Janelle Tuck Lenhart

“Limb loss doesn’t equal life loss.” – Cadie Jessup

Sometimes you need to take a step back, other times a step forward is best, but when you lose a leg, just thinking ‘steps’ takes courage.

Family and friends offer help, doctors and therapists give suggestions, but it was hard for Janelle Tuck Lenhart to trust their advice, especially since they all had two healthy legs. Her case was different. She felt alone.

“Why me? This is not fair! One stupid accident does not deserve this.”

The universe had stepped in with a freak accident that changed everything.

“Somehow I dropped my laptop on my foot – clumsy me! Soon it got bad and I was in the hospital with what they later said was ‘necrotizing fasciitis’ – a fast moving infection that can cause death if not acted on quickly.

janelle-hospital“Lucky for me, the on-call surgeon had seen this before and knew to act fast. On October 28, 2010, they began prepping me for an amputation. The staff wheeled me into the operating room three different times that day; each visit removed more infected area.

“The doctors saved my life that day, but I lost my left leg below the knee.”

janelle-balletBefore the accident, Janelle looked like she had everything going for her. She came from a solid middle class family, she was married with two boys and enjoying her life in Atlanta – living the dream, or at least that is how it looked to many.

But this new reality was different. She had lost her leg plus there would need to be more changes. After forty days in the hospital Janelle was transported to her parent’s home in Charlotte.

Her two boys came with her but the husband stayed behind. The marriage was over.

“Day by day, I made adjustments. Then Cadie Jessup showed up. Cadie lost her left leg above the knee in 2009 from a blood clot. She now volunteers with the YMCA and Carolinas Medical Center.”

Soon they were a team – Cadie and Janelle. Cadie’s voice offered the inspiration and strength Janelle needed. When Janelle heard the words and saw the action from someone who had both survived and thrived she didn’t feel so alone.

“Cadie helped in so many ways but the best was her convincing me to sign-up for a three-day training camp about triathlons. Those are the races where you swim, cycle and run; all in the same race.

janelle-exercise“I don’t know what I was thinking but I am so glad she convinced me. I worked hard and Mike Lenhart, the founder of the camp, noticed me and took an interest.

“When I got home I joined the Y and started to train. Between Cadie, Getting2Tri Foundation (the camp), and Mike, I was making changes. They felt good.”

janelle-marriageMike not only stayed in touch, he started a three-year long-distance romance that led to the August, 2014 marriage to Janelle Tuck Lenhart. Along the way, Janelle kept everything in that forward gear.

Eleven months after the amputation, she completed her first triathlon.

A few years later, she ran a full 13.6-mile half marathon. Cadie, Mike, and so many others are proud of Janelle’s success and continue to cheer her on.

Every step of the way.

“Now it’s back to soccer games and flag football plus cub scout meetings and helping the boys with home work. I have a job that needs my focus to be successful. And, of course, my new husband by my side.

“There is also a new deepening of my faith and spirituality. My amputation happened for a reason – I call it “God Planned” – and I am sorting all of that out more and more each day. The one thing I know for sure is that my calling will involve helping other, like all of those who helped me.”

Janelle and Cadie Finish Inaugural Rookie Run ’N’ Walk - 9-26-2015
09/26/2015 – Janelle with Cadie finish the Inaugural Rookie Run ’N’ Walk on a foggy/rainy day in Charlotte; an inspirational event, full of winners.

Janelle is putting her drops in the bucket each day for so many. She has a reassuring and inspiring presence that helps many on their healing journey.

What kinds of set backs have you faced?

What gave you strength?

How can you support victims of tragedy?

Can you tell us of times when you came back determined to be even stronger than you were before the set back?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.”
– Eknath Easwaran


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