Cecilia Oberholzer turns 23 on Thursday. She has no special plans to celebrate the day.
"I don't plan that far ahead anymore," says the second-year Visual Communications student whose life was disrupted in October by a hit and run accident which left her with multiple injuries.
Cecilia returned to Charlottetown and resuméd classes on Jan. 7.
Using a crutch to help her get around, it is a long and sometimes painful journey back to normal functioning, one which she hasn't yet acheived.
Cecilia says that tiredness and stiffness are the legacies of the accident she is coping with now, rather than actual pain, except for what she experiences during physiotherapy treatments.
She goes to therapy, which is designed to increase her muscle strength and to lengthen the muscles in her injured leg, three times a week.
She expects it will take at least another three months of therapy before her leg will be back to normal but she feels she's doing well, considering the severity of her injuries, which included a broken tibia, a fractured pelvis and torn ligiments.
She says she is able to bend the injured knee "fairly well". The plate that was put in to help mend one of the main bones in her lower leg and will be there for a year.
Her first week back at college was spent getting back into a swing of things, establishing a schedule between her classes, the 10-hour-a-week part-time job at the Charlottetown Centre library and her physiotherapy appointments.
Because of difficulty getting around, she gave up her weekend job at The Two Sisters craft shop. Cecilia, not used to the media attention she's been getting, will be relieved when the excitement dies down and she can get back to a normal life.
A quiet, unassuming young woman with short, dark hair and gentle, brown eyes, Cecilia spent her early years in South Africa, moving to Gander, Nfld., in 1991 with her parents, who are both physicians.
An only child, she was 15 at the time of the move and, although she says she sometimes misses South Africa, where she still has relatives, she would never go back to stay.
After finishing high school in Gander, she worked three part-time jobs before moving to the Island to begin the Visual Communications program in the fall of 1997. Cecilia enjoys living in Charlottetown.
"Culturally, there's more stuff going on, more access to different things," she says.
She spent last summer here enjoying, she says, "doing the summer job-tourist thing."
Cecilia was considering returning for a third year in the Visual Communication program even before the accident and is almost definite about her plans now, feeling unready to move on yet. "I'm quite comfortable here," she says. She feels she will be forced to move when it's time to look for work. Her decision to return for a third year is not a question of not being eligible for her diploma this spring, she simply wants to add to her skills and improve her employability.
Despite the time she lost, she isn't as far behind as she could be. According to instructor Nigel Roe, Cecilia was two-thirds of the way through the program before the accident.
Fellow student, Brian Langille, says the expectation in the course is that students acquire 10 new skills each month. Considering the time she missed, Cecilia could be behind by 30 skills, instead she is only behind by about 15.
She considered waiting until next fall to return to her studies, mainly bacause of the inertia that can take over once something like this happens and you are forced to be inactive for a period of time.
"I was getting bored," she says.
"I started saying, 'I'm sick of reading!' I knew then there was something wrong. I love reading."
At that point she knew it was time to get back to school and get on with her life, a task which has been made a lot easier with the help of her classmates.
Cecilia is the only female in the group of seven Visual Communication students doing the Graphic Technician profile. The program is designed so that students can specialize in one of three areas: Graphic Technician, Graphic Design and Graphic Illustrator.
Although it would be a safe bet to say that students who choose the technician profile would be more practical and logical than the other two, Roe describes Cecilia as a really creative person. "She's an ideas person fascinated by technology," he says.
Cecilia and fellow students Steve Callbeck and Langille refer to students in the technician profile as "The TX ".
The three of them are particularly close. According to Langille when they moved to the second-year classroom in September, they chose computer stations together in a corner of the big room.
Before the accident Callbeck and Langille would tease Cecilia, threatening to delete her screen-saver, which runs the movie Titanic in five-minute segments.
When Cecilia was home recuperating, Langille says, "Steve and I went out and bought her the entire three-hour movie so she wouldn't miss anything. She bugged me on the phone. She said,' You didn't delete my screen saver, did you?'"
Callbeck and Langille, who seem to be the hub of Cecilia's support system at the college, intend to help her in any way they can. Langille says that he and Callbeck "decided we'll do anything we can to help her Œtil the end of the year."
Despite the teasing, Langille says they are all really close friends. "We give each other a hard time but I think she knows what I really think of her. She's a really, really smart girl."
As for the fact that it was a crime that turned Cecilia Oberholzer's life upside down, there is frustration in her voice when she talks about that aspect of events.
This is when the gentle eyes have a flash of steel in them. It is a crime that, it seems, will remain unpunished.
"They know who it is, there just isn't enough legal evidence to charge anyone," says Cecilia. "I get angry (about that) and I can't really express it. When I do physio sometimes I get really teed off."
There is a silver lining, she says with a laugh, "I didn't get the flu!"
Then she goes on to talk about the human kindness she experienced. "I got to see how supportive people can be, even people I don't know. It was something else."
You can't help but get the feeling that Langille is speaking for a lot more people than himself when he says, "I'm just really, really glad that she's back."