Feb 2, 2018
Member Spotlight: Kendra Poszywak
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5….The number of dizzy spells that Kendra Poszywak had every day
1-2….The number of hours of sleep she averaged a night
15….The number of different headaches that she gets, each in a different place and with different symptoms and causes
7….The number of different migraines that can affect her at any given time in any given combination
1….The number of permanently misplaced vertebrae in Kendra’s back which limit her mobility
19….The number of years that Kendra has lived in chronic pain
11….The number of doctors and neurologists who gave her the “I can’t help you anymore” speech
Kendra Poszywak’s first class at Title Boxing was with NBK–aka Natural Born Killer, aka Mariah Strong–and with a name like that, she knew that “this was going to be intense.” Excitement pulsated through Kendra as she pulled into the parking lot of Title, excitement and anticipation but also nervousness–enough that she nearly turned the car around and went back home–she had been in a lot of pain the night before and was struggling today.
She walked in and saw her name on the board and stood waiting at the front desk, scared and apprehensive. But just then a guy approached her, he introduced himself as Curtis and asked “Are you Kendra?” They had talked for nearly 40 minutes on the phone before she even got her first class scheduled. She said that “he made me feel like I would have a support system before I stepped foot into the building” which gave her the confidence to do the class. “It kicked my butt;” she laughed. “However, I realized that 3 minutes isn’t too long to push myself without much of a break.” Before her first class was even over, she had made her mind up, she was going to commit to a membership at Title. But there was something else, something else she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. She knew–this was it. She had no more fight left in her after this one last attempt. If this didn’t work, she would resign herself to the fate that had been predicted for her; time, and time again.
All of her life, Kendra wanted to be an engineer. “Ever since I was three, every Christmas I asked for things to take apart and put back together, it was all I wanted,” she told me. “But I went to school to be an engineer at Michigan Tech and pretty soon realized technology hates me–so becoming a computer scientist or a programmer was not the best life choice if I wanted to be happy.” She took a career aptitude test and found out that she had a natural proclivity towards teaching and decided she would give it a go. She got her teaching degree then struck out on her own after school, moving to Clarksville and getting a job teaching tenth grade at Northwest High School. “My heart and my passion goes out to teenagers–I want to help them to believe in themselves and I want to let them know that they can do something with their lives no matter what their background is,” she said. “Aside from dealing with the politics of it, I really enjoy teaching.”However, in moving to Tennessee, she found herself completely alone, hours away from her closest family and friends–her entire support network, and all while living in a world of constant pain.
When Kendra was in the third grade, she had a hard impact to her head on some ice while sledding. In the fourth grade, she had a fall on a low ropes course. It wasn’t until a year later that the result of the injuries was realized, she had had her top vertebrae knocked crooked and her entire spine has readjusted from that point down. In other words, her muscles were retaught completely wrong. When Kendra was ten years old, her doctor told her that by thirty she would be in a wheelchair–her pain would be so widespread and unstoppable that it would essentially paralyze her.
Since then her life has been defined by a series of other health problems, extreme headaches and migraines, sleep deprivation, and complications from having an emergency appendectomy–all of this compounded by being overweight and unable to have full mobility because of nerve and spinal issues. “I don’t know what it’s like to not be in pain,” she said. “I don’t remember.”
There are no pink ribbon marches for what Kendra has, no ice bucket challenges, no support groups–her myriad collection of ambiguously connected issues doesn’t even have a name–the world doesn’t have one for it yet–and even the doctors are stumped. “I’m the one in a million for pretty much every situation,” she admitted. “I usually don’t even tell people about them because there’s nothing that can be done to help them. It just ends up with people having pity on me and not letting me do things “They don’t want me to hurt myself,” she said, “But what they don’t understand is that I function in my everyday life like this and have for 19 years.” The health problems that Kendra has may not be a terminal, but living in extreme pain long-term, the debilitating effect on her quality of life is unimaginable.
At the beginning of June, Kendra decided it was time to do something. “Everything that the doctors had done to try to ‘fix’ me had just made things worse,” she explained. “I knew that it was up to me, I had to fight for my health.” She decided to make three significant changes in her life: she went on a gluten-free diet to help with her migraines, started taking Plexus supplements more seriously and decided to find a fitness plan that she actually liked and could stick with.
“When I first started at Title, I started going every day, sometimes two a day, once three times in a day,” she told me. “I had to take three days to recover after that.” But the initial obsession quickly turned into a sustainable workout regime for Kendra, she went to class regularly and even participated in the 31 Day Challenge. She also began taking personal training sessions twice a week with Curtis.
He designed workouts for her that emphasize core strength and postural alignment–increasing hip mobility through static and dynamic stretching and strengthening core with banded resistance and unilateral exercises (in other words, one side at a time). “The balance required to maintain posture under increased resistance is a form of core training in itself,” Curtis explained. “Her body adapts to handling increased stress.” It’s slow going though, every workout has to be modified to avoid areas of pain, a sign from her body that something is wrong.
“He’s spent a lot of time doing research–my back isn’t easy to work with,” she told me “Most people have like one problem area and you can work around it–I have problem areas in every aspect of my spine so he has to get really creative–and the hardest part for me has been accepting when there’s pain and to tell someone– that’s not my normal, normally I just keep going and make it work and suffer through.”
“Boxing and working with Curtis has been a game-changer for me,” Kendra said. “I went to my chiropractor last week and for the first time my hips were level after a couple days past an adjustment–I don’t think that’s happened in the 16 years that I’ve been seeing a chiropractor.” Because her hips have aligned themselves, it has allowed for stronger posture and her slipped disk and thoracic and lumbar have also aligned for more comfort during her work day. “The sense of community when I walk through the door, that accountability keeps me motivated” she said, “I’m sleeping better, I get almost six hours of sleep a night now, and my pain is reduced and I don’t feel like I want to cry when I sit down at work.”
These days, there is a new collection of numbers the helps define Kendra’s life:
2….The number of pant sizes that she has dropped
10….The number of pounds that she has lost.
8….The number of inches that she has shed from her body
50….The number of classes she has conquered.
But what really counts is something that has no numerical value at all. Confidence, vigor, and a the start of a healthy vitality that has been missing in her life for nearly a decade. “People see me and they see the change in me, many had never even seen me healthy,” she said with a grin. “I’m starting to feel like I can be a success story.”
“Overall,” Curtis said with a warm, pensive tone when I asked him the biggest change that he has seen with Kendra, “I think the biggest difference is that she smiles…..she smiles a lot more now!”
Article by Kirsten Hall