Yellowknife teen Lauren Seabrook says she fell in love with track and field in middle school.
But finishing a race — especially her favourite 1,500 metre track event — seemed like an impossible feat to Seabrook who was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) four years ago.
"If you had asked me … if I would be running the 1,500 metre at track ... I would have been like 'you're crazy,'" said Seabrook, now a Grade 11 student at Sir John Franklin High School in Yellowknife.
"The third time I collapsed, I thought it was done." - Lauren Seabrook
The chronic disorder affects the nervous system and causes abnormal skin changes, muscle spasms, stiffness and patients often experience loss of movement as well as intense pain in the affected limbs.
Once a competitive speed-skater, horseback rider and avid athlete of all sports, Seabrook's limbs were severely affected — it got to a point where she had to learn how to walk again through a "painful [and] long process."
But this month, Seabrook not only crossed the finish line at the territory's Track and Field Championships in Hay River, N.W.T., she ran the whole way.
"I decided I wasn't going to walk a single step," said Seabrook.
"It wasn't pretty."
Falling and getting up
There were tears, sweat and red, swollen legs.
"It was going okay, until the first lap. I collapsed for the first time," recalled Seabrook.
Her mother came to her rescue and helped her up. She said, "Lauren, get up. You can do this," said Seabrook. "So I somehow got to my feet and kept going."
Then during her second lap, she collapsed again.
"Except I was on the other end of the track so nobody was there to help pick me up," said Seabrook. It was the voice of the announcer from the other side of the track calling out "Please get up. Please keep going," that got Seabrook up and running again, she said.
Then her legs gave out again.
"The third time I collapsed, I thought it was done," said Seabrook. "I could feel my spine kind of seizing up and … a flare up was coming [up my legs]. They were turning colours and stuff."
Her teammates and fellow competitors passed by with encouragements. She started running again.
For her last lap, she was joined by three other runners.
When she collapsed in the last stretch, they picked her up and offered to carry her to the end.
"I was like no … I'm going to finish on my own feet," said Seabrook who crossed the finish line and collapsed into her teammate and coach's arms.
"I just kind of laid there and I was like 'Oh my gosh, I did it.'"
Overcoming pain from bullying
The race also helped heal the pain Seabrook received from bullying.
"On the track, it kind of like all melted away — all my anger," said Seabrook. "Because all these kids, some of them who were mean and kicked my crutches out, poked at my legs, and did these cruel things, they were cheering for me too."
Seabrook said it was a moment of realization for her: "I realized people grow, and I had to forget what they did, and it shaped me as a person."
Seabrook says she did the race just to say "I did it." But she learned so much more from her supporters.
"I'm very, very grateful and they've kind of demonstrated what sports means to me, it's kindness and compassion," she said.
"I don't think I would have finished without them."