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Jessica Cox: The Sky Is Not The Limit
She swims, surfs and scuba dives. She tap dances and plays the piano. She has two black belts in tae kwon do. And most recently, Jessica Cox earned her single-engine sports plane pilot’s license.
These accomplishments, among many others, would be impressive for any woman. But anyone, regardless of their abilities, can take a lesson in overcoming obstacles, and achieving goals, from 27-year-old Jessica Cox, of Tucson, AZ.
Why? Because this whirlwind of inspiration was born without arms. And from the get-go, she never let that fact get in the way of doing everything she set her mind to.
From childhood, Jessica learned to use her feet for everything we use our hands for. The simple tasks that we take for granted – brushing our hair and brushing our teeth, showering and bathing, making lunch, cleaning up, even changing contact lenses – Jessica has found ways to use her feet and toes.
Jessica’s parents were totally supportive. They never made her feel like a victim — in fact her father once told her he never shed a tear over her condition. Instead, he encouraged her to accept each new challenge as an opportunity to accomplish something, to gain a new ability. Their attitude and help were critical factors in Jessica’s successful adaptation to a life without arms and hands.
What this remarkable young woman has done is move far beyond mastering common tasks such as getting around the house or shopping for groceries. With each passing year, she added to her list of accomplishments – and she started young. She was tap dancing as a child, and a dance recital was her introduction to being on stage.
She loved it, and says the experience inspired her current career as a popular motivational speaker. She relishes every moment in front of her audiences, who she encourages to meet life’s challenges head on, not as obstacles, but as opportunities for a better tomorrow.
When she was only two years old, Jessica was fitted with prosthetic arms. She continued using them until the seventh grade, but she says she was never that fond of them, often considering them more trouble than they were worth. On her very first day of high school, as she was getting on the school bus, she decided never to wear the prostheses again. She has stuck by her decision ever since, relying entirely on her amazingly limber legs and incredibly flexible toes.
She learned how to play the piano with her feet, learned how to drive a car and now has her unlimited driver’s license. She took up surfing, and became certified in SCUBA diving. She types 25 words a minute, and texts her friends on her cell phone.
Jessica was a good student, and in spite of her “disability” she graduated and went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree at university. But becoming a pilot, in 2009, was a crowning achievement for Jessica.
Learning to fly has been her ultimate achievement so far, Jessica says. The flying adventure started out with the daunting task of overcoming her dread of flying. And as you might expect, Jessica met and overcame the fear factor – just another of the obstacles in her life which she meets, and overcomes, on her way to another goal.
Then came the prickly problem of take-offs, controlling the plane in flight, and landings. She now flies a plane which handles properly without requiring pedals. Most pilots use the pedals to control the rudder. Jessica flies a plane called the Ercoupe, one of the few planes with rudder control integrated with the “steering wheel”.
The expense of learning to become a pilot can be considerable. But a non-profit organization in North Carolina, called Able Flight, awarded a training scholarship for Jessica. The group, founded by pilots, offers people with disabilities “a unique way to challenge themselves through flight training” and, by doing so, helps them gain greater self-confidence and self-reliance.
The whole process took three years of intense, and sometimes difficult, training — compared to 6 months or so for students with arms and hands. But it was totally worth it. Her main instructor said that Jessica “always approached the training with an ‘I can do this attitude.’”
“I have always approached life from a somewhat different perspective,” Jessica told Abilities magazine not long ago. “I have never felt that being born without arms was particularly a challenge, physically. I found it to be more of an emotional and psychological challenge.”
Overcoming addiction also qualifies as an emotional and psychological challenge, as well as a formidable physical problem. At Novus, we help our patients beat addiction, and recover their lives. And in some ways, their new lives are better, and richer, then they were before addiction.
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