Pandemic: Conversation with ambassador Cheryl Angelelli

We’ve all been impacted in different ways by the COVID-19 pandemic and most of us still are. The challenge right now is to find our new normal and figure out what our daily lives will look like in the future. Wheelchair users are no exception and must adapt to the new constraints of life with COVID-19.

As we continue our talks with our ambassadors, we sat down with Cheryl Angelelli to discuss what she went through and how she is adapting. An honest chat that makes us realize that we are all in this together!

Cheryl is very inspiring! She has a contagious smile and, to say the least, she is a very accomplished person – Paralympic medal winner, world record holder, and Athletes with Disabilities Hall of Fame inductee. Cheryl is a retired Paralympic swimmer who took up competitive wheelchair ballroom dancing. As a Marketing Manager at the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan, her take on the actual situation is very interesting. Let’s dive in!

Can you tell us what were the main impacts of the pandemic on your day-to-day life and your job?

It’s been tough because I am usually a person who has a good work-life balance. My job has been quite challenging lately! A lot of my marketing colleagues have been put on paid leave for a while, so we are all picking up the slack. It was definitively more work and still is! Because of the pandemic, there has been a need for a lot more communication going out to our staff and to patients, it’s just been non-stop for me in the last few months.

Given the fact that you are working in healthcare, what’s your point of view on this whole COVID-19 situation? What are your observations?

We are obviously living through unprecedent times. My emotions have been all over the place. We have seen so much suffering in our community, from not only those who are battling COVID-19 or know someone who has contracted the virus, but also from those who have been placed on unemployment or forced to close their businesses and lose their livelihoods. Some days I am extremely sad, and some days I am just completely grateful for all the blessings in my life. I’ve also been really impressed by our community and how they have rallied around our hospitals and healthcare heroes. So many people have dropped off meals or personal protection equipment (PPE) to support our frontline workers. Even though we are living through the worst of times, I have seen the best of humanity throughout this crisis!

The impact this pandemic has had on your passion for dancing and your dance program must have been real, can you tell us about it?

Dancing is my stress reliever and the dance studio is my happy place, so to not have those things in my life has been tough. I am the co-founder of Dance Mobility, a free wheelchair and amputee ballroom dance program offered at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio where I live in Michigan. The studio has been temporarily shut down, so not only have I not been able to practice with my competitive dance partner, Tamerlan Gadirov, but all the Dance Mobility classes have been cancelled.  I miss being active and able to dance.  I miss the social part of it too. I miss our students and our teachers. It’s been tough and I think we just need to be creative. I took my first online dance class last month! Of course, it was very different but still fun. It was good to see people! I think for the time being we will have to start doing Dance Mobility classes via Zoom. It is important to stay active. Even tough my days are really long and busy, I am trying to find an hour every day to be active. I try to go outside to walk my dogs or workout with some hand weights in the house.

What would be your main advice to the Motion Composites community to stay healthy during this period and moving forward?

Just because the number of COVID-19 cases may be slowing in some parts of the world, we are not out of the woods yet. People with disabilities can be at a higher risk for COVID-19. It’s important to listen to what the experts are telling us to do, like frequently washing your hands, social distancing and wearing a mask in public. And by no means am I trying to scare people! We just need to be diligent in protecting ourselves and the people around us.

It’s been a time to reflect and for some of us even a reality check. What are the lessons learned and the positive outcomes of this pandemic?

I have been able to see the best in the humanity. People are coming together as a community trying to do positive things to help one another get through this challenging time. That’s been amazing! We are learning to appreciate even more our loved ones, our health and our jobs. I hope that things don’t go back to the way they were. We all need to be more appreciative of things. Let’s not go back taking things and people for granted!

We are slowly transitioning to our ‘’new’’ normal life and going back to routine tasks such as getting a haircut. Your Instagram post about it caught our attention. Can you expand on why it wasn’t that mundane?

Yeah! I was sharing on my social media about how I got a haircut for the fist time in three months, but for me it represented more than getting my hair done. The last three months have been hard both physically and emotionally. The months of isolation, insane work hours and fear of contracting COVID-19 have taken an enormous toll on me. Everyday that we moved farther away from normal life I felt like I was losing a piece of me. I no longer recognized myself or my life. So that day was more than a haircut and some color, it was about staring into the mirror and starting to recognize me again. I felt good for the first time in awhile. It’s amazing how a physical transformation can also bring about a mental transformation.

To end this interview on a note of gratitude, what are you most thankful for right now?

I am grateful for my health, I am grateful to still have a job and I am grateful to be surrounded by people that I love. Being quarantined with my husband has been fun. I have loved spending so much time with him and our fur babies. I am grateful that we got to slow down and have dinner together every night, have meaningful conversations and binge watch TV. There’s no other person with whom I would have liked to be quarantined with (unless you count Bruno Mars)!

To learn more about Cheryl Angelelli, you can view her Motion Composites ambassador profile.


About Motion Composites

Motion Composites has an international reputation as a leader in the design and manufacture of ultralight manual wheelchairs.