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Just two weeks after Rob Jones had both his legs amputated in 2010, he decided to train for the Paralympics.

Jones lost his legs below the knee in Afghanistan after he accidentally stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) during a routine clearing. In his online journal, he wrote that it felt "like my lower legs had fallen asleep for so long that it hurt. Except magnified by 50 times."

Before he deployed, he'd decided that if he lost his legs above the knees in action, he'd rather bleed out than live like that. The limb losses he sustained, however, ended up requiring him to have above-the-knee amputations. And when he learned about all the advancements that had been made with knee joint prosthetics, he changed his tune.


[rebelmouse-image 19398287 dam="1" original_size="700x469" caption="Jones in physical therapy. All photos via Rob Jones, used with permission." expand=1]Jones in physical therapy. All photos via Rob Jones, used with permission.

"[When I realized] that my mission for my life, namely to make it meaningful and enjoyable, had not changed, I was able to accept the situation quite quickly," writes Jones in an email.

With his lofty goal in place, Jones set out on a year and a half of grueling physical therapy.

After a month of debridement surgeries every other day and another few months of recovery in the hospital, he was finally able to start the long process of rehabilitation.

He trained five days a week up to four or five hours a day and did everything from core strengthening to balance drills to maneuvering stairs, hills, and uneven ground on prosthetics.

"The prosthetic progression started with me being on very short legs called 'stubbies' and graduating to taller legs as I got better [at walking]," Jones explains.

Jones training on stubbies.

Soon he started using prosthetics with bionic knees, which allowed him to relearn how to run and cycle.

And, even though he'd never tried it before, he also picked up rowing, which ended up taking him far in the Paralympics.

Jones saw his recovery in milestones. At first, the milestones were little things like sitting up in bed and making it outside in a wheelchair. Once he started training, they escalated to athletic milestones, like being able to do 18 pull-ups or pushing past a personal rowing record. And the more goals Jones set for himself, the brighter his outlook on the future grew.

Eventually this led him to compete and win the bronze medal in the 2012 Paralympics rowing competition. He also biked over 5,000 miles across the country to raise money for wounded veterans.

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Despite these incredible feats, he was nowhere near done. In his effort to keep moving forward, Jones set a monumental new goal — he'd run 31 marathons in 31 days.

Initially, the "Month of Marathons" idea came out of a disappointment — he didn't make it into the Paralympics triathlon. However, his ultimate mission became about much more than achieving a personal milestone. He wanted to change the conversation around veterans from one of struggle to one of hope.

"I knew that something needed to be done to change the perception of wounded veterans," writes Jones. [People] think all veterans to come home with PTSD, and I was concerned that this expectation would cause returning veterans to manifest symptoms in themselves."

So, he decided he'd craft a new narrative — one where instead being overcome by PTSD, a veteran found a way to grow stronger in spite of it. He'd also raise funds for wounded veterans while he was at it.

Since Jones had always been an athlete and had been training relentlessly for the Paralympics, he knew he was in prime condition to take on this challenge. However, he still put himself through18 months of intense running and cardiovascular training to get his endurance up.

Jones training.

Finally, it was just a matter of planning the route and figuring out where the RV would park at the beginning and end of every day — a job his wife selflessly took on along with many other tasks. His friend Colin volunteered as driver, and Jones' mom became the RV's resident chef.

The actual Month of Marathons was long, repetitive, and exhausting to put it mildly. But the outcome more than made up for the struggle.

He started in London (his wife's birthplace) on Oct. 11, 2017, and continued on a criss-cross tour of America that spanned over 10,000 miles.

"[I'd] wake up at 5:30 am, run a marathon, do interviews, talk to supporters, hop in the RV, eat, sleep repeat," Jones writes.

Mind you, these weren't official marathons Jones was running — each day he ran loops he plotted out himself in city parks and on trails.

As days went by, more and more people began to follow him, some who'd never run a marathon before. Soon, his journey started to resemble a scene out of "Forrest Gump."  

Jones running with his followers.

When he finally reached his personal finish line on Veterans Day, near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., his body was feeling all sorts of pain, but his mind only felt one thing — thankful.

He was thankful "that I live in a country with so many people willing to show veterans they are loved," Jones writes.

By the end of his journey, he'd raised over $200,000 for veteran charities, inspiring many people to see veterans in a new light in the process.

He also inspired himself to continue his mission of advocating and raising money for veterans who are struggling to adjust to civilian life. He knows more than most how challenging it can be to find your purpose again after going through a traumatic experience. However, he's also a testament to what the human spirit is capable of in the midst of a challenge.

While there's no magic trick to coping with trauma, Jones' milestone motivation is a good place to start. Every step forward, no matter how small, is an important part of getting to the finish line.

After all, it's a marathon, not a race.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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Pop Culture

'90s kids share movies that will 'take you back to a better time'

It was a magical time when animals played sports and yet somehow things were just simpler.

YouTube/Upworthy photo illustration

Honey, I shrunk the kid named Matilda while jamming in space!

Everyone knows that '90s movies just hit different. From sports movies to rom-coms to even horror, there was an undeniable innocence, without being overly simplistic or juvenile. They didn’t have nearly the amount of money going into production as they do today, but somehow managed to transport us to magical places.

Movies of the '90s are so iconic that there have been several attempts to reboot beloved titles. Which, let’s face it, tends to be a fool's errand at a cash grab. These movies are so timeless that simply viewing the original is more than fine.

Not sure which movie to start with? You’re in luck—a Reddit user by the name of YouBrokeMyTV asked ’90s kids to share movies that took them “back to a better time,” and because the internet can be a wonderful place, tons of people responded with some beloved classics.

These answers certainly don’t make a definitive list (there are just so, so many gems) but they're a fun glimpse into what made '90s cinema so special. A nostalgic romp through memory lane, if you will.

Enjoy these 14 titles that just might leave you jonesing for a rewatch:

1. "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"

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A perfect example of how '90s movies were silly, but smart at the same time. And oh so wholesome.

2. "The Sandlot"

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It taught us nothing about baseball, but everything about friendship, rooting for the underdog and (most important) how to make s’mores.

3. "Drop Dead Fred"

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Critics might have run this cult classic through the mud during its inception, but audiences fell in love with the bizarre charm of this story about a mischievous little girl and her anarchist imaginary friend. So take that, snotfaces!

4. "The Goonies"

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Everyone just wanted to set off an epic quest with their friends for pirate treasure after seeing this movie.

5. Tim Burton's "Batman"

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Before the superhero genre was the behemoth it is today, a quirky director and the dude who was best known for playing the creepy demon in "Beetlejuice" breathed new life into comic-book movies. Marvel might be the leader on creating stories with adult themes that are digestible for kids nowadays, but this DC film was the first of its kind. Plus, that soundtrack … forget about it.

6. "Hook"

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Pretty much any '90s film starring Robin Williams was an absolute gem, but this one in particular is timeless. His gift of balancing childlike humor with emotional gravitas lent itself so well to playing the now grown and cynical Peter Pan, who must learn to reclaim his joy (relatable, millennials?). It was a bang-a-rang-er, no question.

7. "Space Jam"

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It had Looney Tunes, it had aliens and it had Michael Jordan. That’s a winning combination.

8. "Matilda"

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I don’t think I’m out of line when I say that this movie helped a lot of kids make their way through difficult childhoods.

9. "The Parent Trap"

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Even '90s reboots were awesome. And how fun it is to see that Lisa Ann Walker—the actress who played Chessy the housekeeper—is not only yet again gracing the screens in NBC’s “Abbott Elementary,” but is also being revered as a style icon on TikTok for her ultra casual looks in the film. We all knew she was onto something with long button downs and shorts.

10. "The Land Before Time"

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No cartoon, not even “The Lion King,” was a better depiction of childhood grief. And yet, despite encapsulating tragedy, director Don Bluth still left viewers hopeful. The subsequent 14 (yes 14) sequels definitely pale in comparison to the original, but "The Land Before Time" continues to stand the test of time nonetheless.

11. "Richie Rich"

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The scene where they play tag on four-wheelers is simply iconic.

12. "Dunston Checks In"

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Man, the '90s were the golden age of animal-centered films. And not just monkeys either—we got sports playing golden retrievers and not one, but two movies starring talking pigs. What a time to be alive. These films were made before CGI had reached the levels it’s at today, and the authentic interactions between humans and creatures reached right through the screen.

13. "George of the Jungle"
george of the jungle, brendan faser

Watch out for the tree!!!

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Have I seen this movie at least 20 times? Probably. It doesn’t get any better than this in terms of silly action films with bird puppets. It’s crazy to think that this role would eventually lead Brendan Fraser to "The Mummy" franchise, turning him into a household name. Though his career has had some tragic ups and downs, we are all grateful for the glorious comeback he’s been having.

14. Anything involving Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
mary kate and ashley

Yes, they were professional detectives.

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Whether vacationing in London, Paris or Rome, whether playing magical witches or making a huge billboard so their father could find love … Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered zany, whimsical entertainment while wearing fun outfits. Sometimes, that’s all you need.