I welcome author and motivational speaker Amberly Lago to the SoCal podcast studios to tell her amazing and inspiring story.
Amberly is the author of True Grit and Grace: Turning Tragedy into Triumph. Amberly offers a message of personal potential, acceptance, and living life to the fullest. Unlike the next motivational speaker or peak performance advocate, Amberly comes across as authentic, vulnerable, and overall the real deal. She offers up empowering insights and in the next breath describes how tough it is to use the tools we know we have at our disposal in daily life. Her story is going to blow your mind and give you a fresh perspective about managing whatever challenges you face each day with a little more sensitivity and gratitude.
One day in May of 2010, Amberly was coming home from another great day as a personal trainer and fitness enthusiast (hitting a PR for an 11-mile run that day!) and sustained a terrible motorcycle accident. She was T-boned by an inattentive driver, thrown 30 feet down busy Ventura Boulevard in LA. Her right leg was nearly shattered and the femoral artery was severed. Refusing the option to amputate her leg, Amberly endured 34 surgeries and a severe complication of contracting the dreaded condition of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. As Amberly details her story of suffering and recovering, beautiful insights arise from the nuances of the conversation and her speech patterns, so listen carefully! She talks about how her husband’s support carried her through the dark times, and came in different forms—including setting her straight when she was complaining too much. She talks about the “toolbox” she has developed to deal with her chronic pain and other life challenges, which consists of keeping physical, mental, and spiritually fit each day. She realizes that the chronic foot pain she deals with to this day serves as a natural governor for her to keep her Texas-tough competitive intensity in check, and emphasize downtime and stress management techniques.
Amberly talks about the importance of mindfulness—staying focused on the present and redirecting any “coulda, shoulda, woulda” ruminations from the past, or stressing about the future. She talks about how her morning routine gets her into a healthy mindset to tackle her day, especially the practice of expressing gratitude for three things in your life as soon as you wake up. Amberly offers up some memorable quotes, but in her case, it’s not just a pithy quote, it’s how she really lives her life. “Start where we are, use what we have, do what we can.” Can it get any better than that for direction on how to live a happy, healthy life?!
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:00:08 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author and athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy in hectic, high stress, modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge, and expertly balance that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
Amberly: 00:00:33 So when a doctor told me, he said, you had something very serious. He said, are you the kind of person that likes to push through pain? And I kind of probably was like, yeah, you know, I’m from Texas and of course I push through pain. You know, like you said, he said, well, you need to stop right now. It’s important to make sure that you’re listening to your body. I think for anybody that has chronic pain, especially with people that suffer from the CRPS, to me, I kind of view it as like the monster that lives in my foot. I think a gift that I’ve been given is, you know, I was always a very independent and I considered myself a humble person. Let me tell you this whole experience that humbled name and I think it’s important to remain humble because when you’re humbled, you continue to grow.
Brad: 00:03:40 Hi Listeners, I’m pleased to welcome Amberly Lago to the southern California studios of the podcast here in my former hood of Woodland Hills. Thank you cousin Babby for introducing us. She said, yeah, you should get this girl on your podcasts. Went over to the website and saw such a powerful story and an amazing journey that she’s been on. I think it could possibly change your life, hopefully change your perspective and drift you in the direction of all those important things we hear about today like expressing gratitude and being mindful. This is the real deal and she is a fantastic work in progress. She makes a great point to say that she’s trying hard every day, not perfect, not a brushed up glossed over story, but something that you would best call as her book title “True Grit and Grace: Turning Tragedy into Triumph. Amberly is an athletic lady, former professional dancer and lead athlete fitness trainer. She was driving down the road and her Harley about eight years ago, right here in the Ventura Boulevard. San Fernando Valley had a horrible accident. They wanted to amputate her leg. She refused. She endured 34 surgeries with plates, pins and sheer will. Eventually her leg was spared, but she contracted a very difficult disease called chronic regional pain syndrome. It is known as the suicide disease because it’s nonstop pain, often driving people to end it and she battles with this every day and has come so far. I can’t wait for you to join us and listen to this powerful story. Something to reflect upon and gain inspiration from. Here comes Amberly Lago, author of True Grit and Grace: Turning Tragedy into Triumph.
Brad: 00:05:42 We are talking Amberly thanks for coming over to the southern cal studios of get over yourself podcast. Usually when I’m getting ready for a podcast, I’ll write down some questions and try to figure out where this is going. But when I saw your story, I’m just like blown away at what you’ve done and where you’ve come from. So I think we, uh, we gotta talk about this thing. Yeah. What we’re, you’re starting out riding a Harley in LA, which, you know, I was a bike rider in LA and, um, it’s not, uh, it’s, it’s not an easy thing to do. And you had a terrible misfortune. This is now eight years ago?
Amberly: 00:06:21 Uh, yeah. You know, there’s that saying, if you’re riding a bike, uh, it’s not, it’s not if you’re going to go down, it’s when, because most of the time, you know, it’s not, it doesn’t matter how careful are, how safe of a rider you are. Most of the time people don’t see you. And so it’s risky, especially in a place where there’s so much traffic and you know, yeah, I was coming home from work and I had an SUV that I guess didn’t see me and made a left right into me. So I was t boned
Brad: 00:06:51 and that kicked off a long series of surgeries, medical problems.
Amberly: 00:06:57 Yeah. Well, you know, in the blink of an eye, your whole life change can change. You know, it was a holiday weekend. Life was good. I just finished training clients. I had run my best a time that day. I had ran 11 miles on my best time and I was going to go and enjoy a weekend and man, boy, things change really quick. And when I was hit, you know, uh, people ask me, you know, I just did an interview a couple of days ago and the lady goes, well, so did you feel it? And I was like, Oh yeah, I felt it. She goes, but do you remember it? I was like, yes, I remember every detail. Um, unfortunately I remember, you know, I’m sure you can relate to this when you’re riding a motorcycle, you drive the fit. Are you riding offensively? You kind of look out for the other person and make sure they see you. And I could’ve sworn this guy saw me and I thought we had made eye contact and there was nothing I could do really other than kind of let off my clutch and tried to jump off my bike. And thank goodness I did try to jump off because my lower leg took the brunt of the impact. And then I was thrown about 30 feet. And the scary part was, you know, when I was sliding across, I couldn’t, I couldn’t tell what I like was I sliding into oncoming traffic? I didn’t know where I was going. And so I just tried to tuck into a ball and I was thinking, please don’t let another car hit me. Please don’t let another car hit me. And when I stopped and I looked down at my leg, I mean I immediately felt pain, but it’s amazing what your mind, what goes through your mind.
Amberly: 00:08:44 Like I, I thought, oh my gosh, I looked at my leg was just crumbled into pieces. And one of my first thoughts was, oh boy, I’m going to have to train clients on crutches for a while. And then I thought, Oh man, my husband’s going to be so pissed at me because I have a pulled pork sandwich in my backpack and it, and it’s his brand new backpack. And I didn’t ask for permission to use it, but you know, and then I really, I started realizing the magnitude of just how serious it was when I saw other people walking up to me and their reactions and it, that’s what, and thank God, you know, I had a guardian angel I think because there was a guy that immediately made a tourniquet on my leg because my femoral artery was actually actually severed. And I didn’t even know at the time that how fast you can bleed out from uh, an artery being severed like that. So thank God he, you know, was there
Brad: 00:09:49 oh sure. Cause I think the average person’s going to stand around and say, are you okay? Should I dial nine one one? And all these minutes go by. So there’s a lot of occasions where if a random person happens to be, you know, the next cars is a, uh, a nurse practitioner coming over and, uh, that good fortune is probably, probably saved you at that point in the street.
Amberly: 00:10:10 And actually, um, and you know, sometimes you never know if people are going to stop, are they going to help or what are they going to do? And, and luckily I had a, a nurse that came over to, and you know, there were, there were people, they didn’t run over to me. They kind of walked slowly and there was one lady that actually fainted. And when the nurse kneeled down to me, she grabbed my hands and she was like, breathe with me, I need you to breathe. And I was just a course screaming out cuss words and thinking, oh my Methodist mother is not going to be proud of me. And then I would scream out cuss words and then, you know, call my husband. But she really helped me get through that as well.
Brad: 00:10:55 That’s important at that time because of the stress response, right? You want to mitigate the, the, the, the state of the body going into shock or uh, getting overwhelmed with whatever it is, your panic or your anger. She wants you to stay calm, I guess. Get your, get your heart rate down and your respiration down or something.
Amberly: 00:11:15 Yeah. Yeah.
Brad: 00:11:15 What’s weird is that you remember all this because I feel like it’s more common when people have a terrible accidents. They, they don’t remember, oh, it was wake up in the hospital or something. Yes. It’s kind of trippy that you’re worried about the sandwich and the backpack.
Amberly: 00:11:31 It’s crazy. What goes through your head, your mind , and I remember every detail of an, in fact, one of the first things I told my husband when he showed up to the scene, because apparently all of a sudden his phone started ringing like crazy and he was like, well, I guess I better answer this because my, his phone, all these people bystanders started calling that number that I was out. And so when he showed up to the scene, one of the first things I said to him was, I had an appointment to go see my friend who’s a physical therapist because I had a not my calf from running. And I said, can you please call him and tell him I’m not going to make it to my appointment today? And he just looked at me like, uh, I don’t think we need to worry about that right now. But I remember, um, everything from the accident, you know, riding in the ambulance, you know, I was strapped to a gurney and this is how crazy I was, or am I guess I had on a brand new hot pink Lulu Lemon jacket. It was my favorite jacket, $40, please don’t rip it up. They started cutting it and I was like, no, no, no, don’t cut my jacket. It’s new and I can take it off. And then I was trying to take off my jacket and then they started administer, you know, uh, given me an IV And I said, well, wait a minute. What are you giving me? I said, well, we’re going to give you some morphine. And I said, you can’t, I’m allergic to that. I’ll go into anaphylactic shock. And so thank goodness I was very, um, you know, I wasn’t knocked out. Um, because that could have made things a lot worse. And um, the last thing I remember before they put me under was, um, I was in the ER in Northridge, in the room. The Haas, the ER was just chaotic because my husband is a cop and the brotherhood of the police forces, you know, word travels fast.
Amberly: 00:13:31 And when they found out that I had gone down, the whole room was just full of cops. And I heard this like crying, like wailing, I didn’t know what the noise was. Oh, what is that? And it was my husband and I had, he’s a first responder. I had never seen him cry. I’d never even seen him get like a little misty eyed and here he was like crying uncontrollably and I just yelled across the room, Johnny, I need you to get over here and be strong for me now. And he came over and he held my hand and I think I said that even more so like I was scared. Am I going to, like in the ambulance ride I was looking at the paramedics for some like kind of like, like, am I going to be okay? Is there any, they wouldn’t even give me any eye contact.
Amberly: 00:14:27 And so I thought, oh my gosh, they’re not even looking at me. Am I going to die? Like, is it that bad? And so I think at this point I was like, am I dying? Like what’s going on? And so I needed to know that he was going to be like, be strong to take care of our daughters. That’s the last thing I remember before they had to put me in an induced coma because, um, I was going into shock and my vital signs, everything was shutting down basically.
Brad: 00:14:56 That’s from the bleeding from the, the leg injury mostly?
Amberly: 00:15:00 Yeah, mostly the leg injury. You know, I’d hit my head, I had road rash. Thank goodness it wasn’t as bad because of that backpack. It was that safe my back. But, um, most of the injury was to my leg and my foot was actually completely off. Only on by hanging on by skin.
Brad: 00:15:23 What does your husband say about that now where he broke down and, and have, have the most, the least likely people to do that. He’s a first responder. This is his life. You would think that he could hold it together, but it’s so different when, when it’s a loved one rather than doing his job, he’s in a whole different mindset I guess.
Amberly: 00:15:40 You know, it’s, it’s interesting. My family was just in town this past week and my first cousin was visiting and my husband said, oh my goodness. Um, it’s so good to see the last time you were here was right after Amberly’s accident. And he goes, I’ll never forget, I was by myself one, it was late at night and I was looking at over over the hospital bills and I was so worried like, how am I going to do this? What, how am I going to pay this? And my cousin showed up and as my husband was remembering this, he got like a little teary eyed. And like I said, my husband does not get emotional. And I thought just him kind of thinking about that moment where my husband showed up to like give him support, brought him back to that time. And that place of it was a really difficult time. Even though I went down, I was going through all of this. He had to like, he was my rock. He had to like take care of my youngest daughter who was only two years old at the time. So it was a really, it was a really hard time. Um, so this just isn’t just my story or what I went through. This is really our story because it’s, you know, our family that went through it.
Amberly: 00:17:05 And I think by sharing my story, it, it not only has helped me heal, I have really wanted to reach out to others so that they know that, you know, even by showing all my scars, I remember the first time I showed my scars in public, you know, my husband was like, oh, don’t you want to cover that up? It’s not probably good for your skin grafts or this and that. And, and it took a lot of courage to start to show my mangled and deformed leg. But you know, when I show my scars, it shows others that they too will heal, you know? And so that’s why, um, I think when we share our story, it allows us the opportunity to build a community of people and that’s how we start to claim our resilience.
Brad: 00:17:56 So your story gets a little more complex because the, tell us about the, the journey of the surgeries and the ongoing battle.
Amberly: 00:18:05 Well, um, you know, it took, when I first woke up from a coma, they said the first thing they told me was they’re going to amputate my leg. And being a former professional dancer and a fitness trainer, that was probably one of the worst things that I could hear. And I thought, no, you’re not taking my leg. No. And there said, they said, well, no, you have a 1% chance of saving it. Um, there’s just other than a war wound, this is like the worst injury we’ve seen. We’re going to have to amputate it. And it took them 34 surgeries, but piece by piece after three and a half months in the hospital, the first time they were able to put my leg back together, you know, it started with, I’m just seeing if they could put my femoral reattach my femoral artery and so that I can sit here now and tell you that wasn’t the hard part.
Amberly: 00:19:07 The hard part was going through all these surgeries and my pain wasn’t getting any better and you know, growing up in Texas, it was like, you know, we had sayings like get her done and suck it up. And I that was know exactly and I was like, good. I was determined to walk again when doctors said that I would be in a wheelchair forever. Um, I was determined to run again when I was told I would never run again. And I was so happy to be upright and on crutches for the first time because I went from being, you know, in the best shape of my life to be in bed ridden with bed sores depending on someone to carry a bed pan for me. So when I was upright and went in for a doctor’s appointment, I was diagnosed with a nerve disease called, um, it used to be called RSD or regional. Um, it’s now called CRPS complex regional pain syndrome. And it is a disease of the sympathetic nervous system, which leaves you in constant chronic pain. It’s dubbed the suicide disease because it’s ranked highest on the pain scale and there’s no known cure. Um, so when the doctor told me, he said, you have something very serious. He said, are you the kind of person that likes to push through pain? And I kind of proud. It was like, yeah, you know, I’m from Texas. Of course I pushed her pain, you know, like you said, hook ’em horns were tough. And he said, well, you need to stop right now. You need to get back in your wheelchair are going to be permanently disabled and your life will not be the same. And I was pretty much stopped listening after like never be the same and I would never be able to have a normal life.
Amberly: 00:21:02 And I was devastated. And when I started to, I didn’t know exactly what RSD was, um, or CRPS was, I’d never heard of that. Um, and only thing that stuck out to me was the suicide disease. I was like, how can this be named the suicide disease? What is this?
Brad: 00:21:24 And so they’re naming it that because the pain is so bad that it drives people to, to end it because it’s just not getting better.
Amberly: 00:21:31 Exactly. Exactly.
Brad: 00:21:34 What about the initial demand that you want to preserve your leg? So you’re, you’re going against, I guess the routine medical decision in that case would say too much hassle. Let’s just amputate. And so you chose and demanded another path for them to follow. And I guess that’s why there was the 34 surgeries because it was, it was such a big objective to try to save the leg?.
Amberly: 00:22:00 Yeah. It wasn’t like my leg was just broken. It was like if you took a cracker and broke it, that’s a break. My leg was, if you took a saltine cracker and crumbled it and it was just in pieces. So they had to, piece by piece, they would go in and first clean it up, then go in and stabilize it. Then you know, uh, put, put together my tibia, then try to put together part of my fibula. Then you know, it was just piece by piece.
Brad: 00:22:32 These were the separate surgeries?
Amberly: 00:22:34 They were all separate surgery
Brad: 00:22:35 And the reason being that’s too much to do at once or so much to do at once?
Amberly: 00:22:39 In fact, um, after about a year, maybe a little less than a year after I was out of the hospital the first time, um, I noticed that I, my leg was giving me a lot of pain and I noticed it was bowing in the middle like it was bending and I went in and I asked the doctor about it and he was like, well we need to do an x ray. And there was a non union in the tibia and the hardware only lasts as long as your bone either grows or the hardware starts to break its. And I unfortunately broke the titanium, so they had to go in and take the broken pieces out and put a rod in. And that surgery, just that one surgery was a 10 hour surgery to take the broken pieces out and that doctor could have so easily given up like, well, the rods not going in through it’s, you know, we’re just going to give up on this. Let’s go ahead and amputate. Um, and then it was another surgery. Just go in and close my leg up again. So it was a lot. But even after all of these surgeries and I was diagnosed with CRPS, um, I went in to my pain doctor one day and I said, you know, what, can you just amputate it? Can you just chop it off? It’s given me too much pain. I can’t handle it. Can you just amputate it after all of this? And he said, we can’t do that. He said, you have CRPS, um, or regional sympathetic dystrophy, the RSD, and it’s in your sympathetic nervous system. If we cut it off, you’re still gonna feel the pain. It’s coming from your, your sympathetic nervous system. And so, um, I always thought, well, what if they would have amputated in the beginning? And they said, there’s no way of knowing if they would have an end, you know, if you spend your whole life. I remember when I wrote my book, uh, my mom was one of the first person, I’ll let her read it and said, can you read this?
Amberly: 00:24:50 Let me know if you’re okay with some of the things I’m saying because I knew it would be hard for her to read about the sexual abuse that I experienced in this and that. And she said, well, if you could just write, if I would have known would, I would have done that. And I said, you know, this book isn’t about Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, woulda, coulda. It’s about this happens and what do you do from here? And that’s what I thought about, you know, when I was getting caught up in that thinking of, well, what if I would have amputated? It’s like, you know, we really, we have to start where we are, use what we have and do what we can and go from there. Um, if you get caught up in thinking, oh, what if I would have done this? You get stuck. Or in my case I started getting depressed. So I think, you know, for me, I don’t compare my past life to my present I or my past accomplishments to my present. I really focus on what I can do now, um, and move forward from there. And I think by doing that and being in a place of gratitude for what I can do, um, I’m able to have a life filled with joy. And even though I have, you know, something called the suicide disease, I’m able to have a life filled with happiness. And that’s one of the things that I want others to, um, to know and to be inspired is to claim the resilience that and, and use these different tools that I have kind of created and developed through my journey to help keep me in a place of joy and happiness.
Brad: 00:26:44 And there we have the secret to, I thank you listeners. That’s the end of the show and the podcast. You can go home and never play another, never pushed play on another button. That’s it right there. Amberly. I mean they’re just just beautiful and it, I might, I want to ask, why is it so difficult for people to discard the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda when we’re talking not about this incredible medical and, and life or death ordeal, but oh, I should have taken the other job because I would have got stock options and then I’d be rich. I mean, we go through life just with those voices all the time. I’m still getting together with my, my buddies from high school and w we’re all runners and we were talking about the Meet 37 years ago where you took off on the third lap and that was the gap you made and you won. And I should have gone and, and stay down your back. And then I would set my best time. You know, we will, we’ll talk about that stuff and rehash anything that has to do anything of regret. And for some reason it seems like we get a payoff in daily life to talk this way.
Amberly: 00:27:45 Yeah. I mean, I, I thought in the beginning like, well, what if I would’ve stayed at work? What if I stayed at the gym for five more minutes?
Brad: 00:27:54 Brutal. I’m feeling sick. Just thinking about all that stuff, you know?
Amberly: 00:27:58 And it’s like, no, if you really, one of the hardest things for me to do is one of the hardest things is to be in the moment and be present and focusing on, cause you know, we can get caught up in the past and get caught about and get, you know, worried or anxious about the future. But if we just try to be in the moment, we can have such a, a stress free life, you know, or as little stress as possible. And yeah, it’s, you know, I could drive myself crazy thinking about all the what ifs or if I could ever, if I would have and you can just drive yourself crazy. Or in my case, I was spiraling myself down into a depression, so I had to change things.
Brad: 00:28:48 You’re inspiring yourself down to depression, not necessarily because of the pain, but because of your thinking. Is that what you’re saying?
Amberly: 00:28:55 Um, I think dealing with the pain is one thing. And I think those voices in my head anyway, boy, they can just be negative. Like there can be some serious negative self talk and I try to nip it in the bud and change my thinking too. Um, you know, cause it’s hard. It’s hard waking up and not knowing how bad, how bad my pain is going to be. And I have people ask me all the time, well, you’ve healed from your surgeries and now you feel okay. Right? And I’m like, no, I have pain every day. And I just had, someone asked me, I just did another interview and they asked me, um, well, so you’re not in pain anymore. And I know she had just told me she had had dental work and she had a toothache. And I said, well, no, I’m in pain. I said, imagine that tooth ache. I said, but it’s in my foot mostly, and it’s every day. I said, so I’ve had to really practice, um, healthy, a healthy mindset, uh, really being, uh, you know, it’s mindfulness. So much about it is mindfulness and being in a good headspace. And I’ve had to create this whole toolbox of a list of things that I have got to go down to. I wish I could tell people that are in chronic pain. If you do this one thing, you’re going to feel better. It’s a list of things for me. It’s, you know, it is, but mostly it’s a, it’s a physical, mental and spiritual journey and mindset about being as physically, as healthy as I can be spiritually connected and mentally having that healthy mindset.
Brad: 00:30:40 So if you go off track a little bit, like you have an overly stressful day cause they forgot to put your daughter in the right class and in elementary school and he had to go meet with the principal and then you got into a traffic jam and then this happened and that happened and you’re off your a game. Um, I imagine you have good days and bad days. And so this toolbox that you created, this, you know, the, just, just hearing these, uh, the terminology that you use is very empowering and you’re on to some that, that’s why I loved your story. It’s like you’re, you’re hitting these secrets and not saying that it’s super easy and it’s fun and I’m better now like we watch in the movies, but that you’re, you’re into this engagement every single day in and using your tools.
Amberly: 00:31:27 Thank you. And you know, I, um, um, I’m actually, I’m really excited I get to go speak to the RSDSA conference, which is the, um, conference. It’s been, it’s a annual conference and it’s an organization that’s been established for 30 years to give support and sometimes grants to people who have CRPS. And I was really like, all of a sudden I’m like, oh, this is what I’ve always wanted. I’m going to be their keynote speaker. And I was so excited. And then I went to that place of that mind talk and I went to fear like, oh my gosh, I’m going to be speaking to these people. What if I don’t say the right thing? And I’m like, you know what, I’m not, I’m not an expert in anything and I, I, I’m not an expert. And what to do when you’re in pain. I just say, hey look, I get it. I’m in pain every day. Maybe some of these tools will help you. Maybe you have something that will help me. But I think, um, when you build a community of people who are going through similar things and you know what pain can be to look at me, you see my scars and it looks like leg hurts, but we, I’m talking about any kind of pain, whether it’s physical or whether it’s emotional. We all go through our challenges and if we come together and build a community that is a key for, I think, the start to build resilience. And it’s not something that you do, okay, I’m resilient and let’s start the day. It’s, no, I have to wake up every day and it’s every day deciding that, you know, my day could be good and my pain could be okay.
Amberly: 00:33:10 Or, like you said, I could find out that my daughter’s doesn’t have the teacher that, that I wanted her to have or I did that, you know, step mill, a little too fast in my leg is on fire. Well, what can I do next? What can I do? And I’ve learned sometimes, you know, I was never the type of person who would take any rest and I had to learn it’s okay to rest, just not quit, you know, just, just not quit. Just resting means that you’re recovering and that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. We’re meant to have this balance in life. Where are we? Work hard, play hard, um, we have rest and recovery and that’s just not, that’s something I had to learn because I wasn’t brought up that way. I was brought up as, you know, running track and my coach was like, in Texas it was like, go big or go home. And if you’re gonna throw up on the track, you’re dead meat. So throw up off the track and then keep running, you know? And that was training in the hot Texas sun and 100% humidity. And, um, being a dancer, I was taught to ignore my dog, uh, ignore my pain and just keep dancing and didn’t matter if your feet were bloody or what was going on. It was like you just keep going. And so I learned the hard way that it’s very important to have that awareness and listen to your body because you know, it starts to whisper at first, then it will start to scream.
Brad: 00:34:43 You want to keep dancing? People don’t realize the dance. When we go see a beautiful dance performance and we think, oh, how cute they are. They’re ballerinas or even the modern dance people that we don’t realize the level of athleticism and also how hard the training is and how much the injury rate is. I remember reading something that um, for youth it was like the injury rate of all the sports and football was second and number one, uh, number one was um, competitive cheerleading. It’s a number one most injury prone injury rate of any sport. Wow. Yeah. Poor kids.
Amberly: 00:35:19 I know. And you know what, I was mascot in school because I wanted to be able to do whatever I wanted to do. So I choreographed for the cheerleaders and then I got to like dress up in a costume and dance. What was your mascot? What was the, how was the lion and I either like freaked little kids out or they loved me. Nothing like a big furry lion mascot coming towards your kid.
Brad: 00:35:47 Oh mercy. So, so many of us suffer from that syndrome of overworking and not resting. And the cultural baseline here is that we celebrate hard work and we say, how are you and you say, busy, busy. Oh my gosh, I’m slammed. And Oh wow. That it’s, it’s sorta like not only accepted, but it’s um, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s praised.
Amberly: 00:36:13 Yeah. It’s um, you know, on social media, I see it all the time, hustle and grind, and then I just, you know, I, I saw, um, uh, something, somebody said alignment is the new hustle. And I’m like, oh, that’s interesting. Oh, gives you something to think about. But yeah, it’s very, you know, it’s like you’re supposed to just work, work, work, work, work. And um, it’s important to make sure that you’re listening to your body. I think for anybody that has chronic pain, especially with people that suffer from CRPS, to me, I kind of view it as like the monster that lives in my foot and I want to keep it sleeping in there. And if I do something to wake it up, it will start to let me know, hey, I’m awake. Then if it’s like full on, awake and angry, it will, it can bring me to my knees. And you know, sometimes that’s, that’s good that I, that just means I need to be on my knees and pray. You know, and I, every day I start my day with, before my feet hit the floor, I’m saying a prayer and I’m listing at least three things that I’m grateful for. And it starts, and then I get up and I, I have a few books that are read, um, spiritual books that I read to kind of set the tone for the day. I really think the first hour that we spend our day, it really affects the way our, the rest of our day goes. You know, if, if I mean, and as much as I want to get up and check my email or check my social media, did that post get enough? You know, enough. And was it good? People like it, you know, it’s that old people pleasing, you know, a defect of mine that keeps coming into play that I have to really go, no, do not do that. I’m starting my day this way. And it does, it really helps kind of give you a good start to your day.
Brad: 00:38:20 We hear a lot about that. It’s a common success, uh, suggestion to have that proactive start to your day. And I know at times in my life I’ve kind of dismissed it because I don’t like to be regimented or have people tell me what do or listen to the experts and I’ll, I’ll, I’ll decide, you know, I’m fine, I can do whatever I want and still be productive and focused and all that. But, um, now, now I’m doing my cold plunge every morning and it doesn’t take long, but it’s something that I’ve locked into place and it feels good because it’s, first of all, it’s proactive and it’s building discipline and resilience because I’m going into 38 degree water, no comparison to dealing with chronic pain or something. But along that same line, when you talk about your three things that you’re grateful for, I mean, if you can do every single day and get up and do that, I think it’s going to, you know, it’s going to address that bad mood and that lingering resentment or whatever’s going on in your head or that anxiety about going and checking social media and all those things.
Amberly: 00:39:25 Yeah. You know, first of all that you plunge yourself into cold water like that. That’s amazing. But, but um, I’m like, oh, maybe I should try that. Yeah.
Brad: 00:39:36 Oh, it’s a, you’ll get hooked, you know, watch my video on youtube and you know, you’re going to be ordering up a chest freezer from home depot the next day.
Amberly: 00:39:43 Yeah. Well, you know what, um, there is the, what is it? The cryotherapy. Right. Um, and I always wanted to try that, but with CRPS, any extreme cold can flare up your CRPS. So what I did was I got in but I kept my leg up out of the machine and it was fine.
Brad: 00:40:06 That’d be a good social media picture with Amberley and machine. Then there’s a foot sticking out.
Amberly: 00:40:10 Well that’d be cool. I posted it and I think people were kind of like, cause I had a big bear claw like slipper on my foot too. And I think people were like, what the heck is that? But I did try it. But, um, but I think I’m back to what you said about the gratitude. I really think we are what we focus on and what we believe and if we have something, uh, you know, going through her head and going, we become that. So if we’re thinking about something negative, um, I, those, those thoughts really play into how it affects what, what happens throughout our day or what happens in our life. Um, I think that, you know, if you can find something, even when I was in my hospital bed, there I was stuck in a hospital bed. I had no idea if I was indeed going to be able to, if they were going to be able to save my leg. I was spiraling into a dark depression. And it was after I saw an infomercial about how to get that resilient, but, and I was like, oh my gosh, I’m never going to have a Brazilian butt. I’m all scarred up. They might pick my leg and I thought, I have got to do something about this because I’m either gonna I got, I’ve got a choice. I can either go down, keep, don’t go down that road, despair or I can start being grateful for what I do have. I’m alive. I’ve got a family who loves and supports me. I’ve got incredible nurses and doctors and they were like a team. I’ve got clients and friends and I in the list went on and I would write down on my list. Um, even every nurse that came into the room that I had a view from the hospital room that I was provided foods,
Brad: 00:42:00 That;s what you wrote down on your gratitude list?
Amberly: 00:42:02 And I still have that little journal. It was a little pad that somebody had brought me and I just, I still have that list. And when you’re grateful you don’t have time, you don’t, there’s no room for self pity, you know, if you can just turn your thoughts into. And it’s something I still have to work on. I mean, and you know, I think, uh, the other day I was at the gym and I was so, oh, I was just frustrated because my leg was hurting So I wanted to do the elliptical machine and my leg was not cooperating that day and I couldn’t do it. And I was so upset and I was like, ah, this leg. And I looked right across from me and there was a girl on the treadmill with no arms. And I thought, you know what? I need to stop complaining and just be grateful for what I am able to do and what I can do.
Amberly: 00:42:55 And sometimes it takes somebody like, you know, sometimes my husband has said one day when I was complaining and saying, Oh, and I said I hate my leg and hate’s a four letter word in our family. I mean we’re not, we’re not. It’s a four letter word. And here I said out loud, I hate my leg. I hated that it was scarred. I hated that it didn’t work properly. I hated that it gave me so much pain. And he said, you know what? He goes, I can’t believe I just heard you say that. He said, you’re lucky that you even have your leg. He goes, you know what the doctors did just to save that leg and you’re saying you hate it. And it was like a slap across the face of, Oh my God, I need, this is a wake up call. Yes, I need to show my leg a little more love and I need to be grateful that I still have a leg. And then he goes, yeah, he goes, and you know what? And you should be thankful that you don’t have a prosthetic that you have to take off to go swimming. That’s gonna rust. You can just get in the swimming pool. And I was like, Oh wow, that’s, yeah. You know, and you know, I just, one of my really good friends, she was in a motorcycle accident and she, they amputated her leg and it makes me think of her because she has the prosthetic and we just worked out together and where she’s going to go, well, I’m going to take her on a hike with me and we’re going to hike. She only had an accident like eight months ago and she’s already moving around, find on her prosthetic and she’s happy. She’s not in pain, so she doesn’t have a leg. She’s got a prosthetic, but she’s not in pain. So you never know. You know?
Brad: 00:44:37 I guess you can both be grateful or you can both be bitter. Exactly. I find that like the technique your husband used upon you and also you’re looking over in the gym and seeing a disabled person and recalibrating sometimes I guess either at certain times or certain people are really locked into that position where if you say, Hey, think of all the starving children in Africa, they’ll still be with their middle finger on you and it doesn’t work on certain people or a husband coming at you like that after all you’ve been through. Um, it might not necessarily be effective, but I think he knew it would be effective on you, but the next person might, you know, cry, cry more tears or, or lash back because they’re not ready to receive that kind of message.
Amberly: 00:45:21 [inaudible] and that kind of makes me think about what we talked about earlier is like everybody’s so different, we all learn differently, we’re all motivated differently, we’re all inspired differently. And that’s why I’ve had in my pain’s different everyday my pain is different. It may be burning pain. One day it might be aching pain another. And that’s why I have to go down my list in the toolbox. Like there was one day my husband comes home and I’m sitting at the kitchen table with my pants off and I’m just in tears and he’s like, what’s wrong and why do you have your pants off? I was like, I don’t know what to do. I’m in pain and I’ve tried everything and nothing’s working. I’m gone down the list and nothing’s working. He goes, go stick your leg in the swimming pool. And I did and it, the cold water. It changed that pain sensation and it broke that pain cycle. So sometimes it’s helpful for someone else to remind us, um, try this or have you tried that? And that’s another reason I think it’s so important for people to come together, um, to inspire each other, to support each other. Because I feel like I always want, I always want to learn. I always want to grow and there’s so much that I need to learn and I want to grow. And so I think, um, on our journey there’s, you know, we can learn from each other and we can support one another. Um, and I just think, um, especially with social media now, you know, I think it’s amazing when women can support one another. Um, and I just think that it’s amazing. Um, instead of, you know, competition, if we can think of it is community, you know, so
Brad: 00:47:18 your, your contribution is telling this powerful story, not only the, the accident and the recovery, but you, you list yourself as a, a, a survivor, divorce and sexual abuse. And this is, this is all weaved into your messaging. Um, True Grit and Grace. Tell us about the book.
Amberly: 00:47:39 Well, I wrote the book, it’s a memoir, but it’s um, it’s in the self help and self development section on Amazon. And um, it was, I wrote the book to really inspire others to claim their resilience and claim their power and to not walk in shame and to, to heal. Um, so I hope they use my experience. Um, which, you know, it’s called True Grit and Grace: Turning, Turning Tragedy. And that’s a tongue twister. Get that tragedy
Brad: 00:48:12 for the Triumph alliteration, like a memory of that. We got to nail that turning tragedy into triumph. Love. It. Did you make that up or,
Amberly: 00:48:25 Yes, actually I can’t take credit for the name of my book because, well, kind of. Um, I went, my daughter is a big horseback rider and I went to the barn one day and one of the other moms said, girl, I just saw the post you did cause I had posted an x ray. And I said, good news. It’s only been two years that it’s taken for the bone to come completely together, but it’s finally grown together. Then she goes, I had no idea that’s what your leg looked like. She goes, you’ve got grit and grace. And I said, oh wow. I think that’s one of the nicest things anybody’s ever said. I said, what about I’d written my book, I had no idea what to call it. I was like going through different names. I said, what about True Grit and Grace? Can I use that for my title? She goes, you’re welcome. And that’s where I, so thank you Ameia, and if you listen to this, thank you. Um, but yeah, I really, um, getting ready for the book launch and marketing the book. Um, I thought, wow, how am I going to do this? How am I going to market? And, uh, Bernay Brown’s one of my favorite authors and I said, well, I’m going to look and see what she did. And so she from Texas to where she is a Texas girl and I, yeah. So we, I love her. And I told my husband, I said, oh, well this is cool. I was like, she took pictures of her book and she’s going to New York to launch hers I said, and I’m going to New York to launch mine. It’s perfect. I’ll just do a similar post. And my husband goes, well, don’t you think she’s going to be upset if she finds out that like you kinda did this, a similar post. I said, honey, she is never going to notice someone like me. Well, the day my book published, I was interviewed on the Megan Kelly today show and that night my book was in three different categories, a bestseller on Amazon and, and self help. It was Dr. Wayne Dyer, number one. Number two was Bernay Brown. And number three was True Grit andGrace: Turning Tragedy into Triumph. I said at that time, so she must have noticed thumbs up to the task. I doubt she noticed, but I was like, oh my God, my book is sitting right next to Renee Brown’s. I took a snap. I took a screenshot of that because I was in shock. I’m still in shock.
Brad: 00:50:53 Bernay will be listening to the show. So we’ll shout out. We want to get you on as well. And Bernay. Yes, right now we got Amberley and props to the Texas girls. Incredible. Uh, so you talk about having to tone down that competitive intensity in that go go, go mindset. I talk about this a lot and my athletic experience where I realized after awhile that pushing harder made me go slower and make bad decisions and get frustrated and discouraged. And I had to kind of balance that competitive intensity with some intuition and mindfulness like you say. So is there a, is there an art here where, um, if you’re being grateful and mindful all the time, do you have a fear that you’re going to lose your edge and, uh, not be so successful on social media or on your book tour or whatever you’re, you’re hardcore goals and objectives are?
Amberly: 00:51:44 No, I think sometimes if you start to think that way, I have to remind myself, let it go. Just let it go. When you start thinking maybe I’m going to lose my edge, maybe I’m going to, and you know, first of all, my husband even says, I think there is something about growing up in Texas and with growing up with a lot of grit. And my husband will go, don’t go Texas on me Baca. And my nickname is Texas because there is something in deep inside is, and I think we all have this, um, inside us this, this grit. Um, and it’s finding out how to really, um, claim it and use it. And, but it is, you know, even when I was training 12 clients a day, now I don’t, I don’t train that many clients a day. I try to practice what I preach and my philosophy when I was hardcore and the training was still work smarter, not harder because like you said, you can, it’s, it’s about finding the right way to do it.
Amberly: 00:52:51 You can work harder and harder and harder, but if you’re not working smarter, it’s not going to get you anywhere. Like we talked about like before the, the show, um, before we started recording about, you know, social media is, well, you can write a book and that’s 10% of it and the 90% of it is getting out there. If no, if you write a book and nobody knows about it, then what, what’s the reason for writing?
Brad: 00:53:18 Congratulations.
Amberly: 00:53:19 Yeah. Yeah. You know, so I think, um, uh, it is working, not necessarily harder. It is that, that balancing act.
Brad: 00:53:31 So is the chronic pain kind of a governor where this will flare up when you’re overstressed, not sleeping enough, uh, losing your grateful mindset and getting caught up. I mean, she’s, we’re, we’re here in Los Angeles, which is the, the rat race, one of the ultimate rat race locations. And I find I don’t live here anymore. I grew up here. I’m, I spend a lot of time here, but I can sense that vibe in a busy, vibrant city where there’s so many great things to do and so much stimulation, but it’s also a, it can worry you into, um, an imbalance lifestyle pretty easily.
Amberly: 00:54:06 Oh, well, when I was in New York, you could just feel the energy. It is really, I thought LA had a lot of energy and New York was like, I didn’t even want to sleep.
Brad: 00:54:19 A tough one is like late at night, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll take the La Energy all day long and then at 10 o’clock, let’s, let’s shut it down. But like you go out and I remember arriving at 2:00 AM to my hotel at times square and it might as well been, you know, 6:00 PM. There’s no sense of any, any slowdown.
Amberly: 00:54:37 Oh No, no. Um, yeah, it was, it was just the energy there was incredible. Um, but you know, I think for me CRPS is baffling. It just when I think I know just when I think I got it, I don’t in, it’ll come up and surprise me. I was at the gym yesterday and I was doing an exercise and it started flaring up. It start and I thought, oh my gosh, I’m doing a glute exercise. Why is it, I’m not using, you know, using my leg necessarily. Although I guess I was a little bit, I never know. Some days I can go for an hour hike and I’m okay the rest of the day, but if I have to walk through the mall for 10 minutes, I’m dead. And so I think the key is finding out what you can do. And for me I always like really want to push that limit. Like it feels so good to run downhill on that hike. And I’m like, oh my gosh, I just want to run a little bit. And I was insane. Like I looked up the definition of insanity and that’s who I was. Like I was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I was running down the mountain causing a flare up and it would get a little better and I would do the same thing. But for me I kind of have to learn the hard way. I have to like learn by really going through it and that is one of the reasons I wrote my book. I want people to learn lessons that I have learned the hard way maybe through my experience so they don’t have to go through bad experience.
Brad: 00:56:19 Wow. I like that. It would be nice, especially thinking in terms of our kids or something to learn lessons of life just for him, verbal storytelling rather than going out there and getting, getting that uh, that hard way. I feel like there’s something inside us that insists on finding out the hard way at times. And I don’t know, maybe there’s, maybe there’s certain value to it. Like, you know, we want to go get a mired in a defeatist mindset for awhile and then wake up and maybe have more receptivity to going in and buying True Grit and Grace and reading it. Whereas today we might be too full of ourselves to be receiving the message in your book well,
Amberly: 00:57:03 Oh, I like that. I think, um, yeah, a gift that I’ve been given is, you know, I was always a, uh, a very independent in a considered myself a humble person. Let me tell you, this whole experience has humbled me and I think it’s important to remain humble because when you’re humbled, you continue to grow,
Brad: 00:57:32 I guess you should be on the get over yourself podcast.
Amberly: 00:57:35 Oh, for yourself, right? Yeah. Oh my gosh.
Brad: 00:57:42 Um, it’s a challenge. I, and I love how your message is very powerful, but unlike some performers out there, you’re couching every time saying that you’re still working on it. It’s still a challenge. And I’m trying to do the same myself. When I say get over yourself, I’m trying to get over myself every day, but as soon as we think we’re, we’re there and we’re modeling True Grit and grace at all times and smiling for the cameras. Um, that’s when I want to look deeper and, and some of this second guessing of our culture and the message that’s out there is that people have it together all the time. Shout out to the Kardashians are neighbors here? Yeah, yeah. Whatever. You know, it, there’s too much of that and there’s not enough of just, just getting, getting real about this thing.
Amberly: 00:58:25 Well, you know, I remember the first time I did a post and I admitted that this, I have this nerve disease. It was hard, you know. Uh, I remember the first time I did a post and I showed a picture of my legs. I had a friend of mine, they said, well, it just looks like your life is perfect. You’ve got the perfect husband, the two beautiful girls, you know, you have a career. Everything is good. And I said, really? I said, thank you for that because she inspired me to do a post and it was the first post I ever did showing my legs and I was having a flare up and I kind of said, so this is what I deal with. This is actually what my leg really looks like and I’m having a flare up right now. But what I’m gonna do is I’m going to get in the bathtub with some Epson Salts and hopefully it will calm and tomorrow’s a new day and each day we get to begin again.
Amberly: 00:59:24 And that got more engagement because people can relate. Oh yeah. You know, there’s, um, a quote that I hear that I like that, um, flawed still worthy because I mean, I got a lot of flaws, but if you believe you’re still worthy and you have a mindset of good things can happen and will happen, it’s a game changer. And I think, um, it’s, you know, it’s not, no, my lives far from perfect, you know, far from perfect. And that’s one thing that, um, I think is just being your authentic self. Not trying to be, you know, someone else or be someone else. Just being you and embracing who you are. For me, it was embracing my vulnerabilities, embracing my scars, embracing the pain, surrendering to it. Um, you know, growing up in Texas where it was hide your crazy and be a lady, it was something I had to learn. It was like I was used to know, suck it up and don’t show that I’m in pain, you know, smile, you’re dancing. The show must go on. Um, all that I had to retrain myself and go, you know what? It’s okay to be vulnerable because you learn and you grow and you can develop strength from your vulnerabilities. And so that was really hard. That was a hard lesson for me to learn.
Brad: 01:00:51 Why are people so afraid of them?
Amberly: 01:00:53 I think for me, I was afraid it made me look weak or less than, or I wasn’t able to do something. Um, uh, you know, God forbid I’ll look weak. I didn’t want to look weak. Um, and for me it was, I didn’t want to feel like a burden. For me it was, I didn’t, um, want to admit that I needed help. And for me it’s because I, I’m so darn stubborn and I had to learn that we’ll look, I needed help. I still need a lot of help and thank goodness I have a support system around me and my husband being the biggest support. Um, you know, things aren’t always perfect in our marriage, but I have to say he’s put up with a lot. I mean, he’s been a good man that has been there every step of the way throughout every surgery and dealing with me with when I have not felt good about myself. He accepted the way I looked long before I was okay with it, you know? And so, um, I think it’s wonderful when you can learn from your partner to be a better person. Um, and so, um, you know, I’m just hoping that my book, it shifts people’s perspective and it helps them grow and learn and heal and be their authentic self and embrace themself.
Brad: 01:02:20 True Grit and Grace: Turning Triumph into Tragedy. So we can go get that, say tongue twister or turning tragedy into triumph. Oh my gosh. Maybe we should edit that out so the show can be perfect. Oh, well, yeah. I don’t know. Yeah, no. A True Grit and grace turning tragedy into triumph. How’s that? Yeah. Oh Wow. Such a nice voice, you know, so we can go get the book. How else can we follow you?
Amberly: 01:02:50 Oh, I would love to connect with other people. That’s been the biggest gift of this whole book journey is connecting with so many people. And you can find me at Amberly Lago dot com if you sign up for a website.
Brad: 01:03:02 Stunning. Yeah. I mean really touching. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, thanks to cousin Babs for introducing our said you should talk to this friend of mine. She’s in Woodland Hills. I’m like, all right. All right. People do that all the time. Let me see your website. Wow. Great Story. Great to have you on too.
Amberly: 01:03:19 Thank you. It’s, you know, websites are always a work in progress, but yeah, I love to connect with people. I sent. If you sign up for my newsletter, I send out a weekly little dose of inspiration. And on Instagram I’m Amberley Lago motivation. Uh, Twitter is Amberley Lago and I love to connect with people on Linkedin as well.
Brad: 01:03:39 Okay, go do it right now. Connect. She wants to connect with you. Thanks Amberly Lago. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be on your show. I really appreciate it.