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The Pain of Being 'the Girl Who Walked Funny'

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Growing up, I really never thought about how much having cerebral palsy (CP) affected my life. I was smart (a straight-A student except when it came to any subject involving math) and had a great personality (both of those still apply). Now, looking back, I was that girl: “the girl who walked funny.”

young girl with pig tails smiling
Nicole as a young girl.

The one who got bullied, teased and stared at because she walked like a “freak.”

The one other kids didn’t want to pick to be on their sports teams.

The one who was an easy out in dodgeball.

The one who couldn’t climb the monkey bars on the playground.

The one who had to have a pinch runner because she couldn’t run fast.

The one who dreaded P.E. because she always got teased and couldn’t do what the other kids could do. She had excellent hand-eye coordination and loved sports.

The one who was horrible at hopscotch because she couldn’t hop on one foot.

The one who couldn’t go roller skating with her friends, and if she did, had to stay glued to the wall (or hold onto someone’s hand for dear life) so she wouldn’t fall.

The one who didn’t go to her best friend’s bar mitzvah because she didn’t want to be the girl in a pretty dress who walked funny. But that’s not what she told him.

The one who didn’t get asked to dance at prom by anyone interested in her. Her guy friends danced with her to be nice.

The one who always lagged behind while walking with family and friends, no matter how fast she walked, trying to catch up.

The one who didn’t enjoy going trick-or-treating because of all the walking.

The one who couldn’t ride a two-wheel bike because she “didn’t have the balance.”

The one who got up at 5 every morning so she could walk the two blocks to get to the bus stop (and then transfer to another one) to get to Seattle University. She didn’t like struggling to walk and sometimes run to make it on time, but she didn’t know there was a surgery that could help. She found out about it by accident decades later. She was never late for the bus — or for class.

These are just some of the reasons I’m so passionate about selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery. If I’d known about SDR decades earlier, many of my life’s pivotal moments could have had a different ending.

Now, they do.

This post originally appeared on Bare Your Naked Truth.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: April 1, 2016
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