“This is a tale of a broken, yet healed woman. It starts as a 3-year healing testimony with many more small details and ended as I found more than physical healing.
I’ve always been an athlete. My whole life, I was always surrounded by some form of sport, training, losing weight and competitions. When I started university, I found something challenging and loved it, something different, and something I was good at. I ended up building my whole being around this. I was known for the sport I do and not the person I am. This happened before and then once again. Powerlifting became me and I became it.
After a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears, I made my way to the National competitions in powerlifting in 2018. There I broke three National records and qualified to go to Hungary to compete in the Rhino Worlds 2018. A trip down to Hannover, Germany changed the whole game.
I’ve always been a very adventurous person and this trip consisted of adventure on the daily. A week into the trip, the organizers suggested, ‘We should all go and do some Sumo wrestling for the fun of it.’ I climbed into the suite and got my game face on. A good one minute into the wrestle, I heard a loud snap and suddenly, I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. They dragged me out of the suite and I sat there crying, not knowing the extent of my injury, which I thought was a dislocation.
For the rest of the trip, I tried to just walk it off, but it became worse daily. The day I got back to South Africa, I decided to go see a doctor. ‘You’ve snapped your MPFL ligaments off.’ I went just to find out the whole time my kneecap had been sitting on the side of my knee, trying to move up and down with every step I took.
A good week later, I woke up in a hospital bed in St George, sick from anesthesia with a completed MPFL reconstruction of my left knee where they harvested my hamstring and used it to pull my knee cap back into the right groove.
Since I’d already been chosen for the top 12 in Mej Luister!FM 2018 before my trip to Germany, I had to make a decision to either quit or finish the pageant. Pageant (this was a pageant where the one who was crowned would be attending charity events on behalf of the Luister!FM radio station). My brother played such a big role in this decision. The day after my operation, he was there as I opened my eyes. He drove down to PE to come and fetch me to stay with him for a few weeks.
This was the most horrible week ever, as I had a reaction to my anesthesia, as well as tolerance to my pain meds. For weeks, I did not eat and he helped me when I needed to go shower (which was two times a week MAYBE) and when I had to just visit the bathroom. He has been such a pillar in my recovery that words could not explain. After every operation, he was there ready to drive 300 miles to pick up a moaning Clarisa and another 300 miles to bring me back. He encouraged me by saying little and doing much. I am forever grateful.
He made me realize I have NEVER, ever started something and not finished it. So I took a stand again and finished the Mej Luister!FM pageant on crutches. I took a deep breath, smiled, and modeled in a long dress with my four legs. That evening, I stepped onto the stage scared out of my mind of what people would think. I especially didn’t want any sympathy votes coming my way. At this point in time, all I truly wanted was for one girl in the audience to look at me the night of the show and think, ‘If she can do it, then surely I could, too.’
While all of this was going on, I kept my training up to scratch and decided to do a random competition and compete in bench press only, just to see where I was at. To my surprise, I broke my personal record as well as the National bench press record. Now that put a little fire in my bones but then…
2019 made its way around the corner. All I was doing was my rehab and feeling stuck every day, until one morning. This morning, I snoozed my alarm and decided to just give my eyes a 5-minute rest. You can guess how that went. This ended in me making my way out the door with bags and an awkward run/hop to my car so I didn’t end up being late for church. Why would I run for church, you may ask? Well, God had been the only constant in my whole journey. When I felt weak, I knew He was strong. When I felt alone, I knew He was there. When I couldn’t love myself, I knew he loved me before I was even born.
That day, my feet kind of got a little sidetracked with the little hop along. I made a dive that would put any international swimmer to shame and went smack back into the pavement. Brushing it off, I got into my car and went on my way. With high hopes, I went to the train as per usual with my knee feeling a little iffy. Well that day, I LITERALLY pulled my cracked knee cap apart. Unknowingly, I had two halves of a knee cap for over a month. Pain became such a norm no red lights were noticed in my mental rear mirror. ‘Strike a woman, strike a rock.’ This came to life as I just propelled it onwards.
Finally, I went to ‘Bob the Builder’ and another operation later, they put my knee cap back together. I looked like an ironwoman on the inside and felt like I was hit by an iron truck on the outer (mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually). It all came crashing down once again!
2020 rushed in with all its glory and every ounce of negativity that exists. Due to the tower of iron they used to keep my knee together, I started developing muscular problems that could’ve led to walking impairments if not removed soon. This meant that even though the knee cap had not healed, they would have to take the iron tower of hope out. They realized I had no choice but to get a bone graph done from my hip to fix what had stayed broken. They ended this lovely speech off with, ‘You will ONLY have to be in crutches for 6 months following.’ Reassuring, right?
A week before the big operation, I had a ton of tests to do. From COVID-19 tests to blood tests and finally my pre-operation X-rays… my x-rays confirmed what the doctor already told me would have to be done and what was present: a broken in half, unhealed break was still present, and all that was keeping my kneecap together was some screws and pins.
Everything was so overwhelming, I just went into my own prideful little bubble. Then something extraordinary happened one night as I was listening to Ps Keegan Fredricks Preach. It felt warm, comforting, and healing. With a bang, I knew God was going to rattle some bones as the song says, and more so, my own bones. All that came to mind the last few days leading up to the surgery was Mark 5:34, ‘Daughter, because of your faith you will be healed.’ I decided to hold on to it with all that was left within me.
On July 9, Doctor Pretorius opened up my knee to get cracking only to find there was no break present. He removed all the wires and pins from the previous operation and found the bone to be unwavering. He took his best shot at pulling it apart with clamps, yet nothing moved. He filled up the pencil point whole with generic bone, took a video for me (how sweet), and closed up the little bugger. (Mind-boggling, right?)
My doctor didn’t understand how the X-ray showed one thing and the physical another. I woke up very confused, as you can imagine. As he spoke to me afterward, all I could think about was how great my God is and what He has done for me. I couldn’t stop myself from crying as God’s presence was right there, filling the hospital room. I was alone, yet the furthest I’ve ever been from being alone all at once.
It has been 3 years since the time I decided to be a beast and sumo wrestle for the fun of it and never did I think it would be the one adventure that was going to cause everything I built myself around being, to crumble. I injured myself and then came 3 dreadful years consisting of three knee surgeries, an unpredicted mental journey, and tremendous change I was NOT ready for. I felt lost and alone. Most days, it felt like no one understood and like every person that saw me felt bad for me and saw me as being incapable of doing things for myself (this was my pride talking LOUD and CLEAR).
During this time, I felt even more lost and alone. This is when I realized no one would truly understand unless they have walked the journey themselves once before and this caused me to distance myself as far as possible, where possible. In public, I smiled like never before, showing teeth and expressing loud giggles, being the happy, cheerful person I was known to be. All I had to do was hide what I truly felt deep down and I mean, very deep down. I brushed it off as nothing but something took root, a little seed of doubt and pain started to grow and made me grow into a withering tree I did not recognize.
The healing journey has been very long, but it gave me a new breath, a new hunger for adventure and life. I’ve been breaking mental boundaries ever since and planning what I want to and will soon be able to do. I’ve started hiking and taking on surfing, yet another fear to concur and now I CAN CONCUR it if I let myself. There is still a long road ahead, but I will hold on to what He has done every day that passes.
I’m no longer a slave to fear and no matter what I face, I have a choice to make. Will I let it make me or break me? Let me tell you one thing. Never will I let anything break me again. Through it all, I have discovered who I am without a medal and praise. I am now becoming the woman I was made to be. Bold, strong, and independent. Free from the opinion of others and bound to the love of God.
Our God is truly a miracle-working God. He is our healer and He will work in us and through our situation. Your path might be long, rocky, and lonely but nothing strong was ever built in comfort. It might hurt and burn all at once, but sometimes we need to be broken to be put together the right way again and this reward is far more. Delay is not denial. He just has to uncover more of what’s truly on the inside of you. You will get through it! I did.
Thank you to every person that caught a tear, wiped a fear, and fed me chocolate when I needed a little extra comfort. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE. I will run out of characters if I have to mention you all. I thank God for you!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Clarisa Annandale. You can follow her journey on Instagram here, here, and here and Facebook here and here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories like this here:
‘I was waiting at a red light when I lost consciousness. I called my Sergeant. ‘I’ve been in an accident. Something isn’t right.’: Officer credits rottweiler for saving her life post-traumatic brain injury
‘Ginger ale slowly fermented and turned into a bomb. It detonated at the exact moment she walked passed it. The force of the blast knocked her unconscious to the ground.’: Woman suffers traumatic brain injury after freak accident
Please SHARE this story on Facebook and Instagram to encourage others to live life to the fullest.