Struggling with Serendipity

My daughter, 14, is in the passenger seat when I fall asleep at the wheel. As the car flips across a dark Ohio field, Beth’s spinal cord rips, along with my identity as a mom. Unable to move on shards of glass, she reassures me that everything will be OK.

A lifelong disability advocate—even before Beth’s injury—I lose myself in guilt and depression. My shy but determined teenager battles the limits of quadriplegia. Beth carries us forward, since she is the emotionally stable one. Where she leads, I follow.

In the pool for physical therapy, Beth gradually learns how to float. She finds freedom in the water when movement on land is grueling. Barely able to swim the backstroke, she decides to master the forward freestyle with hands that don’t work, weak arms, and useless legs. She also sets her sights on independence. Against all odds.

Extraordinary events domino when Beth moves into a freshman dorm at Harvard, far away from our small Ohio town. My daughter attains what she calls her greatest achievement: becoming independent. A rare feat for quads.

Beth joins the varsity Harvard Women’s Swimming and Diving team as the first with a visible disability. We travel around the world as she competes on the U.S. Paralympic National Team for five years and sets 14 American Records.

Beth’s confidence blooms as all roads lead to China and the end of an era that transforms us. Guilt no longer defines me. An active volunteer, she travels with her fiancé and loves her life as a health policy lawyer in Washington, DC. As Beth told me years ago, everything will be OK. She was right.

Previously posted:  

About the Author | Cindy Kolbe

Cindy Kolbe's new memoir, Struggling with Serendipity, is available everywhere books are sold. Her coast-to-coast book tour shares the power of hope and connection. She has been a lifelong disability advocate—even before her daughter Beth's spinal cord injury. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley and hopes to see you at a book event!

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2 comments to "Struggling with Serendipity"

  • Cathi Arcuri

    Great to see you Cindy at your book signing in Maumee Ohio can’t wait till I read your book!!! You and Beth are missed at our SCI group. We are so proud of you both. Your truly blessed! Hope Wins,❤️

    • Cindy Kolbe

      Thank you, Cathi! So glad you were able to be there. We really do have so many fond memories of the SCI group! Please keep in touch. ❤️