Have you ever stopped to think that your biggest opportunity could happen at exactly the most difficult moment of your life? I’m going to tell you a little about my story and show how our thinking and the way we face life has the power to change everything around us. Almost three years ago, on the 27th of December 2014, I was going to take a car trip with my boyfriend, our first trip together, to celebrate New Year’s Eve. We decided to leave quite early, about 5:30 in the morning, to avoid traffic, and so we did. I was taking two bags, and I decided to put one in the trunk because the car was already very full. And then, at the moment I was putting the bag in the trunk, a girl was driving home from a nightclub, and she’d had a few drinks. She lost control of her car, and I ended up pressed against my boyfriend’s car. At that moment, I fell, and I waited for help to go to the hospital. There, I had to undergo a 14-hour surgery. Before I had the surgery, I asked the doctor, “I’m not going to die, am I? I still haven’t said goodbye to anyone,”and she said to me, “No. Stay calm.” It was all I could think of. I was so frightened, but I stayed calm.

The 14 hours of surgery were difficult as well.

Each day I was in the hospital, I thought and said, “Wow, this is nothing compared to my life. What’s losing a leg, seeing that I’m here, and I have everyone that I love? I could have died without having said goodbye to anyone.” This gave me much strength during my recovery, and my recovery wasn’t easy. I thought that I would just go there, get the prosthesis, and walk out.

And I was frightened because, in addition to the pains that I already felt, the phantom pain, it was difficult to balance and walk with a prosthesis, and it hurt a lot. I wanted so much to walk. So, I would get home, crazy to take off the prosthesis, and I’d leave it on. I’d keep it on the whole day, and so, quickly, I began walking again. Little by little, I was doing the things I’d done before. It was really cool because, in my twenties, I could relearn to do things that I had never thought about, like, for example, walking. I’d never stopped to think that our arm accompanies our leg or that when we go up a ramp, our trunk has to accompany our body.

 This was very special and valuable for me. I said, “Thank you for letting me see these incredible things and for giving so much value to things that, until my twenties, I thought were so small, right?” So, I went back to doing everything I did before and started to do things I’d never done before, like dancing, surfing, skateboarding … Each day, I was inventing something new. I committed myself, “I won’t drop the ball, I’ll stay strong. I want to surprise myself and everyone around me,” and I thought it was possible.

This takes me to my last lesson which, for me, is the most important and may summarize everything. It’s about change. Changes happen all the time. Time is passing. Someone shakes a hand, a head, and there are all sorts of changes: big changes, small, good, bad, some that we choose and some that we don’t. What we’ll always be able to choose is how we react to these changes. I lost my leg. It wasn’t a change that I chose. It was something that happened to me. At that moment, I was dealing with a fact. Nothing I was going to do would bring back my leg. Nothing. I had lost it. I could be sad and ask, “Why me, right when I was going on a trip?” or I could say, “Let’s see what’s awaiting me, see what this life and this world are going to be like.”

This is really cool, and this changes everything. I’m certain that if I hadn’t faced my change with optimism, I wouldn’t be here today, and maybe my life would be totally different from what it is today. In addition to these four lessons, something else started to be important, “I want to stay close to my family, my friends, at home. I value them so much.

Wow, I see how valuable our lives are. I want to enjoy every little second, but, at the same time, I’m traveling more than normal, and I’m spending more time with strangers than with the people I love. Why am I doing all this? For what?” What motivates me and has motivated me until now is knowing I can help people. I can help so many people that are in the same situation as me, and people that aren’t, people that are only needing maybe a little stimulus to live freely and accept themselves. This motivates me every day. I have so many plans. I have so many things that I still want to do.