My name is Riley Oliver and to understand who I am is to understand where I've been, this is my story.
To start, when I was ten years old I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis (the displacement of a vertebra), along with minor scoliosis, which was located in my L5-S1 section of my spine.
I was supposed to wear a torso brace and I would be fine, but having slipped on a piece of ice, broke the facet joints holding the spine in place which caused rubbing and grinding of them, which then also caused pinching of the nerves down my legs. This sent me on a path where I was given options of two different surgeries: having a metal rod completely fused to my spine or an experimental surgery that was only done on a few adults by my surgeon. The fact was, if I left my back this way I would not be able to walk. As I cried, also not comprehending what I was about to endure, at ten years old I made the decision to go with the experimental surgery.
The surgery was completed in the span of seven hours which resulted in taking a bone graph from my pelvis, adding 5 millimeters of bone into the facet joints and holding everything together with titanium hooks and screws for my bone to grow around. What I wasn't told at the time (so I wouldn't freak out anymore than I already was), was there is a 90% chance of paralyzation from the waist down and, from all the medication I was on, there was 50/50 chance of overdosing/death. The pain was so excruciating at times that I was given adult doses of Valium, Morphine, Diazepam, and many other drugs that resulted in about 7-8 high dosed medications a day for a year, which I eventually had to be weaned off.
When I woke up from surgery, I was surrounded by loved ones but felt absolutely terrified to look at my legs.. Then I moved my feet.
I didn't start walking until about a month after the surgery, before that it was wheelchairs and a pool where I would be lowered into the water on a harness and I would slowly start walking in the water in order to get my muscles working and start adding pressure on my spine.
I was in the hospital for about six and a half months, after a while you start going kind of crazy and that definitely happened to me. My depression sky rocketed along with my weight, so it was hard to look in the mirror and be proud of who I was. One thing that really helped me through all of the pain was laughter. The ability to make other people smile with jokes and humor is what truly kept me sane. This is when I realized that humor can save lives, sometimes not the physical aspect but the mental one.
It takes a lot to overcome these fears, especially as a kid and to overcome the depression that came with it. From the day I left the hospital until now, I have never taken one day for granted. So I made a deal with myself that everyday of my life I would try my best to make at least one person smile per day everyday.
Later on in life when I was 19, I was involved in an accident which tore my labrum in my shoulder and sent me back into the surgery room. This caused me to gain weight again even when I started to lose it all. I went up to about 250lbs and just didn't really care about anything and fell into a downward spiral.
On September 17, 2016 I made the decision to lose this weight and get fit!
My best friend and coach Vitaliy Demchuk took me under his wing and set me up with a meal plan and a training schedule to get started!
My spine is now healed along with my shoulder, it took years to get back to where I was and from time-to-time my injuries do give me discomfort and pain, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Haha. So I push through day to day to make my dreams come true!
After 5 short months, I have lost 70lbs and I am now weighing 180 lbs. I would never have imagined I would not only look the way I do, but be the man I am today. I hold my head up high and am proud of how far I've come. Yet, at the end of the day I still hold true to the deal I made with myself, I will always try to make at least one person smile per day, everyday!
Join me this march as I step on stage for the first time for MABBA to showcase my dedication towards improving all aspects of my life! It has been a long road, but if not for the drive to push myself outside of my comfort zone, fight through pain and hurdle every obstacle in my path I truly would've never known what I was capable of and what kind of man lies inside of my heart.
This is my story, it has been long, full of ups and downs but has made me into the man I am today.