Cyclist, skier not slowed by illness |

Cyclist, skier not slowed by illness

Lory PounderSummit County CorrespondentVail, CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit DailySandy Lahmann rolls along the rec path on her handcycle in Dillon earlier this week.

FRISCO, Colorado While getting her hair cut, Sandy Lahmann likes to talk about bad dye jobs, the weather, good ski days. In fact, she enjoys just about any silly, light-hearted conversation.What she doesnt want to talk about is her health.People interact with me as if Im my disability. … I feel like they dont see me as a person, said Lahmann, 45, who was diagnosed multiple sclerosis in November 2005, about a year after moving to Summit County.It hit me really hard. … For me, it was very rapid decline with no breaks, she said. And as I was watching my abilities decline, what was actually worse was the reaction of people around me. Suddenly you feel like you have leprosy.So now her goal is to change that by educating the able-bodied about how to interact with people with disabilities. Lahmann, a Colorado native, moved to the mountains for the activities that go along with them. For six years she lived in Leadville with her two children and worked as a special education teacher. Then, about three years ago, she moved to Frisco so her daughter, who graduated last year as the Summit High School valedictorian, could participate in the International Baccalaureate program.For the first few months the family lived here, Lahmann worked at the middle school in special education. However, soon the fatigue she was feeling made it impossible to keep up with the workload, so she began looking for a desk job. She took a position where she still works at Marina Larson & Associates LLC in Dillon.At that time, Lahmann didnt know what was wrong. First, her doctor thought it might be low blood sugar. But then she started having trouble walking, which is when her physician realized it was MS, she said.She was devastated. Hiking, biking and skiing were all essential parts of her life. I thought, This is who I am. Now I cant do anything of these things, she said. The Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center turned everything around for her, she said. They taught her she can still ski and bike, and the only difference is the equipment a monoski and handcycle bike.Now, some days are better than others for Lahmann. Sometimes she can walk. Other times she is in a wheelchair or uses the assistance of a cane. It is those days when she is reminded of her disability through the reaction she receives.Sometimes people are so eager to help, they dont realize they are being offensive, she said. People have responded angrily at times when she has politely declined their help. She has had others just start pushing her wheelchair without asking. Also, at times, strangers have insisted they know what is best for her.Dont make assumptions about people with disabilities, said Lahmann, who has handcycled up Vail Pass and is ready to tackle the bumps this year on her monoski.In fact, Lahmann has been on her own since her children left for college. Her son, Zach Sigmond, is a Colorado State University student in Fort Collins and her daughter, Tory Sigmond, goes to college in Germany.If Im not independent, I get afraid, she said.

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