The Power of Grit and Grace with Amberly Lago
By Mary Maxey
October 24, 2019
In today’s episode, our guest is Amberly Lago. She is a leading expert in resilience, transformation, and health wellness. She is the best-selling author of ‘True Gift and Grace’ and empowers people worldwide by sharing how she turned a tragedy into triumph. She is a former professional dancer and athlete, bringing a new perspective on what it takes to persevere.
[4:10] Why should I listen to you?
I love connecting with people. I love talking to strangers and anybody that I meet. It’s my favorite part of my whole journey. And you should speak to me because I’ve been through so many different experiences, overcome many challenges, and could probably relate to one thing or another.
[7:30] Can you share with us your journey?
I was probably the healthiest place in my life mentally, spiritually, and physically in every way. I had a successful fitness career doing fitness videos and fitness modeling sponsored by Nike. I recorded a fitness video the day before and thought life was good. I’m married. I’ve got two kids that are healthy things. One day, I was coming home from work and driving down Ventura Boulevard, and an SUV shot out of a parking lot. It boned me, and I was thrown 30 feet sliding across the asphalt. When I stopped, I looked down at my leg, which was completely broken into pieces. And what’s so crazy is, well, I immediately had pain. But I looked down and thought one of the first things I thought was, wow, this can’t be good. I might have to train clients on crutches for a while. I had no idea how to adjust because it would completely change my life. So I rushed to the hospital.
My organs started shutting down because I had lost so much blood. I was in so much pain that they couldn’t control it, so they had to put me in an induced coma. And when I woke up from a coma, I learned you have a 1% chance of saving your leg. This is basically like a war wound. There’s not much we can do for you. We’re going to have to amputate. There was a 1% chance, and that was my glimmer of hope that I held on to that got me through 34 surgeries and months in the hospital. A lot of pain, and they saved my leg. But then I was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, which is a supposedly incurable nerve disease. I’ve tried every kind of treatment for it. That’s one of the reasons we had, you know, $2.9 million worth of medical expenses.
[11:30] What was the thing that made your mind go like, there’s a shot, like when most people would get rid of it?
Growing up as an athlete and a dancer helped me with my mindset. And so I was like, if I want something, I will have to work for it. I was never the best dancer. And so I knew I could be better if I took more dance classes. So I just knew that we get to define our future, and it’s up to us if we want to be resilient or thrive in life. I was little when my stepfather sexually abused me. After my parents divorced, my mom remarried, so I learned at a young age that if I focus on the things that bring me joy, life tends to get better. If I focus on the results that I want instead of the ones that I don’t, then I will do better in life. So I think that some of the challenges that I went through helped me.
[14:20] Who are the people around you to help you climb out, or were you kind of solo on your own?
I couldn’t do it alone. I had an army of people that came to support me. First of all, my husband was my rock. He was doing everything except paying the bills. We learned a valuable lesson concerning our bank account. We had two separate bank accounts, and my bank account did not have we didn’t have our names on each other’s bank accounts. So, when I was in a coma, he couldn’t pay the bills because he couldn’t access the report. So we learned to put each other in everything we own. We’re both on the bank statements. During that time my clients showed up for me. I needed my clients more than they needed me, and they were there for me. They showed up for me in the hospital, bringing me food and flowers, and then I was still able to give them exercise. I was still being of service, and that helped me to be able to provide the nurses with exercise tips. When they learned, I was a trainer. They came to me for help on what they could do to work on their body. I was in service even though I was stuck in a hospital bed, Even though I didn’t know if my legs would be amputated or if I would make it through surgery. They gave me a purpose and allowed me to keep pushing forward.
[17:19] Can you walk us through the points where you felt it wouldn’t work out?
Like I said earlier, I survived this horrific accident only to be diagnosed with a nerve disease. I had never done a drug in my life, and all of a sudden I’m being induced with ketamine to try to reboot my nervous system. I was doing Eastern Western medicine at one point. I was on 73 homeopathic pills and 11 different prescription medications. I was on oxygen. I was on every kind of pain pill you could imagine. I even had a spinal stimulator implanted in my back. Nothing was working. I felt I hated myself and hated a four-letter word and our family. I hated myself for what I had become. I felt worthless shame and drinking was helping me numb. I didn’t want to live anymore, but I was just too afraid to die. I thought of starting a podcast and I didn’t even own a computer. I accepted that I needed help. I went for my first meeting when I heard the word, “hope”. I cried for the first full year but little by little I dove into self-development. I started going to therapy. I worked on myself every single day and started to heal. I decided to write a book. I hand-wrote 90% of the book and bought a computer to type it.
[23:30] Can you unpack the book, how it has gone into the world, and who it serves?
I had no idea. Like I wanted to write a book to give some hope and inspiration to others struggling or feeling stuck or dealing with pain or shame. Whether they’ve been sexually abused or in a horrific accident or lost their careers or they’ve, you know, had a lien on their house, whatever it may be. I was like, there is a way through this. I had no idea about the journey. One day, my husband told me that I was pacing myself and I felt bad. I didn’t want to be resilient so I wrote down on this notepad all the different things that I do to be resilient and I wrote down Pacer. First I just wrote down the word pace and then I had to add the last letter. So Pacer stands for perspective, acceptance, community endurance, and rest. And so, perspective is something that I still have to do every day and every morning from the moment that I step. I took my first step when I woke up out of bed in pain. I didn’t know how to be grateful so I started a gratitude practice.
[32:30 What are your thoughts around helping people develop like called muscle of discipline or endurance?
I don’t depend on motivation. I depend on my healthy habits. I think it is essential to focus on oneself. It’s so important to build your confidence, keep promises to yourself and fulfill them. You build your endurance and confidence. I think that endurance can be really simple. It starts with setting your alarm in the morning, not pushing snooze, and getting up. It is setting a small attainable goal and accomplishing it.
[36:50] At what point did you know that this is something you need to take to the world?
I believe that I can provide more value than my words and story. I worked with people for 26 years in the fitness industry. I worked them through a process of workouts and coaching sessions. People started asking me questions about my growth and how I was able to move forward despite my challenges. I started responding to several messages as best as I could and I started paying attention to my audience, I decided to open a playbook and help other women do the same thing as me except for the mistakes that I’ve made and the money I’ve wasted along the way.
[45:37] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
That I would always make people feel loved, welcome, and accepted.
How to connect with Amberly Lago