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When she heard she had breast cancer last year, Lori Gray of Brandon could have felt cursed.

She’d already spent four-plus years with a disabling illness that doctors struggled to diagnose. So the last thing she needed was a new medical battle.

But it turns out her bad luck had a bright side. “It took me getting cancer to get to the right physical therapist,” she explained.

When Melanie West of Hickory rolled into Methodist Rehabilitation Center on St. Patrick’s Day, the 27-year-old was hardly feeling the luck of the Irish.

She hadn’t been able to care for her 7-month-old daughter, Freya, since a strange illness began paralyzing her body on March 2. But she felt more hopeful once she met the two therapists who’d be guiding her recovery.

The first time Chris Williams donned a prosthetic leg, “I walked out with it,’ he said.

The Byram resident had spent months fighting a diabetes-related foot infection, only to endure the disappointment of a below-the-knee amputation.

So he was more than ready to move on—whatever it took.

“My mentality was I’m going to beat this. I pushed the envelope, and I was back to normal pretty fast,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t know anything was wrong with me.”

By any measure, Michelle Davies-Brown knew her left knee needed fixing.

The Jackson resident could barely walk. Was prone to falls. And on a 1 to 10 scale, she put her pain at 10-plus.

“I would come to work with a brace on my knee, and security staff would have to come pick me up,” said the admissions clerk at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. “Some days, I couldn’t even walk to a patient’s room.”

Beads of sweat glisten on Marvin “M.J.” Martin’s face. The 19-year-old is no stranger to an intense workout. He’s played football since he was a child, practiced in scorching heat and pushed his body to the limit time after time.

“I love football, and I’ve put a lot of work into it throughout my life,” Martin said.

Registered nurse Christy Byrd of Brandon is the new administrator at Methodist Specialty Care Center in Flowood.

Since 2018, Byrd has been assistant administrator for the 60-bed care facility, which is the first in Mississippi designed especially for younger, severely disabled residents.

Byrd’s degrees include a bachelor of science in biological sciences and a bachelor of science in nursing. Before earning a Nursing Home Administrator’s license in 2018, she completed an Administrator in Training Program via the Mississippi State Board of Nursing Home Administrators.

When Tim Taylor’s grandkids tell him to “take big steps,” they’re not asking him to hurry.

Instead, they’re helping their “Pepo” practice LSVT BIG. The innovative exercise program helps Parkinson’s disease patients stay active by addressing problems with walking speed, balance and trunk rotation.

The 65-year-old practicing Jackson architect was diagnosed with the movement disorder six years ago. At the time, he was somewhat oblivious to symptoms such as unusual arm movements and difficulty walking.

Noah Gibbs of Madison had his life mapped out.

First, he’d finish a degree in biomedical engineering at Mississippi State University, then pursue a career as an orthopedic surgeon.

But instead of a fall semester hitting the books and shadowing Starkville physicians, he’s learning about health care from an unexpected perspective. Since July 22, he’s been recovering from a paralyzing injury suffered in a side-by-side accident.

Shaniqueka “Shay” Hunt of Morton did high fives to celebrate her achievements in Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s therapy gym.

And there was a whole lot of clapping going on during her month there. The 19-year-old nursing student wowed everyone with her comeback from a crippling stroke.

“It’s pretty incredible to see how much progress she has been able to make,” said Skylar Menist, an occupational therapist at the Jackson hospital. “At first, she was like a newborn baby. We had to put a neck brace on her so she could hold her head up.”

At 6-foot-9 and 400-plus pounds, Robert Carter of Jackson looks invincible.

But back in November, diabetes complications almost did him in. He was just starting to heal from a diabetic foot ulcer when he fell asleep near a space heater and burned the foot.

An infection followed that threatened to be fatal. So when doctors proposed a below-knee amputation of his left leg, “I decided to let them take it,” he said. “I was scared for my life.”