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'Bionic blonde' uses triathlon to take control
September 10th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

'Bionic blonde' uses triathlon to take control

Editor's note: Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. In the week leading up to the Nautica Malibu Triathlon, each of the "Lucky 7" will share his or her thoughts on the journey.

Is Malibu really less than a week away?

For the past 18 days, I've been living out of a hotel in Manhattan, working as a "ball woman" at the U.S. Open.

Since I've been spending my time out on the court, I haven't had much time to think about our impending doom ... er... I mean Malibu.

I haven't been waking up every morning staring at the digital countdown clock, a gift from Jeff Dauler to our team. I haven't had that puking sensation in my stomach for quite some time, but alas, here it is.
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Why I don't need to cross the finish line
Denise Castelli, front right, runs with Coach Ken Burkey and teammate Carlos Solis
August 13th, 2012
12:26 PM ET

Why I don't need to cross the finish line

Editors' note: Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN viewers training to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with Dr. Sanjay Gupta. In 2009, Castelli had her right leg amputated below the knee after contracting an infection.

Malibu is just more than a month away, and I’m closer to the finish line than ever.

What I’ve realized is that this whole adventure is not about the finish line. For me, it’s about the journey and, let me tell you, I’ve grown exponentially in the past seven months. It's all because of triathlon.

When I began, I naively assumed what most people would about this challenge. I would lose weight, get fit, cross that finish line, and then obtain my new bragging rights as a triathlete. What I didn’t know is that along the way I’d discover who I was as a person.
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We all race for a reason - this is mine
May 25th, 2012
03:23 PM ET

We all race for a reason - this is mine

Editor's note: Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN readers chosen to be a part of the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. She lost her leg to an infection following a tragic accident in a collegiate softball game.

There are moments in all of our lives when we need to stop what we're doing, take a second, look around, and soak it all in.

For me, this happened multiple times while I was training in Hawaii with the "Lucky 7." The Big Island was beyond what any words can describe and spending so much time with my teammates was unforgettable.

I learned a lot on this trip, but one thing in particular sticks out.
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Amputee gains strength to 'tri' by sharing her story
Denise Castelli does a strength training workout in Atlanta.
April 6th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Amputee gains strength to 'tri' by sharing her story

Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN viewers participating in the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. When she's not swimming, biking or running, she's using her newfound to confidence to motivate others to change their lives.

We’ve all had that horrible dream, right? The one where you have a microphone in your hand and you’re standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people only to look down and find that, to your horror, you’re standing in nothing but your underwear.

Well, in my dreams when I look down, I happen to see only one leg.

Truth be told, I do only have one leg.  I also often find myself standing on stage holding a microphone in front of 200-plus people.  During these moments, right before I speak my opening line, as I can feel everyone's eyes on me, I almost always glance down for a second and think, "So this is your life now?"
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Daughter's challenge is one for father too
March 15th, 2012
02:28 PM ET

Daughter's challenge is one for father too

Editor's note: Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN readers chosen to be a part of the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. She lost her leg to an infection following a tragic accident in a collegiate softball game.

My entire life I've been blessed with two selfless parents who have given me everything.

I was fortunate enough to be afforded many opportunities. I played the piano and clarinet, took art classes, played softball, bowled... the list goes on. We had a home cooked family dinner every single night and always found ways to spend time with our entire extended family.

My parents gave me vision to see the future, strength to face the many battles of my life and unconditional love that made me unafraid of failure.

I always know, no matter what, at the end of the day, I am still loved and they are always proud of me. When you really think about it, that's an extremely powerful thing.
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February 27th, 2012
01:45 PM ET

Olympian Jennie Finch inspires triathlete

Editor's Note: Denise Castelli is one of seven CNN viewers selected to be a part of the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program. Denise lost her leg to an infection following a tragic accident in a collegiate softball game. Last week, she received words of encouragement from two-time Olympic softball player Jennie Finch. Check back on CNN.com/health for more on Finch later this week.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a ball player. In fact, softball has been the only constant through out my life. But for me, it has always represented more than just a game. It was an opportunity - a chance to push myself, to achieve goals and build strong relationships.

While those relationships were often with teammates, it also (if not more importantly) solidified my bond with my father. We spent numerous evenings on the field, practicing fly balls over and over. Ball after ball, he would keep hitting to me until the sun went down.

It was during those summer evenings that my passion for softball was ignited. From that point on it was the only thing I ever wanted to do.
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'I gained more with them than I ever lost in a limb'
February 15th, 2012
10:58 AM ET

'I gained more with them than I ever lost in a limb'

Editor's Note: Denise Castelli, an office manager from Netcong, New Jersey, lost her leg to an infection following a tragic accident in a collegiate softball game. After sending in her iReport video, Denise was selected as one of seven CNN viewers  to participate in the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge program.  Denise, and the rest of the Fit Nation athletes receive all the tools necessary to train for and compete in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon this September, alongside Dr. Sanjay Gupta.  The seven athletes met up two weeks ago in Atlanta for the official kickoff of the program.

I’ve been playing team sports my entire life. I know how a cohesive team can win championships, and how a cancerous team, regardless of talent, can self-implode.

The importance of a team turning into a “family” is, in my opinion, a necessary feat. Once that happens, the team becomes unstoppable. That team’s possibilities go far beyond what any stats or win/loss record could show.

Last weekend was the official kick-off for my new team with the Fit Nation Challenge. Looking back on it now, I have to laugh at the fact that I was actually nervous about meeting my teammates.

Sure, I had seen everyone’s submission videos and we had spoken on a conference call a few times, but beyond that, these people were still total strangers to me. How could I manage to share my deepest fears, my most trying moments, and my greatest achievements with people I barely even know?
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Learning how to swim, without a leg
January 26th, 2012
10:42 AM ET

Learning how to swim, without a leg

Denise Castelli is one of seven people chosen to be a part of Dr. Sanjay Gupta's Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. As a recent amputee, Denise is searching for a way to reclaim the feeling of being a competitive athlete that she cherished before her accident.

Getting in the pool has forced me to face a number of fears. The first being the obvious fear - ditching the doggie paddle and actually learning how to swim. The other fear is not so obvious and much more personal.

The swim is the only leg of the race that I’ll be doing, well, legless. Prosthetics aren’t made to be submerged in water and I can imagine it would be quite difficult to swim with a heavy piece of carbon fiber attached to my body.

My prosthetic has been my safety net ever since I learned to walk again. It has essentially become my super hero cape. When I wear it, I know I can do anything. I have the world in the palm of my hand. Without it, am I handicapped?
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Tri Challenge: Reinventing my world
January 12th, 2012
07:38 AM ET

Tri Challenge: Reinventing my world

Every day this week, CNN will introduce you to one member of the 2012 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge team.  Today meet Denise Castelli.  As a recent amputee, Denise is searching for a way to reclaim the feeling of being a competitive athlete that she cherished before her accident.

I’ve learned a lot about support over these past few years.  I often stop and think to myself that I don’t know where I’d be without my family, friends, the support of my community and the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

In April 2008, I was your ordinary senior in college.  Well, maybe not entirely ordinary. I was an NCAA softball player, as well as a dean’s list student at the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut. I was only looking forward to my next journey: Life after college.  With graduation around the corner, I couldn’t help but think about the world of possibilities that were out there for me.

But on April 22, 2008, tragedy struck. During one of the final games of that season (and ultimately my career), I took off from first base on a steal, headed for second and broke my leg.  I can still remember hearing the snap and the instant pain that I felt.
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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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