This is an open thank you letter to Fox News meteorologist, Janice Dean that I just couldn’t not write.
If you missed the news, Janice responded to a viewer who made a negative comment about the appearance of her legs on her Facebook page. It struck such a chord with me on a personal level that I just had to respond.
I had no idea that like me, Janice also has multiple sclerosis. Since I also know what it feels like to not be able to use my legs, I couldn’t let this one go by without commenting….
Here is the comment Janice received:
“Dear Janice please stop allowing fox to dress you in those short skirts. They are not flattering on you. Your an attractive lady, love the 80’s hair, but your legs are distracting every time you walk on screen.”
Here is Janice’s response:
Fox doesn’t dress me. I dress myself. I’m sorry if you don’t like my legs. I’m grateful I have them to walk with. You’re right. I don’t look like the typical person on TV, and I’m proud to be a size 10. Imagine that! You can always turn the channel if you’re offended by my huge legs. Hope you don’t mind. I may share your post with everyone on my FB page. All the best, Janice”
My Open Thank You Letter to Janice:
First, I had absolutely no idea that you had MS. You always appear so incredibly vibrant and energetic. Yet knowing how debilitating MS-related fatigue can be and knowing first hand how much stress can affect the disease process, it is amazing to me that you are able to excel at such a demanding television job. If I had known you had MS before now I would have reached out sooner just to tell you how much admiration I have for you.
I’m writing now instead as a thank you.
I want to thank you for helping all of us women realize what is most important when it comes to our bodies.
It’s not the size or the shape of our legs or thighs that matter most. What really matters is whether we have legs that are healthy, fit and strong enough to carry us where we want to go in life. When your legs don’t work or when you can’t walk you would give anything for a pair of legs that could just take you where you wanted to go. I know from first hand experience. I know the beautiful model Lauren Wasser, who recently come forward with the story of how she lost her leg due to toxic shock syndrome (from using a tampon) would surely also agree.
I am going to assume the lady who took the time out of her day to criticize the appearance of your legs on Facebook does not know what it feels like to not be able to walk. I don’t know anything at all about this lady, but I pray she never has to go through the pain (both physical and mental) and fear associated with not being able to use her legs. I also hope that if she reads this letter she will gain a new appreciation for what her legs can do.
I am 41-years old now but I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998 when I was just 22-years old. I was told I was in the early stages of the disease at the time I was diagnosed, but I was also given the cold facts about how the disease could potentially progress, which included the possibility of ending up in a wheelchair. As someone who prided myself on my athletic and gymnastic background, the idea of being in a wheelchair scared me beyond belief.
But nothing can fully prepare you for the day you can’t walk.
Up until the point of my MS diagnosis I had a love/ hate relationship with my legs. I loved how strong they were and I loved that I could jump higher than just about anyone (this was a helpful talent as a cheerleader, dancer and gymnast). I loved that I could kick my foot behind my head and flip across the football field with ease, faster and more powerfully than anyone at my school. But along with leg power came strong-looking legs. I loved how my legs performed but I never liked the muscular way they looked.
Sitting in the neurologist’s office and hearing that one day my legs may not work was the first time I started to think of my legs in a new light. Up until that point, the idea of my legs one day not working had never even crossed my mind.
The fear of my MS progressing and the idea of not being able to walk scared me so much that I radically overhauled my entire diet and lifestyle in hopes of slowing the disease. For over 19-years I have been able to keep my MS symptoms under control with a clean food diet. The diagnosis radically changed the trajectory of my life and even led me to a new career as a nutrition and cookbook author/ blogger. But controlling my MS symptoms wasn’t enough to keep me walking….
In addition to MS, I would later find out after a decade of hip pain that began after the birth of my son that I had a rare congenital hip disorder called femoral retroversion. My hip pain started in my mid-twenties and progressively got worse. I was initially operated on for the wrong diagnosis and my condition progressed to the point where there wasn’t a single position (sitting, standing or lying down) where I could escape the pain. I was so grateful that my husband, Andy Larson, M.D., a surgeon, was able to steer me to one of the best orthopedic hospitals in the world, the Hospital for Special Surgery, HSS, in New York City. It was at HSS where I finally got the right diagnosis.
But fixing my orthopedic abnormality was not going to be a cake walk.
The surgical solution for femoral retroversion is a derotational osteotamy.It is a radical surgery, but it was also my only option. My femoral head was pressing into my pelvis and not only causing pain, but also deteriorating my hip joint. My degree of retroversion was considered severe, and the orthopedic abnormality was causing hip impingement—a mechanical issue that was causing labral tears. With age and without the surgery, my hip would continue to deteriorate prematurely from the pressure of my femur pressing into my hip socket. The only way to fix the problem was with a surgery in which my femur (thigh bone) was broken in half and the shaft rotated to put my femoral head in the “normal” position. It was a 7-hour surgery, requiring a 5 day hospital stay and over 6 months on crutches (as you can see from the photo below, I still have the rod and screws in my leg.)
I thought the surgery would be the end of my hip pain problems. But it was really just the beginning…
I had a terrible complication of the surgery that was unrelated to the skill of my surgeon (I will forever be grateful to Dr. Robert Buly). For whatever reason, my broken leg did not heal. Month after month went by and not only was the pain excruciating, but I couldn’t walk. For the first time in my life I started to lose hope. I couldn’t imagine life without my legs working properly.
When I recently read Lauren Wasser’s story of how she already lost her leg and how she will now need to undergo a second amputation I couldn’t help but cry for her. I think I also cried for myself though. I know deep down that I would not have the strength to keep going like she has if I lost my leg. During my darkest and most hopeless days of recovery, at least I did have a glimmer of hope that because I still had my leg that maybe, just maybe it would one day again carry me where I wanted to go.
Six months after the surgery (and only after non-surgical medical intervention) my leg finally did heal. But it didn’t look or feel anything like the leg I once had. My foot wasn’t even in the right position (the femoral retroversion made my feet turn out and now they turned slightly inward.) Not only did I have major muscle and flexibility loss, I also had to learn to walk with my leg in a new position. The loss of muscle made simple tasks considerably more difficult.
I underwent over 2-hours of physical therapy a day for months on end to get my leg to work like “normal”. And just like you responded to the woman who criticized you, it was during my painful recovery that I finally realized to truly appreciate my legs for what they can DO. I didn’t think at all about how my legs looked during the time I was in rehab. I just wanted to be out of pain and I just wanted my leg to work like it once did.
Thanks to prayers, modern medicine, my incredibly supportive husband and family, and countless hours of rehab, today I am pain free and my leg is as strong, fit and flexible as ever. I fulfilled a lifelong dream and made my first workout DVD less than 3 months after I started walking again. Most importantly, I gained tremendous appreciation for what my body can do.
The six months of pain and disability I experienced after my surgery was without a doubt the darkest time of my life. But I learned the hard way the REAL definition of what it means to have “great legs.” If your legs can carry you where you want to go in life, then you have “great legs”.
Thank you Janice for helping us all properly define what it REALLY means to have “great legs”.
With love and admiration,