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Overcoming Obstacles by Serving Others

Katrina_ShakleeBy Katrina Shaklee, Ψ (University of Oklahoma)
2015 Real. Strong. Women. of Distinction Recipient

When I was pursuing my degree at the University of Oklahoma, I considered myself many things—an Alpha Chi Omega, a friend, a daughter, etc. When I turned 24, I had the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) attached to who I was as well. It became a part of me whether or not I wanted it. When I received the diagnosis I had two choices: embrace it and move forward, or be frustrated and afraid. I’m not going to lie—I did have many frustrations and there were times when I was certainly scared, but long-term, I knew I had to move forward and make the most of my new life journey.

I decided to take my passion for sports and combine it with my new diagnosis. Perhaps that may seem like an unlikely merge, but I, along with help from various other people, created a nonprofit to provide sporting opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities. In 2000, we staged the first Endeavor Games for Athletes with Physical Disabilities, and that event has flourished every year since.

Many people seem to be intrigued by my having multiple sclerosis and managing it by blending my love of sports and creating this event. I’ve never been hesitant to share my journey of being diagnosed, but I do struggle when people look at me as having overcome obstacles, or doing something different and amazing.

Why, you might ask? Quite simply, when I watch our athletes competing, they are the ones I see as truly overcoming obstacles. Yes, I have a disease that isn’t going away any time soon. And with MS, the disease is very unpredictable, can change how it affects you and can get worse with time. Right now, I am managing extremely well. So, when I am at our track meet to watch a race and I see a 4-year-old smiling ear to ear while racing his wheelchair, or when I see a 30-year-old with only one limb competing in swimming, I don’t reflect on my obstacles, but instead get to witness some amazing athletes, doing some amazing things. The athletes we serve every year don’t want to be heroes, nor do they want to be your inspiration. They just want to be seen as competitive athlete, and we try our best to give them that opportunity.

I never planned on doing this with my life, serving others through a nonprofit and now through my employment with the University of Central Oklahoma. But it has become a part of who I am. As Steve Jobs once stated, “If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” This is what the Endeavor Games does for me. I encourage you to find something that will pull you as well.

One Comment

  1. Aunt Connie |

    Proud to be able to say I not only know you but you are married to my nephew. God bless you.