meet and befriend others like them and participate in fun outdoor adventures like adaptive horseback riding, swimming, kayaking, zip-lining, and more. Mason learned about the camp when someone reached out to him about it through his YouTube channel.

He was also able to connect with the creator of Able Outdoors Magazine, and now Mason is a contributing columnist for the magazine. He writes about some of his experiences with hunting and other fun adaptive outdoor activities.

When he mentors others, he likes to talk about some of these hobbies in order to let them know that life isn't over for them, and they can still do all the things they loved doing before in new, adaptive ways.

Looking Forward to Whatever Comes Next

mason ellis standing Outside of his growing YouTube channel, Mason keeps busy with college courses in Information Technology, and he hopes to have his car adapted so he can start driving again. He just wants keep moving forward.

Mason says, "I think it feels good to beat your injuries. It took me a while to figure everything out, but I like to say that I beat my injury when I learn certain tasks. I don't want the injury beating me."

Mason has already positively affected hundreds of lives with his videos, Able Outdoors columns, connecting with others at camp, and taking time to talk to people who need help adapting to their new life in a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury. We're sure he's going to go on to do many more great things and continue impacting others in significant ways. 

mason ellis sci quote

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About the Author:
Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 8 years. Her current job title is Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for such a fun, caring company.

Making Dreams Come True After Spinal Cord Injury: Jen Goodwin's Continuing Story

by Jessica July 6 2017 06:11

Jen Goodwin's whole world drastically changed in single moment after a fun day boating on the lake went terribly wrong, and she sustained a serious spinal cord injury at the C5 and C6 level. After her surgery and over two years of rehab, she returned back home and began to adjust to daily life as a quadriplegic. Daily tasks that were once done without a second thought, like brushing teeth and going to the bathroom, became new skills to re-master. With a lot of practice and time, Jen kept moving forward and became acquainted to daily life in a wheelchair.

Being a very goal-oriented person who thrives on a challenge, Jen decided she was ready to tackle something new. Life was going well as Jen settled into her new routine, but she was ready to start thinking about what could be next for her. Since she had demonstrated an interest in law before, her mom suggested that she ought to try taking the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). It was a surprise and a joy to find out that she performed even better than expected, and she ended up getting a full scholarship to Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas.

Back to School

jen goodwin law school graduate quadriplegic Returning to school as an adult in a wheelchair was a whole new challenge to face. She wouldn't know anyone in her new classes at all, and there were other questions on her mind now too. How would she take notes and tests when she wasn't able to write? Would the school buildings be accessible for her? Of course, these were perfectly normal concerns to have.

"I think a lot of people are afraid to go back to school after [spinal cord] injuries," Jen says, "But talk to your local Vocational Rehabilitation Services, because they have a lot of resources and information to help get people back to school. And talk to your school's Disability Resource Center. They really want to help! Even if your injury prevents you from taking notes and typing, there are still ways to be successful in school."

Jen arranged some meetings with her school's Disability Resource Center, and she was relieved to find the staff ready and willing to discuss options with her. Together, they worked out what accommodations and adjustments would need to be made in order to ensure that she would have the same opportunities for success as every other able-bodied student at the law school, such as keypads to open doors, accessible bathrooms near her classes, digital copies of textbooks, and setting her up with classmates who could take lecture notes for her.

Another Dream Come True

jen goodwin spinal cord injury family Jen worked as diligently as possible at all her courses while still making time to get to know the other law students in her classes. After a year of school, she decided it was time to focus on one of the greatest wishes of her heart: to become a mother.

At the time, there were a few people who had some opinions on her life and even doubted that Jen could handle all of these responsibilities along with having a child of her own, but she didn't let that hold her back. Talking to Jen and hearing her story in her own words would certainly make you realize that her tenacity and optimism keeps her moving forward, and there's no obstacle she's not willing to work hard to overcome. 

With the support of her doctor and her family, she picked an anonymous donor and became pregnant at just the right time during winter break, so she could spend much of the time during her first trimester out of classes. The time off was spent practicing and working with a weighted doll to find the best techniques for lifting car seats, changing her baby's clothes, and more, all while an accessible nursery for her baby boy was added on to her home. Spring semester classes went on without a hitch, and then just after school let out in the summer, little Beckham made his early arrival in June.

Today, he has a mother who loves him more than anything in the world and a wonderful support system of close family and friends, especially Jen's parents and sister.

Jen's lifelong dream of being a mom had finally come true.

Looking to the Future

So what's next for Jen now that she's graduated from law school as of May of this year? Right now, Jen is prepping for the bar exam, and after that, she starts a two-year internship working with the legal department of the local children's hospital, which seems like the perfect fit for a woman with such a big heart for children. Plus she can bring her own experiences with the legal system and living with a disability.

"I am a firm believer that the right doors open when they're supposed to," says Jen, "So we'll see what happens after that!"

We're so excited to see all the ways that Jen will go forward to achieve more dreams as well as positively impact others' lives during her journey. There were certainly obstacles along the way, but she came out on the other side with a smile, a law degree, and a son of her own. Limitations and setbacks may happen in life, but Jen is living proof that with optimism and tenacity, nothing can hold you back.

jen goodwin quote 2

Read Part 1 of our two-part series on Jen's life, her accident, and her time in rehab.

part 1 jen goodwin story

About the Author:
Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for nearly 8 years. Her current job title is Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for such a fun, caring company.

Determined Spirit: Jen Goodwin's Story of Life After Her Spinal Cord Injury

by Jessica June 30 2017 06:13

Nearly a decade ago, Jen Goodwin was on top of the world. She'd graduated from the University of Arkansas, bought her first house, and adopted her first dog. Then she got her dream job as a pharmaceutical sales rep, which came naturally to her with her friendly personality, big smile, and a real talent for sales. It seemed like life couldn't be better. Then everything changed in the blink of an eye. 

The Day Everything Changed

A fun day of boating and swimming at the lake with her neighbors in the summer of 2008 turned into a nightmare after dark. She and another neighbor were out in his boat when he fell backwards onto her head and then used her neck almost like a springboard to push himself back up to stand again. Immediately, she saw a flash of bright white and had a warm pleasant feeling that gave way to searing pain, and then she realized she couldn't feel her legs. It was clear something was very, very wrong.

jen goodwin picAt first, her neighbor didn't believe that she had been hurt, even claiming that she was faking her injury. In cases like this, when someone says they're hurt or have possibly sustained a spinal cord injury, it's important to keep them still and get help from emergency services as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this didn't happen for Jen. Due to her injury, she couldn't sit up or hold on to anything to maintain balance during that terrifying trip over choppy waters back to the boat ramp. It took a lot of pleading for her neighbor to relent and, after loading her into the floorboard of his truck, he eventually drove her forty-five minutes away to the local hospital.

As soon as they arrived, paramedics sprang into action to help Jen. It was obvious that she was seriously hurt, but the true extent of the damage wasn't fully known until they ran some tests. Despite her pain and fear, Jen tried to maintain a positive attitude, but when the doctor sat down with her to tell her that her neck had been broken and her spine was severely compressed at the C5 and C6 level, leaving her quadriplegic and unlikely to ever walk again, she finally let herself cry. She knew then for sure that this wasn't a simple injury that could be quickly fixed. Life had changed forever.

Life During Rehab

Naturally, Jen was heartbroken at all that had happened to her, but she didn't let herself stay down for long. She was ready to take on whatever challenges lay ahead. Her surgery was scheduled on a Sunday, and she transferred to the rehabilitation center on Thursday, one of the fastest post-surgery patients that the staff at the hospital had seen.

jen goodwin quote 2Her first goal was just to raise her hand high enough to scratch her nose. Initially, she had no lower extremity movement and no control of her triceps, because of the level of her injury, but she kept that tenacious drive and continued working hard to meet challenges head on and eventually was able to achieve that first goal she had set for herself. "I just looked at it like, 'This is my chance, so I'm going to give it absolutely everything I've got every single day,' and because of that, I was able to get a lot stronger," says Jen. 

Although she was determined to push through therapy and work hard, it felt like a lot of the techniques and skills they were teaching her in rehab wouldn't be possible for her to master at first. After a lot of practice and determination to gain back some strength, she received validation that hard work and dedication to her goals made things possible when others might have thought it wasn't possible.

Altogether, she spent nearly two years total in rehabilitation therapy, including a controlled intensive therapy study at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta Georgia. She worked as hard as possible to reach her goals, and during that time, she also met some of her best friends. They affectionately dubbed themselves, "The Quad Squad," and they still meet up regularly for vacations and get-togethers.

Her ultimate goal was to learn to walk again, and finally, she was able to walk down and back again on the length of a basketball court. It took an hour and was achieved with the help of two therapists, a spinal electronic nerve stimulator (or e-stim), and a walker. This was a turning point for Jen in figuring out her next goals.

"I decided I could either learn to walk, or I could learn to live," she says of her decision to move on after focusing entirely on rehab for over two years. It was only because she gave her all and worked as hard as she could for so long that she felt able to let go of the old goals and focus on new ones.

Moving Forward

There were all kinds of new challenges to face during that early period of life after her injury. Once rehab was over, Jen had to put the skills she had learned into action and worked to develop new strategies for accomplishing basic, daily activities around the house, and even in getting around in the world, such as learning to drive again with the help of a modified car. She devoted nearly a year to designing and planning an accessible home to have built next to her parents' house, and another year was spent learning how to live in it on her own. 

One additional aspect Jen had to consider was learning how to self-cath. It can help to have a catheter supply provider with trained product specialists on staff who are willing to take time to listen to concerns and questions. She found 180 Medical through a spinal cord injury event and has been with us ever since. "I absolutely love 180 Medical. You guys sci connection facebook linkhave always been great about getting the supplies I need and letting me know about any new products that come out. I can always rely on you to get my supplies to me when I need them," says Jen.

Depending on the level of injury, some may not be able to manipulate a catheter on their own. Jen tried out a few different catheter options while using a gripping catheter clamp to better hold them, but when she tried out a newer option the Coloplast SpeediCath Compact Set, she knew she'd found the perfect fit for her needs. "It's so nice that they fit right in my purse. They're super discreet and ready to go, and I can actually grip them with my hands." Since Jen loves to travel, it's super handy to have an option for catheters that are lighter and take up way less space in her luggage too. 

It wasn't always easy. From the frightening night of her injury through years of hard work and dedication to physical and rehabilitation therapy, the journey to where she is now was long and challenging. Jen understands that things can seem bleak to those who have been recently injured, but after going through all she has, she encourages others to not lose sight of goals or give up. 

Thinking about what might come next was never far away from Jen's mind as she settled into daily life. There were a few big dreams that she had always wanted to accomplish that kept coming up in her mind, and she decided she wasn't going to let her spinal cord injury get in the way of achieving those dreams.

Check out this awesome video from Permobil Corporation to meet Jen in person as she talks a bit about her goals and her experiences with her wheelchair.

Find out all about the next chapter of Jen's life and the new goals she set for herself in Part 2 of our two-part series. 

jen goodwin part 2

About the Author:
Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for nearly 8 years. Her current job title is Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for such a fun, caring company.

180 Medical Product News: GentleCath Glide

by Jessica March 7 2017 09:15
180 medical product news gentlecath glide

Interested in keeping up with the latest catheter and ostomy products available on the market? 180 Medical is always ready to share the details on new products with you, and today, we'd like to introduce you to the GentleCath™ Glide.

What are some key features to know about the GentleCath™ Glide?

gentlecath glide hydrophilic catheterThe Glide is a recently launched low-friction hydrophilic catheter with options for both men and women that was specifically designed with FeelClean™ technology to reduce the mess left behind by lubrication after cathing. It's a fast and easy option for those who want a comfortable, super-smooth catheterization experience from start to finish. Simply break the included water sachet to coat the catheter and activate the low-friction hydrophilic surface, and it's ready to go with no additional waiting time. The No-Touch sleeve helps make insertion more simple and lessens the risk of contamination from your hands, which may also reduce the risk of infection. 

Here are some of the main product features:
  • Manufactured without DEHP or latex
  • No-Touch handling sleeve to minimize risk of infection
  • Water sachet included for activation
  • FeelClean™ technology reduces mess
  • Hydrophilic surface
  • Available in both male length (16 inches) and female length (6 inches)

glide catheter user testimonial 1

How do I use the GentleCath™ Glide?

ConvaTec offers a helpful online video guide which you can easily personalize for yourself and your individual needs in less than 30 seconds, including choosing instructions for adults, children, or parent/caregiver, as well as options between male, female, and whether you are a wheelchair-user or not. Once you have selected the options that fit your situation best, a personalized video will be ready for you to watch, offering step-by-step instructions for this easy-to-use hydrophilic catheter. Personalize your GentleCath™ Glide instructional video here.

gentlecath glide hydrophilic catheter how to cath instruction video

Once you have prepared for catheterization by washing your hands, or putting on gloves and using a disinfecting swab or wipe on the area of your urethra, lay out the Glide in front of you. Make sure the included sterile water sachet is near the funnel end of the catheter, and break the sachet by pressing on the blue guide dot. You'll want to let the water coat the entirety of the tube from end to tip to activate the hydrophilic properties, and it's ready to use! Just open the pack by peeling apart the easy-open tabs and handle the catheter by the funnel and the included blue No-Touch sleeve to avoid contaminating the catheter with your hands, and you're ready to insert the catheter. glide catheter user testimonial 2

For step-by-step information about how to catheterize, you can visit, which offers instructions for men, women, and children in all options from straight, hydrophilic, and closed systems.

Feel free to contact us at 180 Medical, as well. One of our friendly, trained specialists will listen to your needs and individual preferences and walk you through the process of catheterization. We also offer one-of-a-kind instructional materials that can be sent to you with your order, including printed color brochures and a DVD. 

Which GentleCath™ products does 180 Medical carry?

180 Medical is proud to carry the full catheter product line from GentleCath™, including straight catheters, coude catheters, hydrophilic catheters, closed system catheters, and more. 

How can I find the catheter that's right for me?

Just contact 180 Medical by filling out our online inquiry form, connecting to us via Live Chat, or giving us a call at 1-877-688-2729 to speak to one of our trained, friendly specialists. We are happy to find the right catheter for your needs, and we can verify your insurance to determine if and how these products are covered on your policy. 

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About the Author:
Jessica has worked for 180 Medical for 7 years. Her current job title is Purchasing & Marketing Coordinator. Her favorite things about 180 Medical are her great co-workers and getting to work for such a fun, caring company.

180 Medical Customer Review

by kier January 2 2014 10:57

Special thanks to one of our customers for sending this thoughtful email to us to start our new year off right! We truly have the best customers.

"I just want to express my admiration for what I believe to be one of the best-run customer-oriented organizations it has been my pleasure to encounter. You should be the model for every new business. Your people are pleasant, helpful and always pro-actively involved with each customer's needs. And you send Christmas cards! Don't ever change!"

180 Medical’s Number One Goal is Customer Service

by admin April 5 2013 12:28
180 Medical is a company founded by and an employer of persons with spinal cord injuries.  As such, our ability to help customers transition from the hospital to daily life is unsurpassed in this industry.  Small things can make a difference, especially to those suffering from spinal cord injuries and other urologic issues. Quite often, new customers wish to talk with staff members who know personally the anxieties they face; people who speak from personal experience on how to properly use catheters or reduce infections. Our customer education, prevention measures, and counseling clearly set us apart from other companies in the industry.

180 Medical offers a one-stop referral option, for your urological needs, to make sure you don’t get lost in the shuffle. If we are out of network with your health plan, we will personally handle the referral to a supplier that does.

180 Medical began as a small regional company with the goal of growing its business by providing the best customer service in our industry. When you call 180 Medical for your urologic needs, you reach a live person, not a recording. The goal of each of our employees is to make the lives of our patients and the patient’s families easier. We strive to excellence every day. YOU are our #1 priority!

180 Medical also offers How to Cath booklets, for men, women, children, and also come in Spanish. We have a DVD with step by step cathing instructions.

Feedback from our customers:

"Mr. Todd Brown, I just got off the phone with Justin and we set up my new account. Justin was personable, listened to me, gave me factual advice and was completely professional. In addition, I watched you on your instructional DVD and the confidence you showed made it easier for me to begin using a catheter. You could increase your prices ten times and I would still be a loyal customer. THANK YOU and Best wishes to you, your family and your entire staff and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!"

"I am continually impressed with 180 Medical. Everyone I have spoken with is so nice and really goes the extra mile to make people happy. The customer service is fabulous! I am so grateful to work with you!"

“I have had the best service with 180 Medical. Everyone is so courteous and friendly. I appreciate everything 180 does for me.”-Beatriz R.

“We had our shipment the next day, just like we needed! It was wonderful to see that kind of dedication to help someone like me. I really needed those supplies and no place else carried what I needed.”- Brandon W.

At 180 Medical, we are committed to providing our customers with the absolute best product and customer service available in the industry. We treat each and every customer exactly the way we would treat a member of our own family.

We have a 100% Customer Satisfaction Guarantee. If we fail to meet your expectations, we will refund any out of pocket expenses incurred during your most recent shipment. If you’re ever dissatisfied with a catheter product, let us work with you to find a catheter product that works best for you! We are very confident in our employees and the level of service we provide, and we’ll never hesitate to work.

About the Author:

Trish has worked for 180 Medical for almost three years, as the Nebraska Office Coordinator. She lives in Nebraska, with her husband and daughters.

Brain Cancer Survivor Relies On Hope to Push Boundaries

by admin February 27 2013 15:13
I was so inspired when I read BethAnn Telford’s story. She is such a courageous, strong, determined, and caring person. It is so easy when faced with adversary to focus on the bad in life. BethAnn held onto one word during her medical, physical, and emotional challenges: HOPE. That one word inspired her to leap over each hurdle life put in her way, carrying the hearts of others in her hands along the way. I had the opportunity to ask BethAnn some questions, regarding her challenges and triumphs. I hope you find her to be as inspiring as we do, at 180 Medical.

In the Winter of 2005, you were diagnosed with brain cancer. What were the doctors’ prognoses? 

The doctors thought that I would have to re-train myself to walk again, but that running—especially marathons, might be beyond reach. Of course I was definitely afraid about this, since I have been an athlete all of my life, from field hockey and soccer, when I was younger to running, as I grew older.  

What about cognitive function?  

I was definitely afraid of losing some cognitive function. Even now, when I am very tired at the end of a long day, I have difficulty with saying the right words and tend to slur my speech. It seems like the words I want to say are on the tip of my tongue, but I can't seem to get them out.

How were you feeling after that initial surgery? What functions had you lost? What was running through your mind?  

I was definitely in pain and was afraid I would not be able to move and afraid of loss of functions. Of course they tested my extremities to be sure I could feel my legs, toes, etc. immediately after the surgery and to test my strength. Everything went well, and as I gained my strength back, I stood and then started my first steps. I was determined to recover quickly and to not give up. As my strength improved each day, I used the hospital ward hallways as a circuit and tried to go further each day with my friends and family beside me in case I fell.

There is so much involved with fighting cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries. I can not even fathom how much pain you endured. Something kept you from giving up, may I ask what shifted inside you to make you so determined to fight to regain your abilities? Did you have a strong support system?

I have been lucky with a strong family, especially my parents. They have always been there for me. My father, MY HERO, was always at my field hockey and soccer matches and would cheer and support me. He taught me to always strive to be better and to never give up. It is something I have always carried with me, and I am more determined then ever to continue my fight, not just for myself, but for others that are battling cancer, over-active bladders and many other afflictions.

How long was the road to recovery, and what did it entail?

I guess I didn't feel fully recovered until I was able to run the Marine Corp Marathon in the fall of 2005. I first felt the symptoms of my brain cancer while running the Marine Corp Marathon in 2004 and had my first brain surgery in the spring of 2005. I did my first 5K about two months after the surgery. I originally was just going to walk the 5K, but when I was about halfway through, I heard my father cheering me on, so I started jogging slowly and kept it up until the finish. I started then very slowing trying to build up my endurance, though I definitely had bad days and weeks were my body wasn't physically able to do what my mind wanted. I did it though, and managed to make it back to where my long journey started.

Running is a huge part of your life. How did it feel when you began training again? Was the love of running one of the things that kept you so determined to regain your strength?

I learned from my father to be independent and that I could do anything I set my heart and mind to. Running was always a way to push my boundaries and to see how far I could go. After the surgery, I was determined to get right back to where I was before and to not let this change how I lived my life.  Running was a way to test myself and push my boundaries all over again. It became a yardstick to measure myself by and I was determined to not come up short.

Describe the first marathon after your recovery. Were you afraid? Were you in any pain? How did it feel to cross that finish line?

As I said above, the Marine Corp Marathon was where I first felt the effects of my brain cancer and it was the first marathon I attempted after my surgery. I was definitely afraid, but I didn't want to let my cancer change how I lived my life. In 2004, around mile 18 of the marathon, around Hains Point in DC, I felt a "pop" in my head and was disoriented. I stopped along the road as runners streamed past and leaned over trying to figure out what was happening. I distinctly remember looking up at a street lamp, as I fought to clear my head and continue on. I managed to finish the marathon, but I knew that something was wrong. What I originally thought was an inner ear infection ended up being brain cancer. 

So, as I ran the Marine Corp Marathon in the fall of 2005, I was definitely apprehensive, especially as I approached Hains Point. As I rounded the turn near the bottom of Hains Point I started to look for the lamp post that I remembered so vividly. I spotted the lamp post and stopped for a moment thinking about how far I had come, since I was last there. It seemed like my steps grew lighter as I passed the lamp post and continued on my journey, knowing that I could finish this marathon and many more.

How many marathons have you performed after your recovery?

Since my recovery, I have averaged probably around three to four marathons a year. Usually one or two in the Spring and one or two in the fall, so I would say I've probably run around 30 marathons, give or take a couple. I think the most I've done in a year was five, the Shamrock Marathon and Boston Marathon in the spring, and the Air Force Marathon, Steamtown Marathon, and Marine Corp Marathon in the fall.

Tell us about your race of a lifetime, the Ironman, and how you won the chance of a lifetime.

In order to gain entry into the Ironman World Championship, you have to qualify based on your result time from a previous triathlon. Unfortunately, I was never fast enough in all three sports (swimming, biking and running) to qualify, as the spots are very few and the competition is incredibly difficult. So, over the last seven years, I would enter the Ironman lottery hoping to gain an entry slot. Unfortunately, I was never able to win a slot. However, this year Ironman gave athletes the opportunity to submit videos to its Facebook page as part of the “Kona Inspired” competition. Hundreds of us shared our respective inspirational stories about why we wanted to race in Kona. From there, it was left up to the fans, as they voted online for each video. There were three rounds of voting – hundreds of entries for just eight race slots. After nearly two months of waiting, I am thankful to have been chosen as one of the Kona Inspired winners.  It was my chance of a lifetime and something I will never forget, especially all of the support I received from the community from my friends, family, and many others that took the time to watch my video, hear my story, and help me reach my goal by voting for me.  

 I read that there is a special little girl, who is battling brain cancer, who you The Team Inspiration Organization was working on to compile enough air miles to fly her and her mother to Kona for your race. Did they reach their goal?

Yes, they reached their goal! Anya and her Mom Karen came with me when I went to Kona, Hawaii. My parents and a few friends were able to come, as well. It was truly an amazing experience, made even more special by having Anya, my parents and friends to cheer me through out the long day and to meet me at the finish line!  It is something I will never, never forget.

What would you say to those facing health challenges that feel hopeless?

My favorite word is "Hope." I believe there is always hope, no matter what the circumstance. So much so, that I had the word tattooed on my inner left wrist, so I can see the word as I run, to remind me where I've been, where I'm going, and why I fight as hard as I do. I have been blessed with a great family and friends that have supported me over the years. I would ask those that are struggling with their health, to reach out to others for help and to feel hope again. Whether that is through your friends and family, through your church, through the hospital staff, or the many others that support people in need. Hope is there, waiting to be discovered and believed.

You will be featured on the Discovery Channel, on March 9th for “The Silent Epidemic of Overactive Bladder: Challenges and Barriers.” What are some of the biggest challenges of Overactive Bladder you face, especially as an athlete?

Because of my brain cancer, I have also had other medical issues to deal with. Over the last several years, I have had increasing issues with the operation and function of my bladder. I am a patient of Dr. Tiffany Sotelo from the George Washington University Hospital, in Washington DC. She is the Head of the Pelvic Floor Center, as part of the hospital, and has been wonderful. I have had two surgeries for the implant of a nuerostimulator to help control my bladder functions. Though these surgeries have helped, my bladder has continued to decrease in capacity and has reached a point were Dr. Sotelo is concerned about the function of my kidneys. I will undergo a cystoplasty (bladder) augmentation to relieve the stress on my kidneys and hopefully allow me to better control my incontinence. 

I guess the biggest challenge is how my incontinence has affected my daily life. Now when I go to work or travel, I'm always looking for where the restrooms are located in case I have an emergency and have to rush to one.  I also have to self-catheterize at work, though where I work there is medical treatment office for employees, so I am able to go down to the office and self-catheterize in private, rather than having to do this in a normal business office restroom. It makes it a bit easier, though I do have to plan for this, as it is not too close to my office at work.  

As an athlete, I still have to worry about when I can't control my bladder, but I have increasingly learned to be a bit bolder and to not stress as much over it. When competing, I bring along catheters to use (I also have a great friend who runs with me and is kind enough to carry things for me) and will go into a "port-a-potty" and self-catheterize when I need to, but sometimes I will just "let it go" and then splash myself off with cups of water at the water stops along the way. I also bring a change of clothes, so I can quickly rinse off and change into fresh clothes when I'm finished competing. I guess it helps that my friends all understand and it makes it less of a worry that I will offend someone. 

How has having to self-catheterize impacted your life? Does cathing make it more difficult to participate in marathons? Was this discouraging at first?

See above.  It was difficult at first, but I'm not one to shy away from a challenge, so I've grown a bit bolder. Sometimes people alongside me at the event will ask me if I'm okay, I will tell them a bit about my story. They are always amazed and encouraging, once they know I'm okay.

How has 180 Medical impacted your life?

Being able to self-catheterize is a huge blessing, less embarrassing, and has enabled me to live a more normal life. I am able to "go" when I feel the need, without the fear of an "accident" or having to rush. I can take my time and go when my schedule allows. This has definitely increased my feeling of confidence and freedom, whether I'm in a business setting or out on the road running a race. 180 Medical has answered my medical questions when I call for support and has been very prompt with supplying me with my catheters on a regular basis.

Do you have any advice for others beginning self-catheterization?

You can do this! It may seem difficult and embarrassing at first, but after a bit of practice it will become so much easier and give you the freedom to live a more normal life. This is something you can do for yourself and not be dependent on others! That is such a great feeling and helps build confidence in yourself, knowing that you are able to do this!

I feel so strongly that knowledge is power and so admire you for using your voice to inspire and educate others. What are some of the unexpected blessings that have come from your challenges?

Throughout my journey, I have met some truly amazing, caring, and giving people and feel blessed to have them in my life. From all of my co-captains on Team BT for the Race for Hope – DC, my medical doctors and the nursing staff, and all of the others battling cancer, incontinence, and many other medical afflictions. Their spirit, determination, and compassion continues to amaze me and gives me strength to continue with my fight.

To learn more about BethAnn, visit her website:

The program about BethAnn Telford's surgery will be part of the Discovery Channel program called "The Silent Epidemic of Overactive Bladder: Challenges and Barriers," which is set to air March 9. Check your local listings for times in your area.

About the Author:

Trish has worked for 180 Medical for almost three years, as the Nebraska Office Coordinator. She lives in Nebraska, with her husband and daughters.




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