Why I Go the Extra Mile in My Life With Cerebral Palsy
As a child with cerebral palsy, it was questionable whether or not I would ever ride a regular two-wheel bike. At the age of 8 I was riding a regular bike with one training wheel. My physical and occupational therapist made it a goal to have me ride a two-wheel bike.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would take a bike ride like this…
I like to bike ride, but to me, riding in a big city has always seemed a bit overwhelming. In fact everything about tourist areas in big cities is overwhelming. I haven’t been to New York City, so therefore I am awarding San Francisco as the most overwhelming city I’ve ever visited. Fortunately, the bike lanes were very well marked. The traffic, people and hills were an adrenaline rush for me. The prettiest thing I remember was looking across the way after we rode up a hill. The ocean, landscaping and city skyline were just fantastic.
Part of this journey was 1.7 miles going across the Golden Gate Bridge. Without hesitation, I knew this was going to be something that absolutely terrified me!
My cerebral palsy has caused vision issues and lack of depth perception. I’m unable to go down stairs if it’s an open staircase. Due to a prism I requested in my glasses, I’m sort of able to stand in one spot when I am up high in a wide open area. However, bridges, mountain cliffs and seats at the top of sports stadiums are scary for me. Last week I described these concerns to the eye doctor and she confirmed that it sounds like I have poor depth perception and will need an evaluation by an optometrist to see if I need vision therapy.
But my motto is the Eleanor Roosevelt quote “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Would the San Francisco traffic and hills alone have done the trick? Yes! This is probably why it is difficult for me and those who know me well to realize I actually do have a physical disability. My perseverance outweighs any physical challenges I may have.
The ride across the bridge was 1.7 miles to get across, and it felt longer. The hills to the bridge on the San Francisco side (south end) were two to five stories high by my estimate. The wind and traffic on the bridge made the entire experience loud. The good news is there was a very large bike/walking lane with large railings on each side. I could see an opening at the bottom of the railing with ocean water underneath… I wasn’t a fan. So, I decided to look forward as much as possible and just keep pedaling. Going around each pillar was windy and had a few people standing around looking at the sights. I walked my bike around but did not stop or look over the edge. Looking back at the experience now, this may be my only regret.
After I passed the first pillar, I almost had tears in my eyes and my stomach was so nervous. I told my friend just to keep on going. I do remember looking forward and seeing the second pillar ahead of me, and that was very beautiful. By the time we had gotten around the second pillar, I began to smile! I stood with my bike close to the pillar and had my friend take a picture of me. It is kind of hard to tell I am on the Golden Gate Bridge, but I wasn’t in the mood to move.
By the time I got off the bridge, I had a smile on my face but still a very nervous stomach. I explained to my friend that I seriously did not want to travel across the bridge again to get back to the bike shop. We rode a little under three miles, mainly down hill through Sausalito. Then with hundreds of other tourists, we returned back to San Francisco on a ferry boat.
As I have shared my story with friends, I have realized how many people I have inspired to try something new that scares them.
Many people may think that because of my disability, I should be more cautious and take care of my needs. I feel that because of my disability and challenges, I should always go the extra mile to live the fullest life possible!
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Photo by contributor.