Jessica Cox was born without arms but that hasn’t stopped her from breaking records
JESSICA Cox can do almost anything with her feet.
Pop a bottle of coke? Eat sushi? Apply mascara? Drive? Fly a plane, even? Yes, she can do it all. It’s just unlike most of us, she uses her toes.
“It was adapting, because the arms and hands were not there I made a connection with my feet very early on. I explored the world with my toes and it just progressed to being my hand,” she told news.com.au.
“I pick up my phone and put it up to my shoulder without even thinking about it. It is difficult at times when I’m walking; the only problem is accessibility when I’m standing up. I’m always standing on one leg to do things with my right foot. My left foot and leg grounds me, if you were to look at my legs they’re pretty muscular”.
The 32-year-old, from Tucson, Arizona, was born without arms. The technical term is “congenital amputee”, but she doesn’t see it that way “because I didn’t have arms to begin with”. They like to call it “differently-abled”.
It’s estimated one in 2000 babies are born with “all or part of a limb missing, ranging from a missing part of a finger to the absence of both arms and both legs”. Most birth defects occur in the first three months of pregnancy, when the organs of the foetus are forming.
But doctors didn’t know what caused Jessica’s condition, and to this day it remains a mystery. “My mum thinks back to her pregnancy, she had no idea. She didn’t take a single aspirin, she’s a nurse and very self-conscious of the development of the baby. She did everything right and yet this still happens”.
Jessica drives a car like the erst of us, she just uses her feet.Source:Supplied
The 32-year-old is inspiring thousands across the globe; her story is really quite remarkable. She holds the title of the first person without arms to earn a black belt in ATA Martial Arts. Then there’s the Guinness World Record for being the first armless person in aviation history to earn a pilot’s certificate. That’s right, she can fly a plane. With her feet. With a passenger.
“When I was young I wanted to fly like a bird over the playground. I wanted to climb up the slide like all the kids but they were afraid I’d fall off the ladder, because I didn’t have arms. But I knew I could figure out a way, and one day I did.
No hands required
The social limitations is what frustrated me more than the physical fact of not having arms.”
Ms Cox can fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet. She might not be able to fly jumbo jets, but that doesn’t faze her. She’s happy with one passenger — and the achievement.
“One of the things that was so incredible was the sense of empowering independence that came from it. I felt as though if I could conquer this aeroplane, then surely I could conquer anything. That kind of confidence that comes from doing something like that is what really propelled me forward.
“It gives me a sense of independence, freedom and power. There’s still an adrenaline rush every time you’re in the air.”
A break between flights, with a can of soft drink.Source:Supplied
Up, up and away.Source:Supplied
Understandably, life was difficult as a kid without arms. She was teased by the other kids, taunted with nicknames like “Hook” or “Robot Girl” at school. But it only served a bigger purpose — to prove she was just as able as anyone else.
“Ever since I was at a conscience level of an age, people reacted to this person without arms and immediately zoomed in on the fact. Though people may judge you, you can’t take it personally. But I had to learn how to develop my confidence; it didn’t come easily for me”.
“I think I’ve learned to not take people’s opinions of me personally, take it with a grain of salt,” she said.
Jessica has spent her life dealing with doubts. People doubting her. Society doubting her.
She wore prosthetic arms with hooks for most of her childhood, until one day, in the eighth grade, she buried them in her closet.
“It was more awkward for me and I felt I was doing due to the pressure of conformity. I made a decision it was more important for me to be confident in who I am and that’s the most important thing.
“I wasn’t using it for the functionality, I could use my feet more efficiently and faster. What was the point of wearing prosthetic arms if I was better at using my feet?
“Society has developed a certain norm and if you don’t fit that norm, you feel pressured to. It was weird for many years and finally, one day, it took one little baby step and for me making that huge decision was one of the best things to do towards that level of acceptance
But it wasn’t until she was 16 that she says her life truly turned around.
“I think my mum was more of a coddling type, she wanted to take care of me. I was 16 and travelled to Phoenix from Philadelphia on my own, declaring my independence to the world. I had to take care of my own personal needs for 11 days. It was life changing because I was able to realise that I could take care of myself.”
It was at this point that Jessica took the reigns of life in her own hands — and decided not to miss out on opportunities just because of her disadvantage.
Since then, she’s done almost everything. She can surf. Rock climb. Play the piano. Ride a horse. She’s a motivational speaker. A movie star. Even an author.
“The fact I don’t have arms doesn’t even phase me when it comes to a new adventure. I’m the type of person that wants to do new things all the time, they think ‘she’s just trying to prove herself’ but it’s a part of my personality too, I can’t sit still.
“That’s who I am with or without arms.”
The Sole to Persevere
Jessica Cox’s book, Disarm Your Limits, is available online. For more about her motivational speaking appearances, visit her website at jessicacox.com. Follow her on Twitter @jess_feet.