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August 23rd, 2019

beth jamesBeth James shares her story to the gathered crowd at Power of the Purse Tuesday afternoon. James’ story included several life-changing events, including a horrific car accident and participating in the Iron Man event with her daughter, Liza. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times

 

The night of July 4 is supposed to be a night of fun and happiness as families celebrate the nation’s independence. For Beth James, however, the night of July 4, 2004 would be the start of many changes for her and her family. 

“To begin my story, I want to take you back about a year before the car accident,” James said to the gathered crowd at Tuesday’s Power of the Purse event. “I was 36 years old. I was a marathon runner, a triathlete. I was a single mother providing for the children and I had a grand mal seizure, and there were no warning signs or anything before it. I ignored that first one, which is not smart, and six months later, another grand mal seizure occurred. With my parents’ support, I went to a neurologist and learned there was a golf ball sized tumor in my brain. It was really devastating to hear. After that initial biopsy, they wanted to put things on hold. Fast forward about a year later, my children and I were coming home from what had been a fabulous 4th of July barbecue party – we were less than half a mile away – and we endured a horrific car accident. It’s quite frankly a miracle my daughter, Liza, came out of it alive. The traumatic brain injury she survived was very severe. My son, J.D., was fine, my other daughter, Alexandra, was fine – the most injuries the rest of us had were some cuts and bruises. But Liza was on the edge of death. After months and months of serious surgeries and a serious coma, we were finally able to bring her home. There I was, a single mother in Woodward, Oklahoma, with a beautiful family and a lot of support, and it was time for me to dig deep.” 

And dig deep, James said, is exactly what she did. She continued working at the appraisal business she had built (and still operates today) and pushed through. 

“I realized I needed to dig deep and figure out how to take care of my children and provide for them,” James said. “And somewhat ironically, saving Liza’s life is what pushed me to get my own tumor removed. So round two – the tumor had been removed, it was non-cancerous. Returning home as an appraiser, I brought out my calculator and was crunching some numbers. We went through some tough times, I assure you. I was the one taking the children to all their activities and taking care of Liza and I eventually fell into a hole caused by post-traumatic stress. My mother is an angel, she was strong and helped me. I knew I needed to continue my appraisal business and provide for my children and continue to provide Liza with a lot of love and care. It was tough being a single mother of three children, one of them being one with special needs. But we made it.”

Then in 2014, even more changes came for James and her family. 

“I met my husband, David James, and talk about a wonderful man,” James said while beaming. “He’s now officially Liza’s father and a grandfather of five. Prior to meeting him, Liza and I both needed some sort of stress relief and one day I came across an article I’d cut out about the father-son Team Hoyt. I’d actually qualified to run the Boston Marathon before the accident and at that time, I’d cut it out because I’d found it so inspiring. One day some years after that, I came across the scrapbook I’d put that article in and it touched me again a lot. I got in touch with Mr. Hoyt about what type of equipment I would need to push Liza in and he responded immediately and since then, Liza and I have done many 5K events and half-marathons and marathons, and it’s been great. After some time I expressed to David a wild idea I had to participate in a triathlon with Liza, and he smiled and said ‘Let’s go for it.’ There’s an incredible non-profit entity in California that has a yearly triathlon for people of all ages and all disabilities, and that became our goal. So we participated in what ended up being just shy of half the distance of an Iron Man triathlon. Liza’s happiness was so overwhelming and she loved going every mile and was so great with everything and everyone.”

James and Liza participated in many subsequent events including in Raleigh, N.C. and Boulder, Colo., both of which James said were phenomenal. 

“It really ended up becoming a domino effect,” James said. “We ended up proving to the Iron Man entity our equipment and enthusiasm and safety were all up to snuff and we were authorized to participate in Iron Man Wisconsin, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and then a 26.2-mile marathon, making for more than 140 miles total, and Liza loved every mile. Our first Iron Man took 16 and a half hours, and the cutoff time is 17 hours. Liza’s happiness at the finish line was just undeniable. Then at one point Lester Holt and his crew learned about Team Liza and they reached out to us to produce a story and we were honored to work with them on it and were there at the finish line at Iron Man Wisconsin and saw every bit of Liza’s reaction.”

Overall, James said, her experience has been an amazing journey. James added Liza will be participating in the Iron Man Hawaii event in October, for which James said she is very ready.   

“Since my own diagnosis and then the horror of the car accident and Liza’s injury, I’ve really developed deep in my heart the idea of letting go of the negatives,” James said. “Push them away and lock them up. There are no negatives that can control us or our minds or hearts. No negatives can control our choices if we can commit to a positive way of thinking. The positives can be such small things like a flower blooming in the sidewalk or the green light coming exactly when you need it to. There are so many tiny positives throughout each and every day, and the key is to push away and block the negatives. That has helped give me and my family a great sense of thankfulness and a strong belief that everything happens for a reason. There was a reason I cut out that Team Hoyt article and a reason for everything else that has happened since then. I believe we can all go foward with a positive outlook and positive thoughts and we can all help touch others.”

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