FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — At 59 years old, Donna Aravanis’s life has been a journey of hope. She was born without a foot, but as an adult, she’s had to rely on her inner strength, once again.
There’s a very short list of things Aravanis can’t do. She was born without a right foot and has worn a prosthetic all her life.
Since childhood she’s proved everyone wrong. A fierce belief in herself, from her mom, carried into adulthood.
“I keep looking for challenging opportunities to explore and go past boundaries that I might think I have,” Aravanis said.
She hiked to the top of Yosemite’s Half Dome this past July, holding what some would consider her handicap victoriously, in her hand.
“I took my prosthesis off, and I had my hiking pole in one hand and balancing, and I lifted up my prosthetic leg in the other hand, to say, nothing is going to stop me,” Aravanis said.
And nothing has stopped Aravanis from taking things further.
“I had the idea to swim from Alcatraz on October 19th, which is my 59th birthday,” she said.
Her swim, with the help of a special prosthetic fin weighing less than two pounds in total created by Jason Schott a prosthetist orthotist in advanced prosthetics.
“She said I want to do this open water swim, and I thought maybe across Millerton or something like that,” Schott said.
Creating the fin was easier said than done.
“There were challenges like keeping the fin suctioned-on while in the water and matching it perfectly to Aravanis’s body,” Schott said.
Days of work and weeks of trials in the pool, and out.
But what kicked-off Aravanis’s quests was not her disability, but rather a late-in-life diagnosis that almost sunk her.
Aravanis was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.
A mother, with two daughters, then, 9 and 12 years old, Aravanis’s faith in God, providing her strength.
“I felt deeply that I would be taken care of and everything would be fine, but it was really hard to convey that to my daughters.”
Aravanis put her feelings into words, daily through her treatment on a caring-bridge site.
“As I finished up treatment I thought, I really want to put this in a book,” Aravanis said.
Creating, “Struck by lightning, my breast cancer journal: A journey of hope.”
“I’ve got one leg, I’ve got one breast, I’m 59 years old,” Aravanis said. “I’ve got a lot of things that could be going against me, but I’m not going to let that stop me.”
But, this year another blow.
Last week, Aravanis learning her cancer, until now in remission has metastasized, making its way to her colon.
Still, Aravanis is not stopping, training for another swim in the bay, another challenge from the golden gate bridge to the bay bridge, which is a 6.2-mile swim.
“I already feel strong, I’ve got the wetsuit, I’ve got the swim fins.”
So, with every test ahead of her Aravanis plans, to live her life.
“If I can just lift anyone else up, so they can feel the motivation to live their life more fully, whatever that means for them, then it inspires me too.”