In a world full of judgement and hatred, I often found myself in a position of feeling secluded by everyone. For the last fifteen to twenty years of my life, it has been a never ending cycle. That moment in which you think you have reached the top of the world and then it all comes crum- bling down to the ground because the cruel words and actions of others have put out the flame to your happiness.
Rumors had been spread about the girl you thought I was, though none of them were true. I often saw the stares that each and every one of you gave me but no words were ever exchanged between us. No matter how many times I tried to claw my way out, you never failed to torment me and force me into a corner with those who truly understand what I have been through. We cannot win for simply trying to make it in this world, can we?
Unlike the average child, I wasn’t developing the proper skills that someone my age should have been. My parents sensed right away that something was off, yet the doctors continuously insisted upon the fact that I had spina bifida.
They acted as though everything about it was perfectly normal, but it’s not in any way. Little did we know that at the age of 16-months, when doctors finally decided to take matters a bit more seriously, I would be diagnosed with an ependymoma tumor that was malignant. The only form of treatment that could be done was having it surgically removed.
Due to the tumor being one of the largest they had seen on a child my age and size, doctors could not tell where the tumor ended and where the nerves started. As a result, I have been paralyzed and wheelchair bound for as long as I can remember.
I have never known what it was like to experience something as simple as the touch of grass against my feet and being able to describe that feeling all on my own. All the little things that one may take for granted are the things that I desperately long for.
I am a girl of many colors and I have had to face many obstacles in my lifetime. Being judged wrongly for this and that has been my biggest obstacle, but I have never allowed it to define who I am nor will I ever. You often keep to yourself making your own assumptions as to who you think I am and you never muster up enough courage to ask me.
You say that it is because you were unsure how to ask me or that you did not want to offend me. However, the vast majority of those within my community find it to be more offensive and rather hurtful when you don’t ask.
Are you still having a hard time understanding what life is like for me? In that case, let me break it down for you a bit more. Imagine that you have recent- ly had a tragic accident and you are told that you can no longer play the sport you have always had a passion for. Or maybe you are no longer able to go on that ski trip you have been planning for so long because you or a relative needs urgent medical treatment that will be spread out over a period of time. Well, it’s the same concept for those within my community.
On numerous occasions, we have had to miss out on events such as school trips for the simple fact that the facility may not be as handicap accessible as we need it to be. Though there are a plethora of other reasons for a why a disabled individual cannot attend such events, whether or not a facility is handicap accessible is reason enough to take the joy and excitement out of it all.
While recently speaking with a disabled friend of mine, who has seen both sides of the fence so to speak, he had this to say, “I’ve never felt my wheelchair shaped me in anyway. I think of it as just a means of transportation in place of my two legs. I do not like it if people refer to me as ‘that guy in a wheelchair.’ I’d rather just be known by my name or ‘that guy.’ As an adult that walked and saw for forty years before and now being reduced to using a wheelchair, I know that there are huge changes and huge swings of those that surround me.
Members of my own family have never adjusted to seeing me in a wheelchair and so handicapped. Therefore, they do not visit me. I am alright with my situation, but I realize a lot of the world is not okay with handicapped people nor will they allow us to interact like they do. How many times have I heard, ‘You get all the best parking, what else do you people need?”, I think that says it all.
There is a big intolerance to handicapped facilities and animosity for what is available to us as handicapped people. The next time you are in a public parking lot, watch closely to see how many people park illegally in handicapped parking spots and how most of them walk from their cars to the entrances of the businesses.” I couldn’t agree more.
Far too often, we see the world through our own lens without ever looking through someone else’s lens. It is with great pleasure that I challenge you to place yourself in someone else’s shoes for a change. In doing so, I hope that you will discover an entirely new way of thinking. Are you up for the challenge?