When an illness or injury impacts your life, your world is turned upside down and everything changes in an instant. This was my reality in 2012 when I was struck by a drunk driver just five minutes from home; I died instantly and came back to life with a message that there was more to do! It has been a long journey to discover what “more to do” exactly is. Through my journey of being in a wheelchair to walking in heels, I discovered several techniques that helped me to understand how the mind communicates with the body, and how to manage pain, stress, and PTSD. I built my own toolbox of modalities and I invite you to build your own toolbox of healing as well.
Initially, during the acute phase of my accident recover, I was on several medications to treat my injuries. I had incurred a broken neck in two places, had broken transvers process in my back, deep head laceration which required stiches and staples to close, two broken ribs, a pseudoaneurysm on my left carotid artery, a blood clot in my throat, a punctured lung, severe damage to my right wrist (later requiring a tendon graft to repair) and several steroid injections to gain mobility. Furthermore, I had deep contusions to both of my legs, post concussion syndrome, and a severe staph infection on my lower lumbar spine (later diagnosed as methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – difficult to trat as it requires long term more potent anti-biotics). Whin I returned home to my family, after 18 days in hospital, I was in a wheelchair and could not function independently.
I had an entire team of people making decisions for me. I was required to wear an Aspen Collar twenty-four hours a day, medications were administered every two hours (which consisted of sedating opioids – among others) and I was cared for by a nurse at home. I had an orthopedic specialist and a team of trauma doctors (seen on an outpatient basis bi-weekly), a dermatologist, a neurologist, an occupational therapist (my case manager), a hand-physiotherapist, and my family physician. As time went on, I had a neuropsychologist, a psychologist, a physiotherapist, and a kinesiologist. I felt like I was a walking experiment; there were some treatments that worked and many that did not. I was in constant pain. I began having seizures. I would stutter, I could not read without losing my words, I had severe migraines requiring frequent hospital visits for treatment. Additionally, I had constant nerve pain, it hurt to walk, sit, stand, sleep, breath and, and be alive.
At one point I wanted to end it all. The doctor’s prognosis; permanently disabled for life. I was working full time for the provincial government prior to the accident. I had completed my bachelor’s degree in social sciences, concentrating in Criminology and Psychology. I was about to write my LSAT to become a lawyer through the University of British Columbia, I was also volunteering as a crisis line responder, and I was a professional singer and songwriter. I felt hopeless when the doctor’s told me that I could no longer pursue my goals because of a drunk driver. To me, life was not fair. I had children to care for and they need their mother. I was married; however, my husband was not participating in my care or the care of the children. It broke my heart that my children became my caregiver. I went from being a parent to being their patient. At the time of my accident, my children were twenty-six, twenty-three, fifteen, eleven, and eight. My eldest son moved back home, my twenty-three-year-old son left university in his third year to care for the younger siblings, my fifteen-year-old was staying with his father in Virginia, and the two younger girls grew up very quickly. I became more determined than ever to find a way to heal and this is when I began building my toolbox.
I started reading anything I could get my hands on to be able to build my cognitive skills. With the help of my eight-year-old reading books to me daily, I could start reading and understanding and memorizing material independently again. My occupational therapist started giving me daily tasks such as word searches which developed new neural pathways in my brain and helped with my memory. I attended Change Pain, a pain management clinic that facilitated removing opioids from my pharmaceutical regiment. At this clinic I also received trigger oint injections and pain education. This was very beneficial and assisted me with being able to walk with a four wheeled walker independently. I began reading educational books on health to facilitate further healing. I learned about neuroplasticity by reading The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. Books by Jon Kabat Zinn taught me about Mindfulness. Donna Eden wrote a book called Energy Medicine: Balancing your Body’s Energies for Optimal Health, Joy and Vitality, this taught me about changing the position of your body to improve your energy and balance. Dr. Wayne Dyer gave me Inspiration. Mel Robbins showed me the 5 second Rule. Lousie L. Hay showed me that I can Heal My Life. So many wonderful authors stacked all around me in my prison of a bed for years lifted me with inspiration out of my bed and gave me my life back.
In January 2018, I hired a life coach named Jessica Coulthard of Just a Girl Like Me. This single act was one of the best things I could have added to my toolbox as it spring boarded my success to healing. Hiring a life coach allowed me to have a person to share my goals with, keep me on track and accountable as well as set me up for success. After hiring Jessica, I started my own company entitled: Guided Path Wellness. I attended two of Tony Robbins events, where I walked on fire and learned that anything is possible if you are determined and motivated to take the leading step In the summer of 2018, I returned to Kwantlen Polytechnic University and took a fourth-year course in Indigenous Criminology and achieved a 4.0 GPA. I went on to become a public speaker by telling my story at the Women Who Inspire Conference 2019 in Vancouver BC and in September 2021 I had the honor of sharing the stage with many amazing women and the International Fearless Women Summit with One Woman One Girl. I have been on several podcasts across Canada and in the US sharing my story of going from wheels to walking in heels with a consistent message of making the impossible possible on your terms.
I do not want to disillusion anyone by saying that building my toolbox or my journey to recovery has been an easy one; quite the contrary. There is not magic wand to heal from any illness or injury. Everyone is on their own path to healing. Applied knowledge is power. I recommend you research everything you can, for we can only do as much as we know. Once you know, you can engage. I started my company, Guided Path Wellness, to educate others about becoming their own healer. During my recovery, I utilized pain education through Pain BC, and I earned a Pain Management certificate to teach main management strategies. During my time at Change Pain in Vancouver, BC I took three classes to understand how the mind communicated with the body when chronic pain is present. I became a board-certified coach through Robbins-Madanes Strategic Life Coach and won an Impact award for the work I do through taking the RMT courses and applying the strategies in our community. I became an am Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) Tapping Specialist through 5th Ray Academy and am currently becoming a certified practitioner in this field. I am a Mindfulness Base Stress Reduction (MBSR) instructor and more recently became a SafeTALK and ASIST trainer through LivingWorks to make our communities suicide safer and teach core skills for crisis intervention. My whole purpose through my experience is to give back to our community in a meaningful way. My toolbox is built from experience in managing my own chronic pain and PTSD. With all I have learned in this field, I can assist others as a guide to building their toolbox as well.
Tonya Joyce Is a survivor. She has been struck by a driver who was texting and driving in 2010; then she was struck again by a driver in 2012 who was drinking and driving. It was this latter accident that changed the trajectory of her life immensely. She had completed her BA in Social Sciences with a major in Criminology and Psychology and was on her way to commence her Law Degree to become a Lawyer.
She was working for the Provincial Government for the Ministry of Health and had a secure job while she was going to be attending school as she had a large family to support. Within one second, that car accident changed her whole plan for success! The doctors said she would not walk, talk, return to university, volunteering, or work again… she was labelled permanently disabled. She went home from the hospital in a wheelchair.
Getting through the pain and hardship these accidents caused her and her family taught her how truly powerful the mind is. The journey of recovery has given her extensive knowledge and experience practicing in the healing arts benefiting the body and the soul. Today is a gift, and she is here to share her knowledge of how she overcame adversity and took a large leap forward.
Not only did she survive these car accidents, she also survived childhood sexual abuse, and human trafficking as a young adult. These experiences have made her a strong advocate for survivors in several areas.
She has proven all the specialists wrong as she painstakingly went from a wheelchair to walking in heals and even walked on fire! She has returned to university and volunteering and works full-time with Chimo Community Services as their Crisis Line Coordinator and has started her own company in 2018 to help others build their toolbox to wellness. Yes, we can define our wellness together on our terms with the right tools.
Public Speaking Experience:
2023 – Rethinking Disability Podcast – Guest Speaker on the subject of Invisible Disability
2023 – City University – Guest Lecturer – Diversity and Inclusion to Residency Master’s Students on Crisis Intervention and Core Skills of Non-Judgement and Advocacy
2023 – Human Library – Book and Reader – Un-Judge someone with Invisible Disabilities
2023 – Pain BC – Echo Series 7 – Participant in Didactic and Case Studies
2022 – The Healer’s Café – Podcast with Dr. Manon Bolliger – How to Address Pain by Addressing Your Environment
2022 – Get Sh*t Done – Podcast with Julie Jones – From Wheels to Heals to Walking on Fire
2022 – Melissa Deally – Your Guided Health Journey – Don’t Forget Your Wake Up Call – Episode 61 “Wheels to Heels”
2022 – Wellness Wednesday – Joy and Pain with Jessica Coulthard – 6 Episodes
2021 – Fearless Women International – Wheels to Heels – Build Your Toolbox to Recovery
2021 – Hollywood North Radio with William “Sleepy” Stewart
2019 – Women Who Inspire Conference – Wheels to Heels
2022 – Wheels to Heels: Evolution of Injury by Tonya Joyce (Not Yet Released
2023 – Poetic City by Tonya Joyce
April 2021 – Create the Ripple Magazine – Build Your Toolbox by Tonya Joyce
2019 Let’s Not Make Love Tonight Written by Tonya J., Featuring Gryphiitii, Produced by Roger Swan, Recorded at Hipposonic Studios
2019 Passion Written by Tonya J., Featuring Gryphiitii, Produced by Roger Swan, Recorded at Hipposonic Studios
2019 Sending You My Love Written by Tonya J., Featuring Gryphiitii, Produced by Roger Swan, Recorded at Hipposonic Studios
2019 U R So Written by Tonya J. Produced by Roger Swan, Recorded at Hipposonic Studios
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University – BA Social Sciences – Criminology
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University – Diploma Social Sciences – Psychology
- Currently at Simon Fraser University – completing my Restorative Justice Certification
- Robbins – Madanes – RMT Global Impact Award Winner Core 200 Gold
- Robbins – Madanes – Certified Life Coach Core 100
- Tony Robbins – Unleash The Power Within – Firewalker
- Pain Management Specialist – Pain BC Certificate in BioPsychoSocial Pain Management