Lisa speaking at podium

Telling my story through the Threads of Life speakers bureau

January 2014

It is a couple weeks before speakers’ training and I am getting nervous. I am not exactly sure how this began, if I asked about the training or was asked to do a story for the newsletter first. I know I wanted to help spread awareness of both Threads of Life and my disorder, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

The newsletter did seem like a logical beginning (Fall 2013). I was able to see if I could tell my story or if I even had a story worthy of telling. I was surprised when I realized that trying to write your story can be very difficult. I thought of things I hadn’t thought about in a long time; I remembered parts of my recovery that were very painful to think about.

I have always enjoyed public speaking but that was before my injury. I worry whether I still have the courage to do it. I worry whether my body can take the nerves or be able to keep up the stamina to give a good presentation. The training agenda calls for long days and my hands are not as strong as they used to be. I just have to remember to believe in myself and take breaks when my body demands.

February 2014

I have just completed Speakers Bureau training and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I had the opportunity to write my story before I got there so had some tweaking to do and it was done. I am sure I will have to adjust it according to the audience but I am happy with how it turned out.

The days were long for someone with my limitations but the end result is worth it. I found the connection you make with the others there for training is irreplaceable. I was kind of nervous about my computer skills but thankfully there were others who were happy to walk me through it. The sharing of ideas around the room was a wonderful confidence builder. There are certainly the boring parts like policies and procedures but almost a nice break from looking into yourself and working on your presentation.

If I had to pick a good, bad and ugly, the ugly would be the schedule – for me it was long days with short breaks and my condition doesn’t always follow the schedule. The bad would be the nerves you feel when you know you are about to do your presentation and you think you’re not ready, but the best part for me was being able to say my speech and see the reactions of people I had grown to trust. Just so you know, everyone did great and we were all nervous. No one messed up or forgot what to do. It was nice to see everyone’s confidence soar.

I am home now and exhausted. It is wonderful to be home and in my comfort zone. The flight home gave me a chance to reflect on my presentation and realize the distance I have come in my recovery. When you are given the chance to examine yourself and see your own growth, it is very rewarding. My body is in need of a long rest and I am sure I will bounce back.

March 2014

It is two weeks before my first presentation and I am nervous but was given great hints and positive reinforcement at training so I am sure it will go fine. I have been asked to speak at the Vocational Rehabilitation Association of Canada Saskatchewan Annual General Meeting and it is a perfect fit for me. I am more nervous-excited I guess. This will be a great opportunity to promote both Threads of Life and the need for vocational aids while in recovery from an injury.

April 2014

The presentation went great! I did practice once a day for the last two weeks but it was a breeze. My nerves this morning were out of control, which in turn made my pain levels go up. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if I could do it. They introduced me and I just went for it, even found myself improvising and making my key points more important. I am very proud of myself today. My presentation had impact; my words do make a difference. They even invited me to have lunch with them. I am very proud of myself today.

May 2014

I am officially Saskatoon Steps for Life spokesperson and very honoured to have been on Global Saskatoon Morning Show this morning. I thought I was nervous last time?! As I waited to be called in the “green room” I went over the Threads of Life and Steps for Life key points about 600 times and drank a gallon of water. My nerves calmed. The interview was about three and a half minutes long and I think I said everything I wanted to and remembered the most important part….Have fun.

May 2014

Today was the Steps for Life walk and it was a wonderful success. As spokesperson, I did a little mini-speech before the walk started. It was my first time speaking about my condition in front of my family. They have never been to a family forum and this was the first time at the walk. That 5-minute speech that I gave has changed our relationship in a good way as we now have a new understanding.

To today

Since my training, I’ve had the chance to present to various other groups, from rehabilitation specialists to businesspeople focused on safe driving. In October of 2014, I was invited to tell my story at the Threads of Life Western Family Forum. It was a whole new experience, looking out at a roomful of people I know and who are on a similar journey.  And in the spring, I was able to attend as moral support for a new speaker who recently completed her training and was doing her first public presentation – completing the circle, in a way.

Being part of the Speakers Bureau has changed my life. In this very short amount of time I was given back a purpose. I have a voice again; a reason to keep fighting my condition so I can continue to promote workplace safety and help other families be spared what my family has gone through over the last few years. The healing journey is never an easy one, but the little milestones we make along the way sure are magical.

Most of Lisa’s story was originally published in Threads newsletter, Fall 2014.

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Lisa Shirley

Lisa Shirley lives in Saskatchewan. She is a Threads of Life family member, and volunteers as a family guide and a member of the speakers bureau.
Lisa Shirley

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