I Won 'GUTS All Stars' As A Kid. 5 Years Later, I Was Paralyzed.

How I went from all-star athlete to paraplegic.

woman in wheelchair Getty Images

Dear Jana "Warrior" Waring,

Congratulations on winning GUTS All-Stars! In five short years, you'll become paralyzed from the chest down from participating in a stunt show at Sea World. So enjoy every second of this victory and know that just like the fall during the obstacle course, you will pick yourself up and be just fine. As it turns out, you do have GUTS, along with gumption, courage, and perseverance.


RELATED: What Being Paralyzed From Neck Down Taught Me About White Privilege

And though this opportunity came as just a silly kid-thing to do one summer, people continue to watch GUTS ALL-STARS! over and over again until it becomes a cult hit.

AND GET THIS: In the future, you eventually start receiving fan letters from being on GUTS. Fan letters! It doesn’t matter that you got teased by your classmates for not knowing how to paddle on a surfboard or that you’re brothers called you “Lizard Lips” for years because you drank a lot of the pool in the 'Surfs Up' Challenge.

Because in 20-years people love the game show GUTS even more than they do now, and since you won the only All-Star game that will ever happen, people will love you, Jana "Wa-wa-wa-Warrior" Waring!


Some strangers will even offer to buy the Agro Crag! But you can never sell that. Ever. After a decade in your mom's garage and another decade in between apartments, that big, bulky, heavy piece of fiberglass STILL glows a bright green neon light, as long as it's plugged in, of course.

And the best part? Your future husband will love it more than you do. He gives the Agro Crag the respect it deserves in the way a true fan of GUTS would expect. He keeps it dusted and on display, and basks in its glow as he watches late-night TV.

But more than loving the cool, glowing trophy he loves you and all your flaws and imperfections.

RELATED: Yes, I'm In A Wheelchair. And Yes, He Married Me Anyway.


So know you matter.

Know that every decision that you make from this point forward will shape your life in some way, and it’s usually not in the way you think... it's sometimes worse but mostly better beyond your imagination!

Don’t be so scared to say I love you.

As it turns out love is not something that goes away each time you say it. Instead, it's endless and knows no boundaries. So love more and worry about being loved less.

Enjoy your youth and all the awkward in-between phases of adulthood.

Be thankful you’re a late bloomer and be okay with not fitting in. While you continue to evolve and confront life's challenges, others spend the rest of their life trying to be something they once were.


Winning is good. But continuing to try when you fail is better.

Sure you won both GUTS and GUTS All-Stars!, but there will be moments in your life when you fail miserably. This is the universe giving you direction. Listen carefully. Then try again. Sometimes hearing “no” is exactly what motivates you to earn that “yes.”

You are stronger and more beautiful than you think.

The GUTS tryout paper said "cute" at the top, circled in red ink.

And your gymnastics teammates nicknamed you "Brick House" as you traveled across the country for competitions. But it was only after you were paralyzed that you first heard the word "beautiful" and that your inner strength became something tangible. So embrace your adversity because it plays a huge part in setting you free. 


RELATED: I Am Paralyzed From The Chest Down, But I Still Want A Baby

And finally, thank you for being you.

Thank you for always stubbornly going against the grain. And thank you for not being afraid to seek out new opportunities. In 20-something years, you wind up happy and exactly where you want to be, even though you go in a roundabout kind of way of getting there.


Do you think it's possible the producers of GUTS knew they were mapping out our life story when they dubbed us Warrior? I still wonder. But then again, I still believe anything is possible. So I guess we'll always have that going for us.

Good job, Warrior!

Much love,
Jana "Warrior" Helms

PS. Mike O'Malley goes on to have a legit acting career! Crazy, right?

Jana Helms is an author with Yourtango.com.