Marayke's powerful mantra
EVEN as she faces the latest hurdle in a life packed full of triumph over adversity, Marayke Jonkers remains positive, her spirit undiminished.
Her focus as always remains more on what she can learn through her hardship that will help others, than wasting energy pondering unanswerable questions.
Marayke is unique for more than just the fact she is the first paraplegic recorded as suffering thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition usually associated with elite National Basketball League players, swimmers and track and field athletes.
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a rare condition.
It involves intense pain in the neck and shoulders and causes numbness and tingling in the fingers and a weakness in muscles in those areas.
The problem stems from a blockage of blood vessels and nerves coming from the spine as they pass through a narrow space near the shoulder and collarbone on way to the arms.
There is a 50-80% success rate in surgery that removes the first rib to free up the passage.
In Marayke that is not possible because as a paraplegic she relies on the scalene muscles in her neck, which attach to the rib, to breathe.
She says with that choice, she would rather still be able to breath than move her arms.
The condition has already weakened Marayke to the point that she can barely move her wheelchair 30m, can no longer drive a car, wash her own hair or clasp a necklace.
Used to being totally independent, she is now getting used to having to rely on others.
A paraplegic since she was injured in a car accident when a toddler, she says she has never been one for "why me?".
Rather than raging at fate she asks instead ""why not me?", a question empty of self-pity but full of realisation that for many, life is and can be infinitely worse than her own.
"There are still people worse off than me," Marayke says.
"I think I'm lucky. I've travelled the world, I've been a Paralympian, I'll just have to move on to other things.
"If someone had told me two years ago I would have said, 'I can't cope, Now it's just 'get on with it'. I used to think a lot of people who used power wheelchairs were just lazy, now they look a great option."
Her humour, self-awareness, capacity to consider the hurdles she faces as puzzles to be worked through and her remarkable list of achievements make her a poster girl for positive.
After winning Cosmos Magazine's inaugural Fun, Fearless Female Award in 2007 she used the prize money to set up Sporting Dreams Foundation, to assist young athletes with disabilities achieve their goals.
Marayke has funded the foundation through motivational speaking engagements.
The 29-year-old remains guided by the mantra "you never know what you can do until you try" that has carried her to sporting excellence and dual degrees in Social Science and journalism and public relations.
Rather than giving up on pursuing a career as a swimming writer, she has already found a "drag and dictate" application for her laptop that will help her overcome the fading use of her hands.
"Before Athens (2004 Olympics) I was feeling pain and weakness," she said.
"I couldn't move my neck. I put it down to over-training but couldn't stop with the Olympics so close so pushed on using a snorkel to train so I wouldn't have to move my neck.."
After Athens she took a year off and came back with a training approach involving fewer sessions but with greater intensity, with more time for recovery.
Marayke managed the then undiagnosed problem with physio and massage and went on to contest world championships and the 2008 Beijing Games where she secured a silver medal.
She also took up triathlons, claiming bronze at the 2010 ITU world paratriathlon championships in Budapest just a year after embracing the sport.
But by then she was noticing that little things which used to be easy were becoming more difficult.
"The last two triathlons I did my body wouldn't go," she said this week.
"I was going 'hurry up body'. I couldn't explain it."
Finally, after a visit to a neurologist, the condition was properly diagnosed.
Then a vascular surgeon explained to her that every time she pushed her wheelchair no blood was getting through to her arms.
"It was the best day I'd in years," Marayke said.
"I finally had an explanation why I had gone from super fit to being unable to hold a piece of bread. It wasn't that I was a bad athlete"
But life as she has known it is over. Her bikinis are packed away and she has now given herself up to a government system she has until now avoided to gain access to a powered wheelchair.
If she is to drive again she will need a specially fitted vehicle.
"I've not had one day when I've been really depressed," Marayke says.
"Everything in my life has equipped me for this. My mind is programmed to working around difficulties.
"My mind doesn't go through the 'why me' stage. Why not me? I'm just starting to look for new equipment. In a way it's fascinating."
- Sydney 2000- 4th 50m breaststroke, 6th 150m Individual Medley
- Athens 2004 - Bronze 50m breaststroke & 150m Individual Medley
- Beijing 2008 - Silver 150m Individual Medley
- 2002 Argentina - Silver 150m Individual Medley & 50m breaststroke
- 2010 Netherlands - Bronze 50m breaststroke
- Budapest ITU World Championships -Women's Paratriathlon 3rd Bronze medal
- Gold Coast Triathlon Festival 2009 - Finisher- only paratriathlete to compete in the able bodied race
- QLD State Championships : Redcliffe - first place & first Paratriathlete to compete
- Caloundra Triathlon: First Place women's paratriathlon category
- Canberra Triathlon: National Champion Women's TR1 class
- Kingscliffe Triathlon: First Place women's paratriathlon