Living with Cerebral Palsy has given me greater empathy for others, along with a deep admiration for people who overcome challenges. I’ve also gained greater confidence as I’ve accomplished things that people doubted possible. Even now, new challenges hit me each year, whether a Traumatic Brain Injury I suffered in a car accident, or an inability to exercise very strenuously without problems. But I can also look at past victories for motivation to keep pushing.
I was born two months premature and spent a month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). I was very slow to crawl and walk and my parents had me evaluated when I was nine months old, when they were told that I had been born with Cerebral Palsy. It was a blow to them, but they committed to giving me the best physical therapy possible.
This experience has opened all our eyes to a whole world of people who have overwhelming disabilities and challenges, and what continues to amaze me is how positive many people are – people who one would expect to be depressed because of their situations, but they’re not. It challenges me to not feel sorry for myself or put too much stock in the world’s definitions of success and health.
Early on, my parents committed to not letting me use my Cerebral Palsy as an excuse to not attempt great things. When an opportunity came up in 2008 to backpack the New Mexico mountains at Philmont Scout Ranch for 12 days away from civilization, my dad and I jumped at the chance. I’m sure some people thought I was crazy, and even my physical therapist said I shouldn’t try it, but I wanted to accomplish this, and we did! We had a tremendous trek, and I’ll always treasure doing that with my dad and friends.
Because of my being born with Cerebral Palsy, I’ve come to see that everyone has challenges, and I think I’m more aware and empathetic of people’s challenges than I would otherwise be. But I’m also certain that we all can do more than we think, if we look beyond our limitations and recognize our strengths, and – very importantly – if we draw on the help of friends and family. Life is an adventure, and it’s much better to experience it where we are than to wish we had better circumstances. If we try but fall short, we become aware of a new challenge to overcome. But if we never try, then we truly fail.