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Dear 16-Year-Old Me: Your Diagnoses Will Not Define You

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In the next seven years, lots will happen… keep your cool. You can do this.

1. You feel old at 16. You really aren’t old. You’re still a baby really.

2. You can put makeup on if you wish. If any of your “boyfriends” (I use this term loosely) wants you to wear makeup, what is this saying? Don’t do it to please him, I beg of you. If you want to wear makeup, do it. If you don’t, don’t. Also, the makeup phase you went through… you either look like a ghost or an orange, so make sure you get some advice from the drug store assistant in selecting the right shade. Please, respect your skin.

3. Don’t jump into a relationship so quickly. Boys are cool… I get that, but don’t make the mistake of being someone who is just there when he wants you to be…don’t let him use you. Your broken heart will mend. After your relationship ended, you felt heartbroken for a while. Accept the good times that were had and move on… but take heed of point number two.

4. Don’t miss out on family time for the sake of fake relationships and friendships. You only get one family… love them while you can. Your parents love you more than you realize.

5. It’s only at the age of 23 that you’ll begin to realize the importance of self-care — especially when it comes to trying to gain some control over your chronic illnesses and emotions.

6. Your chronic pain will still be with you at age 23… but don’t be sad about it. As a 23-year-old, pain is literally a part of my life as it is of yours at age 16. There’s no point in me lying. You’ll have some horrible times with it that require urgent medical care, but you’ll also have a select few times in which you are as pain-free as you’ll ever get to. You’ll also discover that friends close to you also have your condition or something similar, and they will understand.

7. You’ll still need surgery.

8. Don’t over-exert yourself. I refer back to the point of self-care.

9. The bags under your eyes will remain… sorry. This can’t be helped; blame the medication.

10. You’ll still be in your wheelchair. This is something I know you hoped wouldn’t happen, but it has, so just accept it. At age 22, you’ll get a brand new, beautiful wheelchair that you’ll fall in utter love with. A beautiful black wheelchair with sparkly purple bits (your favorite color!). Look forward to that. It’s amazing.

11. You’ll drive. Those people who said you wouldn’t be able to drive were wrong. Hand controls do exist! You’ll go through two cars and absolutely love both of them. Your hand controls are also pretty funky, and people will also want to know how you drive — show them.

12. You’ll make some amazing friends and rekindle old friendships. You know those friends you thought you wouldn’t chat with again because they’re too busy getting on with their own lives too? Well, you’re wrong. They’ll soon become the greatest of friends to you and you of them. You’ll never know such love for friends as you do with them.

13. Please don’t give up on your sporting opportunities. You’ll sincerely regret this as an adult. Even though you’ll eventually go back to wheelchair basketball, if you had stuck if through then, you could have traveled the world and made your career out of it.

The author at a party smiling, wearing black top with silver glitter

14. Be honest. You’ve always been honest but as an adult, this is of even more importance.

15. Stop worrying about other people while forgetting about yourself. That friend who just decided to up and leave? That wasn’t your fault… it can be a part of growing up.

16. You’ll experience some absolutely terrible and life-changing situations you would never have imagined possible. Your viewpoint of life and the people around you will evidently change, and your life won’t ever be the same again. You’ll fall into a horribly dark place, but you’ll be lifted out. You’ll grow up and mature as a result of it. Don’t worry… you’ll get through it. Take all the help you get; don’t be stubborn.

17. Your cancer, your wheelchair, your anxiety and your chronic illnesses will not define you — they are just an additional part of you.

18. Your morals, values, wants and needs will change. Accept it… don’t challenge it.

19. Your wheelchair basketball club will become like your second home. Value the people in it, because they’re amazing.

20. You’ll have two jobs, and oh, did I mention you’ll go to university? You won’t move out, but you’ll be at university! Three years of university will go very fast. (I didn’t believe anyone who said that either.)

21. Did I also mention that you’d be set to becoming a teacher in September 2017, but for a number of different reasons, it didn’t happen this year? Don’t worry. Your friends and family will always support you and actually, after discussing it in some depth, you’ll realize you made the right decision.

22. Be open with the health professionals. Whatever you say is nothing they’ve not heard before. Leave your dignity at the door.

23. Trust yourself and your instincts. You are right — trust me.

24. Don’t let certain people control you. You are your own person.

25. Scared of doing something? Take that leap of faith.

These are only some of the things that will happen, but take each day as it comes and don’t expect too much from yourself. You’re doing great at this “adulting” business (even if I do say so myself).

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Originally published: March 2, 2017
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