15 years ago, my doctors told me I only had three months to live.
I had been enjoying life, working in a night club, and building a modeling career. I was only 21 years old. Now I had a stage 4 brain tumor. They told my mom I wouldn’t survive it.
It took three operations and four years in and out of the hospital for me to prove them wrong. The tumor was finally gone, but it took its toll on me.
After all the treatments, I wasn’t even able to hold my head up. My recovery started with simple exercises I could do in bed. The physical therapist would say to do three sets of 12 repetitions of leg exercises, like bending my knee and moving my legs from side to side.
I was determined to get better. If she told me to do 12 reps, I would do a thousand.
It was because of that hard work that I was able to get out of the bed and into a wheelchair. I couldn’t walk on my own because of a brain disorder I had developed called ataxia, which causes severe balance issues. Still, I did what I could. I put in long hours at the gym to rebuild my muscles so I could be as independent as possible.
What Happened When I Googled “Safe Mobility Walker”
Life has been a little easier since I moved to Dublin from Latvia, where I grew up. This is a much more accessible place, a more supportive community for people with disabilities.
My neighbor here has become a good friend. He takes me around the block for walking practice. I used to use a rollator, which isn’t safe to use on my own. He always had to be right next to me, watching to make sure I don’t fall.
One day, he said that it would be nice if I had a mobility walker that was safer than this. So I went to Google and typed in “safe mobility walker.” That’s how I discovered the LifeGlider. I didn’t believe it at first. A fall-safe walker? I thought there must be a catch.
But then I connected with the LifeGlider Users Group on Facebook. People there said it really works. I decided to give it a try. It’s currently only available in the U.S., but a man I met through the group was kind enough to give his LifeGlider to me. I only had to pay to ship it here.
From Wheelchair to Walking
I’ve had it for almost two months now, and it has already changed my life in so many ways. I was a full-time wheelchair user. Suddenly, I was able to walk again. [Watch a video of Lana walking.]
It was too hard to use it hands-free at first. I had to re-learn how to walk before I was ready to let go of the handles. But after about five weeks, I could already walk with one hand, sometimes no hands. Eventually, I’ll be walking without using my hands at all. It’s very stable. I’m confident that the worst that will happen to me is I’ll fall back in the seat.
The first time I went out with my LifeGlider was amazing for so many reasons. It was the first time I was able to walk into a supermarket in 11 years! Being able to pick up what I wanted, go to the till and pay was incredible.
It’s also wonderful to be able to look at people at eye level when you’re so used to looking at their bottoms. When you’re in a wheelchair, people will sometimes ignore you and talk to the friend you’re with. Now they were looking up at me (I’m pretty tall). I was so happy. I was glad I was wearing a mask. It hid the big, silly smile on my face!
There Is So Much More to Do
There is so much more I want to do with my LifeGlider after COVID. I used to participate in fashion shows to raise money for different charities, but there were some dresses the designers didn’t want me to model because I was in a wheelchair. They always want able-bodied girls who can stand in them. Now I can. I plan to keep working with the LifeGlider so I’m ready for the next show, hopefully in the spring or summer.
Before COVID, I would go to the local gym for fitness exercises, yoga and Pilates classes in my wheelchair. I was even doing some boxing classes. Once the gym reopens, I’m looking forward to going back to do more boxing in my LifeGlider.
I want to go out with friends, too. I want to go to clubs, to go dancing and have a drink, like I used to before the tumor. I can do that safely now. I’m also thinking that I’ll be able to stand up at my own wedding one day. The dress will look so beautiful on me!
Letting Others See What’s Possible
I like showing off the LifeGlider. I’m already a miracle to my doctors, who didn’t expect me to live nearly this long. At my next MRI appointment in January, I plan to go in the LifeGlider. They will be shocked to see me walking!
I also want to show others with disabilities what is possible with the LifeGlider.
I’m a chairperson for a community organization to help people with disabilities. It’s called Ballymun Active Disability Interest Group, or BADIG. (Ballymun is a suburb of Dublin.) I have been talking to others in the group about what the LifeGlider has done for me. I’m excited to see the LifeGlider become available here in Ireland, throughout Europe and in many countries, because I know it would help so many others.
The LifeGlider is very safe. It encourages you to walk more and do more yourself. And if you’re like me, it might help you live more like you did before you developed a disability.
It’s giving me my life back. Maybe it can do the same for you?