From Jan. 2013 to Feb. 2014, the 14 months leading up to the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, "14 for 14" will profile 14 athletes who hope to make the U.S. team for the Games. Visit USParalympics.org on the 14th of each month for the latest "14 for 14".
I am Nicole Roundy, a hopeful for the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in snowboarding, a discipline of alpine skiing. Despite my challenges this past season, I've managed to stay on my feet and receive a nomination for the 2013-14 U.S. Paralympics Snowboarding National Team. I'm proud of that. Never, no matter how impossible it seems, never give up on your dreams.
In 1994, at just 8 years old, I was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. Later that year, I lost my right leg above-the-knee and continued aggressive chemo therapy treatment.
In 2004, 10 years after my diagnosis, I took a deep breath and stepped onto a ski slope for the first time. The beauty, adrenaline and excitement of three track skiing captivated me, but somehow something was missing. This realization led me to discover snowboarding and I made it my goal to defy the “impossible”.
Nearly 19 years later, cancer a distant memory, but one that completely altered my perception of life.
Here are 14 things you need to know as I strive toward Sochi:
1. I've had heart stopping moments.
During treatment for cancer, my heart stopped twice. The first time I scrambled for the call button just before I blacked out. The second time I was in an elevator with my mother. There were no bright lights or angels. It was very much like a deep sleep when you feel like you’re waiting for something.
2. Come again?
One of the side effects of chemotherapy is hearing loss. Half way through treatment, a hearing test confirmed that I had lost 60% of my high frequency hearing. Chemically induced hearing loss isn't the same as your grandpas. While chemo is commonly associated with baldness, it can also nuke your arm hair, eyebrows and the little hairs in your cochlear that communicate with your brain. Over time, my brain “adapted” by improving my low frequency hearing and reading lips. If there is background noise, or you mumble, or if your mouth is covered by a Barclay, I'm going to push pause, re-wind, and playback.
3. I have freestyle beginnings.
When I first started snowboarding, I was inspired by the park and the halfpipe. Although I didn't progress as fast as my able-bodied counterparts, I was determined to master the basics and look good doing it. Then, and only then, would I step up to the big stuff.
4. I'm never good enough.
I'm well aware of my limitations as a snowboarder but it hasn't stopped me from trying to overcome them. Writers and actors will tell you that while others think their work is fantastic, to them it's never good enough. No one is harder on me than I am on myself. Even when I'm riding really well, it’s not good enough. There isn't a point that I reach and say, “OK, cool, I'm done.” I have to keep moving forward whither it’s the mental game, a physical limitation, or more often than not, a prosthetic issue.
5. I have knees, knees and more knees.
What sets me apart, both as a rider and a competitor on the national team, is my right knee. It’s entirely mechanical. I have a knee for snowboarding and a knee for everything else. I also have a spare knee, you know, just in case.
6. I have a 12-inch scar.
In 2006, I crashed a dirt bike and shattered my real knee into a dozen pieces. Bright moment. After they installed plates and screws, I spent a good two months in a hip-to-ankle cast. The doctor told me that snowboarding was out of the picture for at least a year. Although I've never regained full range-of-motion, I returned to the slopes just five months later. As a reminder, a 12 inch scar is stretched over my left knee cap.
Next to Shaun White at the 2009 X-Games
7. I like making history.
While I wasn't exactly a snowboarding pioneer, I was the first above-the-knee amputee to ever compete in snowboarding. I had the opportunity to make history by for-running the X-Games halfpipe in 2009. Here's a snapshot. Recognize the famous red hair sitting next to me?
8. I'm mad for coconut water.
I love coconut water. No really, I could drink coconut water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just looking at coconut water makes me feel healthy and hydrated.
9. I'm super crafty.
Once upon a time, I discovered scrap booking and from there my craft making abilities blossomed. The problem with crafts is that you need spare time to go with it. Pinterest has helped me create a lengthy list of projects to pursue someday.
10. I have a nerdy streak.
When I'm not training, I can be found coding advertising emails for the outdoor industry. Way back when I was stuck in a cast, I picked up web design and started coding to fill the hours. I'm not so savvy that I can type out an entire network but I've got the basics down.
11. Want to catch a chick flick?
I admit it, I can't pass up a good chick flick. Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favorites. Occasionally, I might mentally reboot by watching them back to back for hours on end.
12. I have a business degree.
Last year, I hit a major milestone by completing my bachelor’s degree in business management. When we were first denied acceptance into the program for Paralympic Winter Games, I returned to the U.S. heart broken. I had postponed finishing my degree to pursue snowboarding. When the sport hit a wall, I stepped back and picked up right where I left off. Walking across the stage to receive my degree was worth every sacrifice I made along the way. No regrets.
With my picture at the Leonardo Museum
13. I have a puggle obsession.
My Instagram has more than a few dozen pictures of Dudley, my puggle. He is a brown, fury, 2½ year old pug/beagle mix. He was given to me as a Christmas present in 2010. Last summer we took an obedience class, just for fun, and we discovered his smarts in the agility session. Teeter-totters, tunnels, hula-hoops and high bars have nothing on him. Bring it on!
14. See me at the Leonardo Museum.
There is a prosthetic exhibit in the Leonardo Museum in Salt Lake City. I had the honor of doing a photo-shoot for the exhibit. The life-size picture of me catching air is still there, just hanging out.