Pictured: cutwoman Charlotte Lewis readying an MMA competitor.
By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
After her fast paced teenage years spent as a martial arts competitor, Charlotte Lewis joined Britain’s Royal Air Force at the age of just 19, continuing her adventurous and extrovert life journey. That is until a tragic workplace accident saw her confined to a wheelchair and dealt the bleak prognosis of never being able to walk again.
“Not a chance I was doing that for the rest of my life,” the now 25-year-old cut woman declared, in the moment that was to mark her definitive rebuttal. Catch up on last week’s startling beginning to the story, ‘Appetite for a Comeback’, HERE.
‘Char’ continued, “The next few months were the most mentally challenging.” She battled to make the difficult first steps of a physical comeback. She now attempted to strengthen her body having rarely been void of energy and action from as far back as she can remember.
As family had inspired her to take up kickboxing as an 8-year-old, it was those closest to her who would once again inspire a new start to life.
“I would get some muscle activation,” she said, “I would get almost halfway to standing but then required another operation and would be back to minimal movement, chronic pain – a moody, disheartened Char.
“I had my family and my RAF section that were a continued network of support for me. On the days when I said I couldn’t, I could always rely on one of the family to be in my ear. It took months for me to make any real progress, but finally, I took my first step.”
For most people, few could comprehend how one simple step could serve as such a monumental catalyst for momentum. This one step was the sign that skyrocketed Char’s belief.
“I literally took one step before I collapsed back into my chair, exhausted. I can’t even describe that feeling. I cried like a baby when it had actually hit me what I’d achieved. After that, I was literally unstoppable. I saw a physio every morning for “walking lessons”, I got teased by everyone for calling them that, but it made me start to feel normal again. It had been well over a year since I’d felt like I could be involved in any banter and people were starting to not tiptoe around me, so I enjoyed being Bambi on ice for a while.”
Spurred on by returned confidence, Char recalled the day that she returned to the RAF, now walking with crutches; perhaps no longer aware of how unexpected her recovery had been, until she was served with a reminder.
“I clattered into the flight office, graceful as ever and watched my flight sergeant unable to catch a breath. It was such a surreal moment for me, but one that still means so much. I went from strength to strength after that with some little setbacks, but ultimately, here I am on my feet, without the use of crutches, much different from the life that my consultant had planned for me.”
However, the battle was not over. In fact, a new hurdle had been established on the road to a full recovery, and presented both physical and mental challenges that will be familiar to those who have faced injury resulting in limited physical movement.
“Things took a bit of a turn on me mentally,” Char revealed. “After I’d been up and about for a while, though still swaggering like a 50’s gangster, I gained a stack of weight because my appetite was back but my activity levels were nothing in comparison to what I now like to call ‘my first life.'”
To a certain extent, the realisation set off an internal panic. Char’s sensational return to walking had been ushered by a can-do attitude, but in the urgent pursuit of retuning to past physical prowess, she was forced to consider the prospect of delusion.
“I tried to run before I could walk, quite literally,” she admitted. “I asked my doctor how long it would be before I could kick-box again. I still to this day don’t really know what I was expecting her to say, or why I was so shocked when her face dropped and she said ‘oh sweetheart, probably never.'”
“I think I reacted worse to this news than when told I wouldn’t walk again, I had just gotten so comfortable with my life before all this, I wanted it back exactly as it was and because I’d worked so hard, didn’t understand how it was so out of reach.”
Char accepted the reality and instead found alternative paths to fulfilling physical ambitions above and beyond that of walking; discovering new passions having achieved what had once been deemed a near impossibility.
“Unfortunately, while I’m still plated and pinned, any high impact fight training would be too much stress on my pelvis. I’ve actually accepted and I’m content with that, for now. It took me a while, but I’ve realised that with less than two years to go until the removal operation, it’s not worth any more setbacks. I have my life back and I’m making it work.
“Although I’m not yet at the point where I can consider what happened to me to be a blessing, it has certainly taught me how amazing it feels to truly achieve something that I was told would be impossible and has given me my fire back, along with the confidence to pursue a career in something I’m truly passionate about.”
Stick with IMMAF.org for the final chapter coming next week where Char details how she satisfies the hunger for competition and the new career she is building in combat sport as a certified cutwoman under IMMAF’s education and progression system.