Charlese Latham – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


I had an emergency back injury that rendered me unable to walk.

I’m no stranger to hard times. At the age of 6, I was savagely bit in the face by my friend’s dog during a backyard BBQ. It took weeks in the hospital, years of surgeries, and my entire life before I overcame the trauma and embarrassment that come with facial scars and almost losing sight during a tussle with a pit bull. The feelings continued into my teen years, which were difficult for reasons I didn’t understand. 

I never felt like I fit in and couldn’t decide if I wanted to. It was the 90s; it was cool to be an outlier. It was also undiagnosed clinical depression. Yet, I worked hard at school and graduated earlier than my friends to find my way. I took my first job as soon as my permit allowed and felt like an adult years before my friends. I enjoyed being an overachiever.

As an adult, I kept to the same habit of working hard and throwing myself into solutions when times got difficult. It always felt best to do everything I possibly could in the face of scary times. Perhaps the harder I tried, the more control I would have, right?

While that often worked, it took its toll on my physical and mental health. When my marriage got tough, financial issues reared their ugly heads, and I was in multiple car accidents, I just did everything necessary to keep going. When I hated the salon I worked in, I designed, built, and opened my own. I always believed I could do anything I put my mind to.

It was hard to ignore the physical toll my career and circumstances took on my body. Week after week, I felt more pain as I juggled my clients and their needs. I would stretch, take copious amounts of Advil, and use the wall to lean on so it wasn’t apparent to anyone else how bad it was getting. I thought it was working, and I was fooling myself. I kept on like this… until I couldn’t.

One day in December of 2018, I awoke to a new problem. My biggest one yet. I couldn’t walk. I called friends to help me use the restroom, walk my dog, and take me to Urgent Care. But it wasn’t a temporary setback. This was a life-changing development.

Within three weeks, I was forced to call 9-11 and enter the Emergency Room. My spinal disc between L4 and L5 had exploded and pinched off nerves on the side of my spine, the very ones I needed to feel my toes and move my feet. I needed surgery.

But the ER didn’t want me to stay. They tried three times to put me in an Über despite being unable to hold myself upright. By 2 am, they had pumped me full of morphine and other pain meds– I was telling stories and laughing about who-knows-what?– and was told I was good enough to go home. 

Through pain and grogginess from the meds, I fought for my health and my life. I dug up that old scrappiness and put it to work. It took three days of arguing with doctors (and excruciating pain!) before a neurologist agreed to fix my back and keep me from becoming permanently paralyzed. 

The surgery was a success, even though it all led to changing my career and living location.

In this fight for my life, I was more alone than ever. My belief in myself and my desire to find relief fueled my fight and became the strength I needed. When it seemed like giving up was easier, I knew pushing through and demanding what was right would be the only way to survive. I had practiced it before, so it became easier this time. And when I experience difficult times again, I always know how to face them –  with less fear than ever. 

When faced with this challenge, I relied on practiced courage and stood up for myself as always. There were doctors for weeks telling me I didn’t need surgery. Just take the time to relax and let the pain meds help. As nerve damage spread to my toes and ankle, I feared I would lose the ability to walk at all if I let this go on. Through morphine-induced fatigue, I ask doctors, nurses, and eventually my case worker for help. And finally, a neurosurgeon’s assistant listened to my story and came to my rescue. After three weeks of fighting for my health and three days in the hospital, I finally was given the procedure I needed all along.

If you face similar challenges, I would love to leave you with this message: believe in yourself; you can do anything.

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.