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Wounded warrior works through pain, competes for the win

Retired Maj. Jen Kyseth trains on her recumbent bike while her dog, Mack, waits by her side Sept. 15, 2014, in Sumter, S.C. Every time Kyseth trains on her bike, Mack is there with her to show support which boosts her motivation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Diana M. Cossaboom)

Retired Maj. Jen Kyseth trains on her recumbent bike while her dog, Mack, waits by her side Sept. 15, 2014, in Sumter, S.C. Every time Kyseth trains on her bike, Mack is there with her to show support which boosts her motivation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Diana M. Cossaboom)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Wounded warriors bear scars that formed them into the combatants they are.

Some scars are noticeable, while others hide below the surface, invisible to the casual observer.

Retired Maj. Jen Kyseth, a wounded warrior, has a disability that is not physically visible, but can be crippling both physically and mentally.

"It was a progressive injury; it started bothering her in 2008, back in Germany," said Jen's husband, Lt. Col. Todd Kyseth, the U.S. Air Forces Central chief of command and control operations. "She went through a lot of treatments there, but they didn't seem to help."

Kyseth suffers from a degenerative disc disease. After a failed surgery while on active duty resulted in failed back syndrome, she medically retired from the Air Force in 2013.

In July 2014, her pain increased, putting a halt on training for the Warrior Games. After a visit to the doctor, a computerized tomography scan showed a new bulge on her spine.

"I've been having insane nerve pain right down my quad and all the way down to my toes," Kyseth said. "My shin is numb, I can kind of feel it, but it's numb."

Because her nerve pain flared up, Kyseth had to go back on medication for the pain, halting her hopes on attempting to have a baby.

"I've been trying to get off all the medication so that we could have a baby, but now that I am on this stuff again it'll have to wait," she said.

However, Kyseth said that even if doctors are able to work against the current anomaly, a new bulge might grow back again. One big way to prevent a bulge from occurring is to keep physically active, she said.

Participating in the Warrior Games keeps her active and gives her goals to work toward, her husband added.

Having a month off from training because of her new ailment didn't deter the athlete from her goals.

"Every time I get on my bike to train I'm pushing as hard as I can, wondering if there is someone that is working just a little bit harder than me,” she said. “I don't want to look back and say ‘I could have trained harder.’"

During the 2013 games, Jen medaled in three events: second place in recumbent cycling division, second place in the 100-meter freestyle, and third in the 50-meter freestyle.

"I'm nervous," Kyseth said. "Last year I had no expectations, but now that I've done it once, I do expect to medal. I want to win something."

This year, the Airman is scheduled to participate in the swimming and recumbent cycling events. She is one of more than 40 athletes selected to represent the Air Force in the Warrior Games.

The six-day long games began Sept. 28 and will continue through Oct. 4. There are seven areas of the competition: archery, cycling, shooting, sitting-volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.

Todd said, the Warrior Games are beneficial for his wife because it gives her an opportunity to talk with people who have similar issues she experiences. The games foster a great experience for both athlete and family members to be around people that go through the same complications every day.

"Jen has gone through a lot," he continued. "She loved the Air Force, and getting that injury and having to leave the (military) was hard on her, but she's still sticking with it. She's still motivated, and she still wants to help people who have similar issues."

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