"The darkest night brought the best sunrise of my life," said Deepa Malik, the first Indian woman to win a medal in the Paralympic Games on Wednesday, recalling the surgery to remove spinal cord tumour exactly 21 years ago.
She recalled the events which unfolded on June 3, 1999 when doctors told her that her survival chances were bleak and if she did it would be paralysis below chest.
"This night seemed to be the toughest one, darkest one. Way back in 1999...this night before June 3, 1999, 21 years ago, when doctors told me...they would take me for removal of spinal cord tumour, I would either die or if I lived, it would be chest below paralysis," Malik, who is Paralympic Committee of India President, recalled.
While anybody else in her place would have lost all hope in such a situation, but Malik stayed positive.
"All I did was focus on my abilities beyond disabilities, picked up what I was left with and celebrated life. The darkest night brought the best sunrise of my life. I got reborn on my 'Will Chair' stronger brighter in my new body which gave me a purpose and direction in life," said Malik, who also posted a collection of her 21 photos from the past two decades on her Twitter handle.
She said that "I celebrate every 3rd June as my day of gratitude to almighty and each one who has supported my journey I celebrate every 3rd June as my day. For giving me these years to #Celebrate Life to prove #Abilities Beyond Disabilities # 21 Glorious Years on Wheelchair. Yet another year and miles to go before I sleep".
Malik, who won a silver in the shot put F53 category in 2016 Rio Paralympics, was bestowed with the country's highest sporting honour -- Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna -- last year.
The 49-year-old Malik, one of the most decorated athletes in the country, was diagnosed with a spinal tumour in 1999 which left here paralysed below her waist.
Since then, she has been wheelchair-bound, but her indomitable spirit saw her won several international medals, including a silver in 2011 IPC World Athletics Championships in shot put F52-53.
The F52-53 class covers competitors with different types of disabilities including spinal injuries. They have full use of their arms but have no or limited trunk function.
She also won four medals in Asian Para Games -- a bronze in 2010 (javelin throw F52-53), a silver in 2014 (javelin throw F52-53), two bronze in 2018 (discus throw F52-53 and javelin throw F53-54).
Malik also took part in the gruelling Raid de Himalaya motorsport event in 2009. She was awarded Padma Shri in 2012.