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How Reaching Out to My Long-Lost Father Changed My View on Cerebral Palsy Awareness

My 18th birthday taught me a precious lesson, and it also showed me how essential spreading cerebral palsy awareness is.

For most of my life, I have avoided spreading cerebral palsy awareness like I do now because I was afraid to accept my disability and I just wanted to fit in with society. I struggled for a period of time to accept who I am.

I didn’t realize how vital cerebral palsy awareness is, and honestly it wasn’t until I got older when people asked me why I don’t spread awareness about cerebral palsy. My answer was as naive as it gets – people aren’t dying of cerebral palsy, so why should I bother spreading awareness about it?

My past and the choices I made are what helped me come to this decision now, and choose to make a difference in the future.

I was raised by my stepdad, whom I consider to be my father since my biological father (for privacy reasons let’s call him Jeff) was never in the picture. Throughout my childhood, I had many questions about why Jeff chose not to be a part of my life. I remember making Father’s Day cards in Pre-K and wondering who to give it to. For many years I wondered, was he not around because of my condition? Was he too afraid to be a father to a child with a disability?

After having so many questions, after 17 years and two months before my 18th birthday, I wondered what it would be like to have a relationship with Jeff. I had no connection or relationship with him at that time. I didn’t know much about him besides the fact he was into sports. My mother never spoke ill of him.

After giving it some thought, I finally decided to locate him and find him and maybe in some way we could make up for the 17 years of my life that was missed. I have always had this picture in my head of what it would be like to meet Jeff. As a little girl, I pictured a big happy family reunion with Jeff and him teaching me everything he knew about the sport he loved.

After two days of doing my own research, I found Jeff. I called him, and we spoke for a few minutes or so. From the first conversation with Jeff, I didn’t feel a single ounce of connection like I had dreamed about as a child. Needless to say, in my opinion, he did not know what do in the situation. I mean who would after 17 years? To be truthful, I didn’t know what to do either since in a way I felt like I was breaking my dad’s heart by reconnecting with Jeff.

I was definitely in a pickle here, but I followed my heart and continued to talk to Jeff. However, after a while I realized Jeff was a toxic person and had nothing positive to say about his life. I had made a choice to no longer speak to Jeff, so I texted him two days before my birthday, letting him know how I felt about our “relationship.” I didn’t get a reply. So many thoughts came to my head; I wondered if maybe he was hurt that I told him my feelings.

And then, my birthday arrived. Suddenly, he sent me a text that said the unthinkable. I remember the feeling in my chest when I got that all-caps text.

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY AND IF YOU DON’T WANT ME IN YOUR LIFE, GO KICK ROCKS SOMEWHERE AND OH, BY THE WAY, YOUR MOM DROPPED YOU THAT’S WHY YOUR LEGS BROKE!”

I dropped my cellphone that I had just gotten for my birthday on my couch. I didn’t want to eat my s’mores anymore. I just sat there with tears sliding down my face as my mom asked me what was going on. I explained the situation and she took the phone, glancing at it with a heartbroken look.

As I was sitting there on the couch crying, I began to think about it. This is happening to me for a reason. I believe God is trying to guide me somewhere with a significant event occurring on an unforgettable day.

After I gathered my thoughts together, I called my now ex-boyfriend and told him what had happened. He looked at me and said, “You need to start writing and speaking about your cerebral palsy because of uneducated people like Jeff. I bet you’re not the only one who went through something like this.”

I agreed. He was right. I need to start speaking out for people who can’t. Ever since my 18th birthday, I have made it my mission to write and express myself when it comes to cerebral palsy. I realize how crucial spreading awareness is and how many people are unaware.

Looking back at this experience now, it’s made me into a stronger woman. I told Jeff to never contact me again. He won’t get to be a part of the story I will tell to millions, and that will inspire these same people.

I stick by that statement I made to him. Do I regret reaching out to him? No. Do I regret my decision to try and build a relationship? No. I have no regrets about having the desire to do something. It was a learning experience I’m forever thankful for. I hope sharing my story can hopefully inspire others to spread awareness about their disabilities or their life struggles. You never know whose lives you can touch.

Getty image by Tom Maso 79.

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