Growing up in Michigan, Chelsea Singer did not realize her feet were misshapen. She thought she was just growing faster than everyone else. She wasn’t diagnosed with CMT until the age of 11, when her mother underwent foot surgery for her own CMT. Chelsea’s struggles with CMT were compounded by watching her mother succumb to a pain pill addiction, and she left Michigan at the age of 15 for a new life in Colorado.
While still in her teens, Chelsea opted for surgery to ensure she would not end up in pain like her mother. Chelsea planned to have surgery on her left foot first, then her right. The surgery included straightening her toes, correcting her bunions, having a screw inserted into her ankle and cutting her heel cords. Despite the fact that cutting the heel cord was the only really successful aspect of the first surgery, after three months of recovery she felt physically and mentally strong enough to have the same procedures done on her right foot.
While the surgery on her left foot was not a complete success, the surgery on her right foot was a downright disaster. Chelsea recalls screaming in pain as the doctor unwrapped her bandages at her post-surgery appointment. Everything from her right knee down was black. Four emergency surgeries followed, and Chelsea twice almost had her right foot amputated. Finally a long hospital stay and the application of leeches on her toes (a new leech every 45 minutes for an entire week) brought circulation back to Chelsea’s toes and she managed to keep both her feet, but the experience left her mentally scarred and physically weakened. At the time of her discharge, she was unable to stand on her left leg for more than a few seconds at a time.
Bedbound for almost three months, Chelsea grew depressed and nearly suicidal. When she finally regained her strength, she resolved to leave the cold behind forever and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. While she was able to leave the weather behind, she could not do the same with her own physical and emotional trauma. Hospitals and even medical commercials filled her with anxiety. Eventually she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and began getting counseling.
Chelsea reluctantly tried her first-ever yoga class at the age of 26. While she initially thought there was no way she could handle it, Chelsea quickly discovered she loved yoga. Within the year, she was in a teacher training program and is now a nationally certified instructor. Chelsea’s yoga practice focuses on the meditative aspects of yoga, including visualizing energy, breathing and healing energy. She teaches many classes, including a free one sponsored by the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and finds it a blessing to do something she loves that is also good for her. Today Chelsea meets lots of people with CMT and has even made DVDs for people who cannot attend her class in St. Petersburg.
One of the things that Chelsea feels best about is teaching others not to be ashamed of their disability. She remembers when she was unwilling to let anyone see her bare feet, and now she’s barefoot most of the day. Chelsea looks forward to reaching an even larger audience with her message of yoga’s healing powers. She has formed an informal support group with her friends Tia and Elisa that they call the CMT Sisterhood. They meet once a month and the group has now grown to seven.
Namaste, Chelsea and the CMT Sisterhood.