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Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month – By Jeffrey VanDyke

Written by Jeffrey Vandyke, Graphics Design Specialist with Disability Network West Michigan

Tomorrow (March 1st) is officially the start of what’s known as Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month, so as a result… I wanted to share a little something beforehand.

Cerebral Palsy, the very nature of the two words used together in a sentence, (medically speaking) say that I am ‘Permanently Disabled’, which at 1st glance brings a certain sadness to those who read those words in correlation with one another. Realistically, the condition itself on the surface doesn’t leave much in the way of hope either, as the mere mention of Cerebral Palsy is grim being that the standard hopes of a ‘normal life’ are almost instantly eradicated and replaced by the fears of how bad will it become? The unnerving wait and see game begins.

Specifically of myself, my life has been a constant battle, I’ve literally been defined as a miracle baby as my life almost ended before it started…. born 3 months early, given 2 hours to live, and 30 something surgeries later, I’m still here!

The physical results? I cannot walk or stand at all, nor is it likely that I ever will be able too* my speech is occasionally slurred, and I have constant pain throughout the day as my body and as I age? The smaller tasks take up far more energy and require much more planning than in years before. As I’m often caught in the mental tug of war of what I want to do as opposed to what my body will allow me to do.
Yet, I do not view my struggle as a curse and I am in fact extremely lucky. Despite all the difficulties I have and what I cannot do, I’ve trained myself to try and focus more on what I can do and the gifts I have been given. The mental capacity to think, speak, and see life for myself, as well as an opportunity to prove that life with a disability or any other struggle for that matter is not a definition of who you are or what you can become.

You are more than your diagnosis or struggle your up against and while no amount of prayer, birthday wishes, nor medical intervention has granted the miracle I asked for… it gave me an entirely different gift. The ability to be grateful, accompanied by a certain strength to be able to not only continue on in my own life in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds, but more importantly, the ability to be a voice of experience, which has allowed me to touch others through my experiences and for that opportunity, I am forever grateful and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
#disabilityawareness #cerebralpalsy #cerebralpalsyawarenessmonth