By Tim Hauserman ·
Truckee resident Candace Cable won nine Gold Medals in wheelchair road racing in the Paralympics. She won 84 marathons in wheelchair road racing, as well, including six Boston Marathons.
She has ridden her bike across the country and kayaked the 72 miles around Lake Tahoe. She has been a downhill and cross-country ski racer, and competed in The Great Ski Race in a sit-ski numerous times. She was elected to the Reno Tahoe International Sports Hall of Fame in October 2014. When she retired from elite competitive sports in 2006, Cable took on a new goal: Making a positive impact to bridge the gap between the disabled and the non-disabled.
Candace was inducted into the Reno Tahoe International Sports Hall of Fame in 2014 along with Lana Spina, left, and Jonny Moseley, right. | George Anastassatos of Lightray Studios ·
“I wanted to break down the stigmas and bias that surround the way people look at disabilities. To teach about awareness and to help create a world where everyone is included. The biggest challenge is overcoming the fear about disability,” she says.
She knows about the power of fear because she had to face it herself. Cable grew up in Southern California. After high school, she moved to South Lake Tahoe to work as a blackjack dealer at one of the casinos. One night, as her shift ended, her boyfriend came to take her home. While trying to negotiate the twists and turns of Kingsbury Grade one night, their Jeep rolled and she was pinned underneath. Her spinal cord was severed and she was paralyzed from her waist down.
Cable spent the next six months in the hospital undergoing a series of surgeries in an unsuccessful attempt to repair her damaged back and spine. Then the following year, depressed and in denial as to what her future could be, she isolated herself from friends.
One day she says that she woke from her depressed slumber and told herself, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” She spent the next six months in therapy beginning the process of making sense of her life.
She discovered an exceptional program providing sports activities to disabled athletes at California State University, Long Beach. She tried wheelchair road racing and was hooked.
“I was now included with everyone else in an activity together,” she says. “That feeling of inclusion, changed my life.”
Within a few years, she was one of the best athletes in the world.
Candace Cable is a representative for the Reeve Foundation to the United Nations, working on the Convention on Rights with People with Disabilities.
Now, she works with the Christopher Reeve Foundation, writing blogs. She writes about disability, focusing on her core philosophy, which is “the deal is how you deal.” She writes about the importance of disability awareness education, and how there isn’t a big difference between those with and without disabilities.
Cable also works with the Open Doors Organization, helping teach the tourism industry about the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and developing awareness of the challenges the disabled face while traveling.
“It’s a conversation we need to have. There has to be a connection. People need to have an experience with those who are disabled, otherwise they don’t see how it relates to them. People still have negative images surrounding disability,” she says.
Cable became a representative for the Reeve Foundation to the United Nations in 2012, striving to get the Convention on Rights with People with Disabilities approved by the United States delegation to the UN. At UNICEF, she is working on improving the lives of those with disabilities around the world.
“I’m committed to education. Eighty percent of the disabled live in developing countries and there is a lot of suspicion among the population about disabilities. For every 10 people that need a wheelchair in the world, only two have them,” she said.
Locally, Cable worked on the Disability to Possibility program at Alder Creek Middle School for five years. The program taught seventh graders that no matter what happens in life, you always have options.
Now, she is facing one of her toughest challenges –trying to heal from a broken leg.
When one has been in a wheelchair for decades, the leg bones become soft and break easily, and the process of healing is excruciatingly slow. For the fiercely independent Cable to have to wait for the leg to heal while accepting the constant help of others has been tough, she says.
“It was very hard in the beginning, I was literally questioning whether I could do it.”
But Cable also learned a new lesson and perhaps a new cause for her to speak out about: Doctors in emergency settings are not educated as to how to deal with disabled patients. Since she couldn’t feel her legs, it wasn’t helpful when the emergency room doctor kept asking her how her leg felt. And since there is no pain, other indications of a potentially more serious problem were not clear to doctors either, which is why they misdiagnosed a potentially life threatening bout of high blood pressure as just anxiety and the shock of the accident.
Every challenge she has faced she has overcome, and she says that she knows she will get through this one, as well. Ever since that horrible accident so long ago she has been a fierce and strong competitor. For many years it was competing in sports, now she is competing to help the lives of disabled people throughout the world.