Stack was born with Pseudohypoparathyroidism, a disorder which affects how the body processes hormones released from the parathyroid gland. Her condition has shortened bones in her hands and feet, and contributed to her short stature. It gives her a round face. It has caused developmental disabilities. She struggles with attention deficit disorder and a reading impairment. She tires easily and is prone to illness.
She uses a motorized chair and a walker to get around outside of her home. She drives a van with hand controls.
Her health condition requires a myriad of medications. But the rules for powerlifting competition prevent her from sometimes taking them.
She has developed psoriasis, but she can't use steroid cream to clear it up. She had to switch blood pressure medication to avoid diuretics. She restricts drugs she takes for ADHD because of a possible stimulant effect and because her illness slows down her digestive system, making it harder to clear prescribed drugs from her system.
She goes without because competition has "meant more than sports."
"It's helped my self-confidence, finding out that I'm good at things," says Stack.
Stack grew up as the eldest of Mike and Peggy Stack's four kids in Royal Oak. When she saw her young siblings competing in sports, she also longed to.
But, says her long-ago gym teacher Dave Potter, "she hated gym."
To complete her physical education requirement at Royal Oak Kimball High School, Stack was assigned to be a student assistant in Potter's adaptive gym for disabled students. Potter exposed her to track and field, swimming, bowling, table tennis and powerlifting.
Stack says she liked it, in part, because she could compete against able-bodied powerlifters.
Potter took her to her first powerlifting meet for disabled people in Grand Rapids -- and she won, hoisting 65 pounds. He has accompanied her many other meets since. But he's never watched her at the Paralympics, though. He plans to leave for London on Sunday.
"Her self-confidence was so low years ago. Sports have done a tremendous thing for her. She's seen the world because of her athletic ability," Potter says.
Stack has competed in Korea, Dubai, Australia, Malaysia, Brazil, China, Greece and Mexico and across the U.S.
"He got me started. He encouraged me to continue. He supported me through and helped train me during off times when I didn't have a coach to train me," Stack says of Potter. "Most people don't stick with a student from 20 years ago. He's been a friend, a coach and a teacher."
Now, Stack is also coached by Bo Sandoval, U-M's head strength and conditioning coach who previously worked with Paralympic athletes at the U.S. Olympic Committee's training facility in Colorado Springs. Sandoval says Stack's training has prepared her to lift more than ever before. He will not be in London, but will await her e-mails and YouTube competition feed for results.
In London, Stack will be coached by Mary Hodge, who works with United Cerebral Palsy in New York City and who coaches U.S. Paralympic powerlifting. Hodge and Stack started working together in 1998, when Stack competed in Dubai at the first international powerlifting meet for women. They've been to three world championships and now four Olympics together.
"She didn't know the level of ability she had," recounts Hodge about first meeting Stack. "If you look from then to now, you can't compare it. There was a realization that she could really do this with the disability she had."
Stack says she'll be "in my groove" on competition day.
"I close my eyes and I'm just benching," says Stack. "Whether I'm here or at an international meet, I'm in the same place."
Stack knows her power now.
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