I remember the 1st time my senior drill sergeant sat down and took off his hat. A few moments before he had tossed a large metal trash can across the bay as we scrambled through the chaos of sea bags and boots that hadn’t even been broken in yet. “I want everyone to sit and take a moment to reflect on why you’re here.” For the first time I felt like my heart and lungs were going to stay in my chest where they belonged. He went on to remind us to take those reasons and repeat them to ourselves when things got tough, and to focus on the task right in front of us; even if that meant just getting to the next meal.
It’s a lesson on taking things one at a time. A lesson I’ve held onto through numerous seasons of life, leading up to my final year of physical therapy school. When I enlisted into the Georgia National Guard to pay for school, I had no idea how many battles I had yet to face. At the root of everything I was just a scared kid that wanted to prove I could finish something, to be a part of something bigger than myself, and to get some help paying for college along the way. I also thought it was cool to get to do a job which women hadn’t been able to do before. My goal was simple: graduate from basic training on time so I could start my degree on time.
Just shortly after my first fiscal year of service and 1 semester into the Georgia Southern University athletic training program, I threw multiple pulmonary embolisms and a saddle PE that placed tremendous pressure on my heart. I was in the middle of contracting with ROTC and wrapping up my first clinical internship with Screven high school. In that moment I felt like my entire world and all of the goals I had set for myself were crumbling. After months of bed rest, an awkward divorce, and countless fights with insurance companies and providers for the care I needed – I realized I needed to re-establish my “why”.
It was then that I felt I was being called to do something different than I originally came to Georgia Southern University to do. So, I adjusted my efforts towards physical therapy school and I poured my whole heart into it. I still felt, and feel, strongly about service. So, I fought tooth and nail to get to continue to do that too. A few years down the line and two children later, I felt a calling to shift my why again. Because as the audience of this blog knows, at some point you have to start leaning towards a setting to practice physical therapy.
For me that calling was scary. It can be really hard to advocate for yourself, especially when dealing with problems that others cannot see. It gets even harder when those problems are seen by society as “too taboo to talk about”. I’m a woman, born and raised in the south, who attended a private catholic school without sex education. But as I sat in shock after the birth of my first child, and later in embarrassment with pee-soaked pants following a diagnostic postpartum Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) – I realized I couldn’t just stand by and do nothing but the task in front of me seemed insurmountable.
Before having children, I had no idea the extent of the changes a body would go through or how drastic the differences can be from one mother (or baby) to the next. Due to my medical history, I was at high risk for both pregnancies, and I felt lost. I wasn’t sure what I could and could not do to have the safe and healthy pregnancy I’d envisioned. So, during my second pregnancy I took a course on Postpartum Corrective Exercise. At first the flood of information was overwhelming but it opened up a door of curiosity …and a heart for serving a population I didn’t know I had the courage to pursue.
I was afforded the opportunity to sit for Pelvic Health Level 1 Webinar, through an APTA Pelvic Health Student Scholarship. I am now looking forward to continuing my education in the world of pelvic health as soon as I resurface from clinicals, boards, and BOLC. For now, I’m reminding myself to take this journey one step at a time. I can’t wait to empower patients with the tools they need to stay involved in the hobbies and careers they love, free from pelvic pain and dysfunction. Who knows, maybe I’ll even inspire someone to take the leap into the field of pelvic health. Don’t be afraid, you just have to find your reason… In my case, I think everyone deserves access to PFPT. It’s a specialty that has been life altering for me and looking back I can’t believe I ever listened to society’s implication that pain and dysfunction are synonymous with becoming a mom.
Written by Shelby Landrum, SPT
About the Author: Shelby Landrum is a mom of 2 under 2, a 3rd year at the Medical University of South Carolina and an alumnus of Georgia Southern University’s Exercise Science program. She and her husband Christopher are both US Army Reserve Officers and in agreement that none of their pursuits would be possible without the love and support from their family.