Shannon Mullins: “Not all physical limitations are visible”

To anyone living with an illness, disability or injury, I would recommend listening to your body and trusting your instincts. Nobody should be afraid to ask their doctors even the simplest questions. Having all the information you need is key to finding treatment options that are the best fit for your goals and lifestyle. As […]

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To anyone living with an illness, disability or injury, I would recommend listening to your body and trusting your instincts. Nobody should be afraid to ask their doctors even the simplest questions. Having all the information you need is key to finding treatment options that are the best fit for your goals and lifestyle.

As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Mullins.

Shannon Mullins is a 53-year-old army veteran and director of talent acquisition for a paper products manufacturer. She currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and is passionate about fitness and running. She regularly participates in races throughout the country including the St. Jude’s Half Marathon, the Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathons in Nashville and Las Vegas and the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thank you for having me! I was born in California to a career military family. My brother, parents and I moved frequently during my childhood throughout the east coast from Maine to Florida. After I graduated from high school in Jacksonville, Florida I attended Tusculum College for two years and earned a two-year Army R.O.T.C. scholarship. I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Tampa and received my Army commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in July 1990. After completing my initial Army training, I was stationed with the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea. I completed my military career at Appalachian State University where I taught freshman R.O.T.C. while earning my master’s in business administration. It was during that time that I caught the running bug when I was tasked with pacing the college students who were ten to twelve years younger than me.

After completing my military service, I began my corporate career in human resources. I have spent the last 25 years working for domestic and international companies with my career taking me around the world. Today, I enjoy leading the Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy team at my current company.

I live with my husband Gary and our five-year-old golden retriever on a beautiful six acres near Memphis. We are proud grandparents and enjoy spending time with our family and friends when we are not traveling.

Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you became disabled or became ill? What mental shift did you make to not let that “stop you”?

I have always been the type of person who likes to stay physically active. I consider myself an athlete and enjoy working out, running in races and training. As I got older, I started to experience worsening pain in my left foot when I exercised. Being a veteran, I always pushed through pain and considered myself to have a high pain tolerance, but the discomfort I felt was beginning to interfere with my ability to do the things I loved.

I was eventually diagnosed with a bunion, which is a bone deformity caused by an unstable joint in the foot that allows the big toe to drift out of alignment. The condition is progressive and cannot correct itself. I knew that I needed to do everything I could to alleviate my pain and correct the problem, but I was not encouraged by information about the most common available treatment options. I learned that there would be a long and painful recovery process and a high likelihood that the bunion would return.

After continuing my research, I found a video online about Lapiplasty 3D Bunion Correction, a procedure that seemed to be a better option to fit my lifestyle and recovery goals. I met with Dr. Daniel Tucker of OrthoNow in Memphis to discuss the procedure further and he agreed that I would be a good candidate. The procedure involved using titanium plates and screws to secure the unstable joint in my foot and realign my toe. This option gave me a chance of being able to exercise and run without bunion pain, again. My surgery was performed on January 23rd, 2020.

Less than two months after my procedure, I was cleared to return to physical activities. I was overjoyed to celebrate National Running Day last June and am back to training for half marathons again.

Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability or illness ?

Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. suffer from bunions. Like a lot of them, I pushed through the pain for as long as possible. I planned my Lapiplasty Procedure date so that I would be recovered in time for some half marathons. I ran in the 2019 St. Jude Half Marathon right before my surgery to ensure that I would be recovered in time to run the same race the next year. I was determined not to let this problem stop me from doing the things I love, but I was also surprised that I was able to participate in the event while experiencing such severe pain. I am very lucky to have found an effective treatment option for all types of bunions.

What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?

My advice to other people living with bunions is to take care of the problem before the pain becomes unbearable. I have recommended the Lapiplasty® Procedure to multiple people including my friends and a hair stylist at the salon I go to.

To anyone living with an illness, disability or injury, I would recommend listening to your body and trusting your instincts. Nobody should be afraid to ask their doctors even the simplest questions. Having all the information you need is key to finding treatment options that are the best fit for your goals and lifestyle.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

I had an incredible support system while I was recovering from surgery. My husband took pictures throughout my recovery to show my progress and asked my doctor many important questions that I had not thought to ask. My friends were amazing during that time as well. They came to my house to keep me company, brought lunches and dinners over and gave me the emotional support I needed to recover. I must also acknowledge Dr. Tucker who provided guidance and support throughout my journey. He answered any questions I had and worked hard to make sure I got the results from this surgery that I expected.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have always enjoyed running and competing in athletic events. It has been a pleasure to participate in races that support important charities and causes. I have always been a proponent of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and have raced in their annual half marathon for the last several years. It gives me a chance to do something I love while also raising money for a very worthy cause. Now that I have recovered from surgery, I am excited to continue participating in events like this for many years to come.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood or knew about people with physical limitations” and why.

Not all physical limitations are visible.

It is important to remember that we all have physical limitations. Some are more visible or have a bigger effect on our lives than others.

Others’ outward projections or biases can impact or limit others. It is important to keep an open mind and avoid making assumptions.

Remember that your words and actions may have unintended consequences and choose them carefully.

Those with physical limitations are doing their best. We never know how far they have come or how far they will go.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

There are two quotes that have helped me make decisions throughout my life:

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”) This quote reminds me to not let others or limitations constrain my belief in myself and my abilities. It has made a tremendous difference in how I think about life and obstacles.

“Before you cross the street take my hand. Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” (John Lennon, “Beautiful Boy”) This quote taught me to slow down and take a deep breath before facing what you have in front of you.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Many names run through my mind, including Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Mary Beth Laughton of Athleta, but I landed on Cynt Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. I had the opportunity to hear her speak about a year ago. Her conversation with an audience of thousands made me want to learn more from her. Her story of overcoming limitations and adversity was incredibly inspirational. Her focus on what is important and what matters, as well as her declaration that “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care,” resonates with me deeply. I would settle for a 30-minute coffee break with her.

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