“Not too long ago, I felt like I didn’t want to be here. Just angry, depressed…”
Then things changed. “Letitia became my carer and my life changed massively,” shares Maia. Now, Letitia is her best friend, and Maia is one of the top female wheelchair rugby players in the world representing the New Zealand WheelBlacks.
Watch a promo for the mini documentary featuring their amazing relationship and Maia’s transformation:
Building a healthy caregiving relationship
Maia was in a car fire when she was 18 months old. While recovering from the burns, she got an infection in her spine which left her paralyzed. “I didn’t have anyone I felt comfortable to be around,” Maia shares about her life after her mother passed away and before she met Letitia. After Letitia became Maia’s caregiver, she pushed Maia to be the best she could be. “She helped me with goals and helped me achieve becoming a Wheelblack,” shares Maia. Letitia has always seen potential in Maia. “I push her harder than sometimes she liked to be pushed because I know she can,” shares Letitia.
“Maia’s achieved heaps in the last six months,” shares Leticia. From training on her own, to driving, to being a bridesmaid in Letitia’s wedding, to winning awards, Maia has quite a busy schedule these days. This is in addition to being the only woman on the New Zealand wheelchair rugby squad. She’s worked with her coaches to improve her game, and she’s had Letitia’s support the whole way. Maia has thrown herself into her training schedule. The team is working hard to reach their goals in the international competition circuit. “I train 6 days a week,” Maia shares. “Sometimes I don’t even want to get out of bed, but I just get up and train.”
An expected setback
Maia was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. “This new Maia is dealing with it now, and trusting herself and not getting stuck in the worst case scenario battle in her head and focusing on one point at a time,” shares Letitia. Faced with this huge setback, Maia kept things in perspective.
“Sometimes, I just think ‘Why me?’ but I just think I should be grateful I’m still here."
“We’re trying to stay positive to deal with whatever it is we’re dealing with,” shares Letitia, as they prepare to go for the results of Maia’s biopsy. “I’m just doing my best to try to support her.” Together, the two head off to the hospital, tension in the air awaiting the verdict. “It’s quite scary for Maia because a lot of her family have passed away from cancer,” Letitia explains. “I know that it’s a real hard mental challenge for her.” The doctor explains that Maia needs surgery, but they are able to defer it until after the wheelchair rugby world championships.
Once home from the rugby trip, she’s got only a few days before her surgery and there is some anxiety hanging over Letitia and Maia. As they got closer to surgery, Letitia supported Maia by being there for her in her surgery just like her mom used to when Maia was younger. Letitia sees her off to the OR, and she camps out to wait. “I just want to help her because she needs me more than ever,” shares Letitia. “I just want to make her happy and lift her spirit…It doesn’t matter where I am, that I’ll always be there for her.” 8 weeks after surgery, Maia was back on the court.
A new transition and a new beginning
Letitia has had to make a tough decision after years of being Maia’s caregiver and plans to move back to her hometown. One of the toughest part of that decision is to leave Maia. “It’s time for her to spread her wings and be more amazing and it’s time for me to take care of my family,” Letitia shares. “She doesn’t really say much about it at the moment. She’ll need another caregiver, but I always tell her that the only thing I won’t be here doing is the caregiving things, the friendship and the sisterhood that we’ve had will still be there,” shares Letitia.
Watch the whole story on AttitudeLive.
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