What if one day you were diagnosed with a rare and deadly cancer and had to have your leg amputated? How would you feel? How would you cope? Well Chad Crittenden, the keynote speaker for the 2011 Disability Awareness Day, experienced just that.
Crittenden was diagnosed with Synovial Sarcoma, which led to the amputation of his leg. Just nine months after his surgery, Crittenden was a contestant on CBS’ “Survivor: Vanuatu.” His most challenging moment of being an amputee came after his surgery.
“Directly after surgery I had to stay still and be home bound, that was tough,” Crittenden said. “Being limited in where I go was tough. That was the hardest part.”
After the amputation of his leg, Crittenden needed some time to adjust to becoming who he is today. When asked what was the toughest part in adapting to being an amputee, Crittenden responded by discussing coming to terms with his new lifestyle.
“The toughest part was just coming to terms with who I was in society now,” Crittenden said. “I was part of a new community of disabled people. Where the day before my surgery I was part of a whole other subset of people or culture.”
Being on survivor dramatically changed Crittenden’s life. Though he had considered sending in his application prior to his amputee, he had never believed he would be selected for the show. After his leg amputation, Crittenden knew he had something special to offer the show.
“Survivor profoundly affected my life,” Crittenden said. “After completing that (a triathlon) the new season of survivor was starting… That’s when it all clicked. My wife and I had always watched the show and they had just finished a season of the All-stars. There was nothing that set me apart before but this time I had something unique.”
From his experience on “Survivor,” Crittenden was exposed to a whole knew life. He became a motivational speaker for amputees and other disabled people. Though this did come as a surprise to Crittenden, he is appreciative of the opportunities that he has been given.
“I never expected to be a spokesperson for amputees persons with disabilities but I started to realize after the show how I am,” Crittenden said. “I felt very privileged to be representing people with disabilities on the show.”
Crittenden was the keynote address during the “Perseverance” portion of the conference. He discussed his life from before and after his leg amputation, the struggles he faced and where he is today. He stressed the importance in setting short-term goals in order to help adjust to life.
“I’m hoping that hearing my story and some of these tools that I’ve come up with, will help the students not only as a student in attaining their goals but as a person in whatever comes on in life,” Crittenden said.
After spending five years being a stay at home dad and a motivational speaker, Crittenden now works as a consultant for a 3-D graphics firm in San Francisco and continues to speak around the country.
The 2011 Disability Awareness Day Conference is hosted by the Access & disability Alliance (AdA) annually. Throughout the year the AdA host various programs and events to increase awareness for the disability community.
For more information about other events like this, visit http://dsa.csupomona.edu/ada/