For this month’s Wendi Paterson Award winners we would like to acknowledge two inspiring personalities, Katherine Combaluzier and Lorene Hughes, owner of Scary Bunny Be Fit who have truly shown what it means to rise strong. Congratulations ladies for being such strong role models!
Thinking back to her high school years, Lorene would never have imagined being where is she today as she shied away from physical activity, thinking that she wasn’t good enough. She was not unlike a lot of people who are simply too scared or intimidated to start something new, like getting fit. Lorene decided to take the first step with “jazzercise” back in 2003, but she didn’t feel comfortable going alone so she convinced her sister to tag along. This experience was the springboard for Lorene. She enjoyed it so much she needed to share her enthusiasm with others and encourage them to embark on their own fitness journey. It was just a matter of taking away the fear that often gets in the way.
Among her many certifications, Lorene is also an Urban Poling Instructor. Not surprisingly because it fits with her mantra of taking exercise to the streets. She offers classes in “Walking 2.0” as she calls it. We couldn’t put it any better than Lorene’s description of Urban Poling “It looks a bit odd, and you may feel like a funny bunny on that first walk or two; until you realize the amazing benefits to walking with sticks!” So don’t be scared; fitness really is for “every bunny” because fitness is not just about the class, it is about the community that it creates.
Katherine (Katie) Combaluzier grew up in Toronto, where she became part of the Ontario ski racing community and developed a love for the great outdoors at an early age. After completing undergraduate degree in kinesiology, Katie moved to Revelstoke, BC to further explore the sport of skiing and get a taste for the backcountry. Always searching for the next adventure, she moved to Dublin Ireland in September 2017 to start medical school.
Only 6 months later, in March of 2018, Katherine was seriously injured while backcountry skiing in France when she was hit by an avalanche, shattering her L1 vertebrae. She was diagnosed as being paralyzed from the waist down and underwent spinal surgery to fuse her spine back together. Her prognosis was devasting, a 10% chance of walking again. She returned to Toronto to undergo 3 months of inpatient rehabilitation.
Not surprisingly, her journey to recovery has been a difficult one. Initially Katherine could not move at all but in the weeks that followed she slowly progressed from peddling on a stationary bike; to standing up with the help of physiotherapists; and later to taking her first steps while wearing a harness, which supported most of her body weight. (Shout out to Alyssa Woronecki at Neurocore Physiotherapy who was Katie’s awesome physio!) Before long, she was able to use a walker and later she transitioned to a rollater. She eventually started walking with the ACTIVATOR poles, which she says was “definitely more challenging but I think it makes me stronger.” Katherine also reported: “I really like the poles because it allows me to engage more of my whole body and core compared to using the walker or forearm crutches where you can cheat and push more through your arms.”
Katherine’s determination has driven her to beat the odds. When asked what keeps her motivated throughout her recovery, she said: “I am fighting hard to recover so that I can get back to doing what I love (like) skiing, hiking, and rock climbing.”
Today, Katherine is an incomplete paraplegic but in no way does that prevent her from living her life. She’s found ways of adapting activities that she loves so that she can continue doing them. In fact, she’s already started planning for her next ski trip! In her own words, “An injury shouldn’t change who you are.” We can’t help but be completely inspired and applaud Katherine for pushing the boundaries! With such a resilient spirit, we have no doubt that you’ll overcome any obstacle and be skiing again in no time.