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What 'Izzy, Willy Nilly' Taught Me About Life With a Disability

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I’m in the second semester of my freshman year of college. I decided to take a disabilities studies in literature course at my university. The book “Izzy, Willy Nilly” taught me I was not the only person with a disability or chronic illness that had certain experiences while in high school.

The novel “Izzy, Willy Nilly” is about a teen girl, Izzy, who loses her leg after riding in a car with a drunk driver. The book is set in the 1980s, so there were no cell phones. It would take a few hours to get her to a hospital, resulting in a fractured leg which became infected and needed to be amputated. Izzy lost her leg during her sophomore year, the same year I went through a massive surgery to have a glioblastoma removed. Although “Izzy” is set in the 1980s, it still relates to disabled youth in the 21st century. “Izzy, Willy Nilly” taught me it was not just me experiencing these things.

1. Friendships will be tested.

Being disabled or having a chronic illness can test your friendships. I lost the majority of my friends during recovery because I was a different person. This idea is depicted in “Izzy, Willy Nilly.” Izzy’s good friends from before would not be her good friends at the end of the book. Her once good friends would stop talking to her and fade away slowly. This also happened to me and my “good friends” from freshman year of high school. But then I would make the best of friends, some with disabilities and others not. All of these friendships were unexpected, just as how Izzy would become friends with a girl from her high school she didn’t ever suspect she would be friends with. I would eventually have the best of friends, who did not mind the disabilities or chronic illness, just as Izzy would find with her new friends.

2. Recovery is hard. The novel depicts how hard recovery can be, from people staring to the re-arranging of a family or just being able to do basic things. “Izzy” depicts how all these little things can affect recovery, and how sometimes “recovery” means adjusting our lives forever due to a disability or chronic illness. However, we are still able to have a life of independence as someone with a disability or chronic illness.

3. People stare.When you have a disability or chronic illness, people will stare. Izzy had to learn and overcome people staring because of her amputated leg. I had trouble with this also. My sophomore year of high school I began the first day with 50 staples, later progressing to having a NJ tube for my Crohn’s and other medical complications.

4. Being treated as normal. I want to be treated as normal. Izzy wanted to be treated as a normal girl, not an “amputee girl.” At the end of the novel, when her friend Tony forgot to grab her crutches for her, which he did at the end of every day, Izzy was elated and had no problem hopping on one leg to get them.

Having someone to relate to is rare for disabled youth. Izzy is important because her story is an accurate description of what disabled youth deal with daily. “Izzy, Willy Nilly” taught me I was not the only disabled youth feeling the way I did.

Getty image by PecaPhoto77.

Originally published: May 9, 2018
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