Turning Pain Into Power
But their nine-year marriage was far from perfect. "Everything had to be done his way," says Amy. "He was just very, very controlling—mentally and emotionally—throughout the whole relationship. But never physically abusive."
When Amy could no longer take the verbal and emotional abuse, the couple tried seeing a marriage counselor. But Chris resisted the counseling and eventually moved out. Five days after Chris left, Amy says they agreed to meet at a hotel to discuss a divorce. "He came in and I could just tell he was aggravated," Amy recalls. "He told me he wanted full custody of our kids. I said 'no.' That's when I saw the look on his face of a monster."
Chris was arrested for attempted aggravated murder. He was a first-time domestic violence offender and was not required to stand before a judge before being released. He was freed within 24 hours. So, even though Amy's husband nearly killed her, there was very little police could do to protect her.
Three weeks after the first attack, Amy walked into another one of Chris's deadly traps. This time Chris hid in the back seat of Amy's minivan. "He popped up behind my seat," Amy says. "I was screaming. I remember thinking, 'What am I going to do?' I slammed on the brakes and that's when he shot me in the head." Amy was shot twice in the head before crashing her minivan. This time, Chris was arrested and kept behind bars.
Amy barely survived the second brutal attack, but Chris, now incarcerated, was still bent on murder. He spent five months in prison when officials discovered he was plotting to hire a hit man to kill not only Amy, but her mother and brother as well. Police set up an undercover officer to pose as the hit man, capturing the sinister details of his plan on surveillance cameras and unraveling Chris's murder-for-hire scheme.
Chris pled guilty to the charges and was sentenced to serve 30 years in state prison with no possibility of parole.
Amy believes her ex-husband became physically violent when their marriage fell apart. "I think the biggest thing is he lost control of the whole family/marriage situation," she explains. "He was very controlling. He had to have everything done his way, his time frame. He lost control when I wanted joint custody of the boys and he wanted me to give him full custody."
Looking back, Amy admits she was living a lie. "It did start out as a loving relationship and that wasn't a lie," says Amy. "Looking back on it and seeing what was wrong…that was a lie. I shouldn't have stayed with it. I should have done something earlier…done something for myself earlier instead of living through what he put me through."
Amy also stresses that mental abuse is abuse. "Physical abuse is not the only abuse out there. There are many levels of abuse."
Amy also recently worked to get a bill passed in Ohio called "Amy's Law" to keep violent first-time offenders behind bars—a law she believes would have prevented her ex-husband's second brutal attack against her. "It's a law that requires the offender, first-time or repeat offender, to stay in jail until they have the opportunity to see a judge," Amy explains. "They are required to see a judge before they can be let out."
In the summer of 2005, James volleyed his way into tennis history during a U.S. Open quarterfinal match against Andre Agassi. The monumental matchup at Arthur Ashe Stadium lasted until the wee hours of the morning, testing the endurance of both star athletes. Andre won the match, but James was a winner the minute he stepped onto center court—only one year ago, doctors told James he may never play tennis again.
While playing tennis in Europe, James tripped and broke his neck on the court. He narrowly missed becoming paralyzed for life.
"As soon as I went airborne, I guess out of instinct, my head turned a little bit and I hit my neck instead of hitting right on the top of my head," James says. "If I hit the top of my head, I probably wouldn't be walking anymore, so I'm unbelievably lucky. That makes it so easy to see a silver lining in a bad situation."
James says that breaking his neck was one of the best things to ever happen to him. While recuperating from his injury, James learned that his father, Thomas, was dying of cancer. "I know that if I hadn't [broken my neck], I know my dad was too proud of a man to tell me that he was getting worse and worse," James says. "He wouldn't have wanted me to come home, even though I would have at the drop of hat."
James and his dad spent the time they had together reminiscing about old times and saying the things that had always gone unspoken.
"I let him know how much he meant to me and how much he influenced me and who I am," James says. "He told me he was proud of me, and that was probably the best moment of my life. I needed him to know that it was because of him that I've done everything that I have done."
Six weeks later, his father was gone. Then, within days of his father's death, James was diagnosed with an excruciating case of shingles, which left his face paralyzed and his vision blurred. James says the shingles hurt even worse than his broken neck.
"[A broken neck] gave me a whole new perspective on how bad things could be," James says. "It gave me new perspective on [that] possibly things happen for a reason because I was home for those last six weeks of my dad's life. It ended up being the best thing for me."
Throughout his struggle, no amount of pain ever made James feel sorry for himself. He says he always thinks of a quote from tennis star Arthur Ashe when life gets hard.
After Ashe found out he was stricken by the HIV virus, he said, "I'm not going to sit here and say, 'Why me?' because I wasn't saying 'Why me?' when I was holding up the Wimbledon trophy."
"I had so many things go right in my life up until last year," James says, "that I'm bound for a little bit of rain amongst the sunshine."
In 2002, Lynn felt a lump in her breast. It was cancer…and it had spread to both breasts. There was only one real treatment option—a radical double mastectomy followed by aggressive chemotherapy. After her treatment, doctors delivered the good news that her breast cancer was gone.
With the help of her best friend Donna Karan, Lynn took on a new approach to living. She became passionate about studying yoga and staying healthy. But as it turned out, breast cancer was just the beginning of her battle.
A few months later, during yoga class, Lynn felt a surge of fire rush through her body. She was having a seizure. Subsequent medical tests confirmed what Lynn says she already knew—it was brain cancer. Doctors gave her six months to live…that was three years ago.
"I know myself better," Lynn says. "That knowing and being more me comes from my heart…not my exterior."
After brain surgery, Lynn even thought of the 39 titanium staples in her scalp as a fashion statement of sorts. Fashion designer Donna Karan agreed!
"I didn't want her to take out the staples," Donna says. "I thought they looked so cool. I mean, Lynn is edgy so it was perfect for her edgy look. You know, no tattoo…staples."
What are the most important lessons she has learned from Lynn's battle with cancer? "The spirit of living and really how to give back," Donna says, "[I learned] how much Lynn has given to all of us. … The journey that she went on has been an amazing journey."
Lynn: To choose. You have choices when you get cancer. To me there are only two—I'm a very black and white person. You can either lie down and say, "Why me?" or you can look at it and go, "This is the story. What do I choose to do about it?" Is it lie down … or is it to really look deeper than that and enjoy every single day that I do have when confronted with death and make it the best day of my life.
Lynn wears her Live Strong bracelet with pride and says that Lance Armstrong was one of the inspirations for her book. Lance's words have also helped her confront fear and "choose to look at death as an option."
Lynn also found inspiration in Neil Young's lyrics. She even chose to close her book with a Neil Young quote that reads, "A little love and affection, in everything you do, will make the world a better place, with or without you."