A motivational speaker, writer and wheelchair athlete, James won her Ohio title in February 2002, then competed for the Ms. Wheelchair America 2002 crown in August. As Ohio's spokeswoman, James made public appearances and spoke to advocacy groups and others about the achievements and needs of women with disabilities. She has written two books and has a website.
In May 2002, UC Magazine asked James to give readers advice on handling life's challenges. That article follows:
How to beat the odds
by Stacy James, A&S '93, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2002
At the end of my junior year at UC, a diving accident left me a quadriplegic. In spite of that, the life I have led since 1991 is far more abundant and joyful than I ever could have imagined. How can that be? I discovered that the ability to face life's challenges exists within each of us. Here's what works for me:
1. Positive attitude. I don't look at what I lost, but what I still have to live for. I choose to become better, not bitter; to try my best; and to be thankful for blessings -- physical progress, family, friends, a home, a free country and the opportunity to fulfill my dreams.
I was certain that God had a plan for my life, and I determined to work hard in therapy to use my life to serve him. I finished my college education, graduated magna cum laude and walked across the stage with the help of crutches to receive my University of Cincinnati diploma.
2. Perseverance. I want to live this one life well. Facing my fears. Never giving up. Not feeling sorry for myself. With patient, continuous effort, even when that is difficult. I have raced in nine marathons as a wheelchair athlete. Each time I began, I knew my arms, shoulders and back would be in pain for four or five hours, pushing my chair for 26.2 miles. But I made a commitment to finish, and finish I would.
3. Faith. When my world was ripped out from under me, I had something great to hold on to: my relationship with God. I knew that he loved me, that he would never leave me, that I was valuable because I was made in his image. And he was still a good God. He didn't let me get hurt as a punishment. I knew he had a plan for my life, and I was going to honor him with it.