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18-Year-Old Maddie Lancour Loses Her Sight, Gains a CrossFit Community

March 20, 2023 by
Image Courtesy of: Janine Laliberte
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“She looked up and said, ‘Everything is dark.’” 

This moment in August of 2022 is when everything changed for high school senior Madeline Lancour. After three years of symptoms, endless doctor visits, and fighting for a diagnosis that fit, Lancour had been admitted to the emergency room with non-stop vomiting. After days of this, and no results from doctors, the violent illness Lancour had experienced left her permanently blind. 

  • “(It was) one of the scariest things I’ve ever witnessed,” Lancour’s mother, Janine Laliberte, said. “From constant movement (and) people shouting to silence and being the only one in the room.”

Since losing her vision, Lancour has had to adapt to an entirely new world. Formerly a captain of her high school’s cheer team and on her way to a career in health care, she had to adjust to no longer being able to operate independently, which she says was a really difficult transition. Plus, she had to deal with the other effects of her illness which include short-term memory loss, continuing nausea and vomiting, and new medicines. 

The one outlet Lancour says doesn’t make her feel like a fish out of water? CrossFit. 

  • Lancour: “Everything has been taken away from me, Crossfit is the one thing that I’m gaining and not losing. When working out it all fades away.”

When Lancour was first discharged from the hospital, she remarked on how weak she felt after spending five weeks in bed. Luckily, Heidi Moody, a coach at CrossFit Charlton and a friend of Laliberte, reached out and offered to provide training for the teen. Since then, Lancour has been going to the gym weekly, slowly building strength and learning more skills. It’s been a bright spot in a dark time in the family’s lives. 

  • “The Crossfit support has been amazing,” Laliberte said. The gym held a Halloween competition to raise money for the family. “She does a WOD but we adapt it to what she can do but still push her limit each time. The goal is for her to do the class, but with the help from the coaches to set her up.”
Image Courtesy of Janine Laliberte

Lancour is transitioning her training to another gym in the area, CrossFit Sturbridge, but Moody and the team at CrossFit Charlton have been grateful for their experience with her. 

  • “We know some days are hard, really hard, but she keeps pushing through and coming out stronger every day,” Moody said on behalf of the gym. “Maddie is an inspiration to anyone who has faced an obstacle and instead of letting it define them, she persevered.”

Lancour has had an extremely difficult time coming to terms with her new way of life. Her mother said that she used to be extremely outgoing and would never let someone go without a friend, but she can no longer be the one to approach people first. She described her new world as “poopy,” dark, and draining. 

However, she’s gained a new perspective that she wishes more people thought about. 

  • “Don’t take what you have for granted, especially your eyesight,” she said. Plus, for herself, Lancour says she’s learned, “disability does not define who I am.”

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