The Warrior Who Defends Me in My Life With Cerebral Palsy
I am 41 years old and I have moderate spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. Today, I want to raise awareness for all disabilities. I believe that awareness of all disabilities needs to be brought to today’s society. Let’s talk!
My story begins in 1976 as an adopted child whose parents were unfamiliar with my diagnosis of CP at 11 months old. Think about hearing the words, “Your daughter will never walk and will most likely be ‘confined to a wheelchair’ her entire life.” That was a harsh reality for my parents. Sadly, there were family members who told my parents to give me back to the adoption agency and get a “normal” child.
My parents couldn’t possibly have been be prepared for the struggles that lay ahead. There were multiple surgeries, countless physical and occupational therapy sessions, and constant doctor appointments. Additionally, there were the costly schools and equipment I needed to maneuver through my challenges. I distinctly remember those years of tears and being pulled in a red wagon in the halls of the most prestigious children’s hospitals because I couldn’t walk. I definitely know my parents weren’t expecting this, but they persevered with love, compassion and determination!
Through their advocacy, they did everything they could to ensure that I had the best life possible. I am eternally grateful for them and everything they have done for me. Some of my most prominent memories were of my Dad and his ongoing support. He was my warrior! He was always there to encourage me, challenge me, and defend me. I distinctly recall as a child all the cousins playing together. No one ever said, “Oh well, Richelle can’t do that!” When needed, my dad stepped in and explained that they all needed to adapt so I could participate. I always knew I was different, but I don’t remember being left out of any activities because my dad, my warrior, ensured I was always included.
Inclusion can be rough and often seen as an insurmountable challenge. Activities, such a birthday parties and going to the park, can be stressful for the parents of a child with a disability. As children, we often aren’t aware of how much our parents protect us and make decisions on our behalf. It isn’t until we are adults that we can fully appreciate their sacrifices and selflessness.
As a preteen to a young adult I was bullied, ridiculed and shunned. It hurt and made me realize my differences in a more grown-up way. I managed to work through it all because I had my trusted warrior by my side. I also feel that my “movie star” smile helped me through some of those rough moments. I truly believe every experience shaped me into the person I am today. Am I different? Yes, and I embrace my differences. I turned my fear into a self-motivation tool for success.
Do people judge me? Every day. Although it’s none of my business what others think of me. I live my truth. I am a daughter, a friend, an advocate, and even a warrior myself because that’s who my dad taught me to be. The words “Never give up,” “Keep fighting,” and “You’ll thank me when you’re older” continue to inspire me each day. Truthfully, all this time he was my warrior, and I was his. We are a fearless, strong, and determined team. Now is the time to embrace who we are and work as a united front. Together we are stronger. We are all warriors.
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Photo by contributor.