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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?

All of that would soon change.

On Thursday night, we had what I would call a “group therapy session.” We went around the room, one by one, and all had to state what drives us. We discussed our fears and what was going to drive us to the finish line; basically our reason for being part of this challenge.

There was not a dry eye in that room. I was the one of the last people to speak (sorry, Rick!) so by the time it was my turn, all I could muster out was my name and that I’m an amputee. I couldn’t believe how hard I was crying. The crying was completely unexpected but it was necessary as a team building exercise.

We had only been in Atlanta for a few hours, but we were already closer than I could have ever imagined.

Thursday night had set us up for the greatest weekend of our lives. Sure, the workouts were hard, but we had so many laughs along the way that it made it easy. We had already taken the leap from “team” to “family” within that short 72-hour period. Our first major goal together, one that cannot be judged by finish lines or by Garmins, was already accomplished.

In my submission video, I had stated that I missed the feeling of being a top notch athlete. What I realized during our kick-off weekend is that I was mistaken. What I missed the most was being part of a team – being a part of a family that is working towards the same goal.

Pain isn’t as bad when you suffer together. Achievements are that much sweeter when you have a group of people who are pulling for you to share them with.

If an amputation is what it took for me to meet Nancy, Adrienne, Jeff, Carlos, Rick, and Glenn, then as emotional as it is for me to say this, it was worth it. I’ve gained more with my Fit Nation family then I ever lost in my limb.


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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.