Finding My 'Spasticity With Sparkle' as a Caregiver With Cerebral Palsy

One day over a year ago I was amidst fluorescent lights, in a tiny waiting room, waiting to hear what I already knew “Your mom has a form of dementia, most likely Alzheimer’s. That moment, everything I knew in my heart became instant reality. There I was in my instant vortex. My whirlwind of reality just slapped me in the face. Those words echoed and began to resonate. What do I do? Can I fix it? Can I handle this? Am I strong enough?

Richelle Heath. I have spastic diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects my legs. Would they be able to carry me through this journey? Maybe I have to “Faith it till I make it?” Stepping out on knowledge and faith will have to sustain the floods of tears, often in my bathroom in silence. Suck it up buttercup, you have to remain strong for your family. Wipe those salty tears and refocus.

Months later I was in another office, surrounded by diplomas, awards and plaques from the most prestigious universities in Georgia to hear “Your dad’s prostate cancer has returned, and it’s not good.” As much as I wanted to cry, I knew I had to be strong for my mom and dad. I distinctly remember holding the office assistant’s hand (a dear friend) and her saying “No, we don’t cry here — we can cry over drinks later.” I started to smile and remember she was right. I have to be strong.

I was born a source of strength. My legs carried me 41 years; so let’s focus on the next 41. The journey of being a disabled adult who became the caregiver has opened my eyes in ways I never imagined. I can’t always say I do things right or that I even know what I am doing, truthfully. What I do understand is that my parents shaped me into the woman I am today thanks to all the opportunities they afforded me and still do. I embrace that I have to rely on my faith, my family, my strength, my friends, my knowledge and my understanding that while I may not have all the answers, I have all the ones I need. I have remember that no one has the answers. Sometimes love and faith is all you need.

Maybe I have a little Spasticity with Sparkle. That little glimmer of hope, that ray of sunshine, that twinkle in the eye of someone you love reminding you that together we can do anything. The road is long, complex and often misunderstood — but together we can get though it all.

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