39: This life is pretty amazing – an interview with Beth Samuelson

There are so very many people out there whose stories can inspire us to find the positivity in our own lives. We can find strength in knowing we are not alone and find hope for a better life. If you know someone who has an inspiring story to share, please, get in touch!

Today’s poster was inspired by what she tells herself when the going gets tough – that is is darn lucky. So, I thought a little Dr. Seuss was called for. Because when you are conquering your condition, you realize just how amazing this life can be.

I started this interview series because I am not the only one with a story. I am not the only one working on having a normal life even when my body doesn’t cooperate. I know this first hand, because today I am sharing the story of one incredible young lady. A lady who, despite incredible odds runs half marathons. And she just happens to be my cousin.

We spent time recovering in the hospital together, me from a car accident (that I got into on my way to go pick her up at college and bring her to a doctor’s appointment) and her from a kidney surgery. These days, we have matching scars, which is pretty cool. (Much cooler than that one Christmas we showed up wearing the same outfit.) We ran our first post-injury 5k together (and what would be my second to last). Her grit and determination to not let her genetics rule her life has always been an inspiration to me.

Yes, that is her, looking tough as nails in the portrait below. (Thank goodness for cousins who are willing to be both photography subjects and interviewees…)

portrait of beth samuelson by mary fran wiley

What is your diagnosis?
Spina Bifida….not actually sure what kind. Obviously not the most severe?

How has it effected your life?
The worst parts were the times I’ve spent in the hospital. Missing a semester of college was hard, and other times just missing assignments or tests was annoying. Medications are also often expensive! And sometimes mess with energy levels and such, which isn’t fun when you’re an active young person. I do feel lucky that I haven’t had really all that many problems in my life compared to many other people affected by Spina Bifida.

What is it like to be a young person living with long-term health concerns?
Right now I just have to deal with my high blood pressure, so that isn’t too much of a hassle. In general I eat well and exercise a lot, as well as work a physical job. I figure keeping myself healthy is really important in the long run (as it should be for anyone!)

You tend to keep your condition quiet. Does it ever cause problems when people find out?
I don’t really mind so much any more. Sometimes I like to show people my semi-recent scar. It’s kind of like a Bane (from batman) scar. Also, I think it makes lazier people feel lazy when I tell them I had spinal cord surgery and then started running half marathons and things.

How do you advocate for yourself or others with your condition?
I should do this more…I’d love to someday try to raise money through running for some charity though.

What is your go-to wellness tip?
Sleep. Drink lots of water. And try to do at least one active thing each day.

What has being sick taught you about your life? Has it changed how you see things?
After my long stint in the hospital it really did make me appreciate how lucky I am for someone with my condition. It really got me into the long distance running. Pretty cliché, but being really sick does make you appreciate the nice things in life.

You run all the time. What is it about running that you love?
It’s a great way to clear your head and unwind. I’m also not so great at other sports, but I love being active and think its so important to stay in shape. I also love race-day atmospheres, so it gives me a fun event to look forward to.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that gets you through the rough days?
Maybe not exactly for rough days, but say I’m on mile 10 of a race and its getting tough I like to think “I should’ve never been able to do this at all,” and that’s pretty cool. In general it’s nice to be able to appreciate the things I might not have been able to do if I was another person with Spina Bifida or things hadn’t turned out as well for me. 

me and beth

Beth Samuelson is 24 and has lived with Spina Bifida her whole life. Currently she is beating the odds at a wildlife rescue where she shares way too many pictures of adorable baby animals and runs half marathons every chance she gets.