The Cruelty of Surprises

The cruel thing about surprises is,

you can’t prepare for them.

There was no chance to

utilize my

full abilities

one last time

before they were



I used to do

cartwheels, round-offs, handstands,

walking on my hands


I scaled climbing walls,

bounced on the trampoline,

hung from monkey bars,

jumped rope—

challenging myself to

whip the rope quickly enough

that I could get it around


three times,

in one jump.


I rode my bike

to school nearly every day,

loving that flying feeling

as I soared down hills,

feet momentarily freed

until I slammed them back on the pedals,

feeling the burn in my thighs,

my movements quick to keep up

with the speed my bike had caught.


I don’t remember the last time

I did any of those things,

because the last times

were in no way


They were not


because I had no way of knowing

that they were Lasts.


Cruel surprise #1:

I woke up one morning like any other,

not knowing that 

the small sharpness in the side of my neck

would soon grow

into a fervent, fiery ache,

lying far deeper than anyone could see,

engulfing my neck,




Cruel surprise #2:

my hands weakening.

Then my arms,

my abdomen,

my legs.

Being unable to buckle my seatbelt

for the car ride to the hospital.

Feeling the doctor’s cold hands in mine,

but making my own fingers move

with my mind

proved to be as useless as making his fingers move

with my mind.


Cruel surprise #3:

there was no cure,

just treatments full of “maybes,”

despite my innocent certainty

that thirteen-year-olds couldn’t become disabled forever.


But my life isn’t some series of misfortune,

though this was, objectively, an unfortunate experience.

As it turns out,

cruel surprises 

bring unexpected beauty.


There was a beauty in regaining function,

even the seemingly smallest of tasks

being celebratory


wiggling a finger,

pressing a button on the TV remote,

standing unaided,

dressing myself,

washing my own hair.

Despite never fully recovering,

the joy of movement and

increasing independence

was unparalleled.


There was a beauty in uncovering

who I was beyond physical ability

and in discovering that I could 


that Disabled

was not a


There was an unmatched empowerment

in the realization that I could still

largely live the life I wanted,

permanent physical disability

and all.


There was also a beauty in experiences

that would never have occurred,

friends I would never have met,

strengths I wouldn’t have known I possessed,

had it not been for Transverse Myelitis.


The cruelty of surprises,

it turns out,

is the complexity,

because sometimes,

they are not exclusively



Maybe the most harrowing surprise

of all

is how you can


so desperately wish something

never happened


be so grateful

that it did.

All, Chronic Illness, Disability, My Favorites, Personal Experiences, Transverse Myelitis

Rare Disease Day

I first wrote a similar post for Rare Disease Day two years ago, but this year, I took that one and made some changes!

Learn more about Transverse Myelitis and Crohn’s Disease (though this post is mainly about TM since it’s far rarer, Crohn’s also deserves awareness!)
Today, February 28th, is worldwide Rare Disease Day. I am hoping to raise awareness for not only my own disorders, but for all rare diseases as a whole!

In your life, you may have met someone with a rare disease. You’ve probably seen it at some point. And you’ve definitely heard of it. Maybe you heard it on the news, or read about it, or heard about your aunt’s best friend’s cousin’s uncle’s friend’s son who has one. Whatever the case may be, I can guarantee you’ve come across a rare disease at some point in your life.

When you hear about this kid with an impossible-to-pronounce illness on the news, you may feel bad. You may feel bad for a second, but you don’t give it that much thought. When you hear about a rare disease, it seems far away. It’s rare and it affects OTHER people. It affects people across the country, people you don’t really know. None of these rare diseases can affect YOUR life, right?



But, unfortunately, it can.


You see, I, like so many other people in this world, was once in the same boat. I remember hearing about these things happening to people, but it never connected. It wasn’t something I ever had to worry about.

But your life can change in a second. I was paralyzed within less than twelve hours, affected neck-down. I woke up on August 16th, 2011 with a small pain in my neck but didn’t think much of it. By that evening, I couldn’t walk, sit up, or move my arms. I was in pain. And there was no cure at all; the only treaments I’ve had in an attempt to lessen the lasting damage have been IV prednisone, plasmapheresis, and physical therapy, plus daily medications to control chronic symptoms.


I’d been able-bodied for the first thirteen years of my life but suddenly, at thirteen years old, my life was changed forever. I now had to deal with paralysis, weakness, chronic neuropathic pain, chronic fatigue, spasticity… Everything was turned upside-down in just a few hours.

I had never heard of Transverse Myelitis before then. No one I knew had, either. We had never heard of it because it’s so rare; even most doctors rarely seem to know what it is or much about it.

holiday traditions
Sarah Todd and I with our books, which we wrote to raise awareness


I don’t share this for pity. I don’t want that at all! And I think I speak for most of us with rare diseases when I say that. All we really want is understanding. Awareness. We’re not just people across the country or the world. We’re not just people you hear about on TV. We’re very, very real. Our lives are real. Our struggles are real. We shouldn’t be people you feel bad for temporarily, but then forget about two seconds later. We deserve more appreciation, more awareness, more attention than we get. Rare diseases aren’t something you can just turn your back on. They’re not something you can just brush off. You may not think they could impact your life, but trust me. They very well could.

Transverse Myelitis itself only affects approximately 1 in 1,400 people in the US a year, but approximately 1 in 10 Americans has a rare disease, and for many of us, there aren’t many (if any) viable treatment options.


Transverse Myelitis Walk; most of us here have a rare neuroimmune disorder


Please help us raise awareness for rare diseases such as Transverse Myelitis (and for similar disorders such as Acute Flaccid Myelitis, which is what Sarah Todd has!) today, for Rare Disease Day 2018!

You can visit to learn more about rare diseases in general, and to learn more about Transverse Myelitis (and other rare neuroimmune disorders such as AFM, NMO, ADEM, etc.)

(Also check out The Transverse Myelitis Association and Rare Disease Day Facebook pages!)


All, Chronic Illness, Disability, Insecurities, My Favorites, Personal Experiences, Transverse Myelitis

“What Happened to You?”

Update: This post has also been featured on The Mighty! Check it out here.

I’m just browsing the bakery section of the grocery store with my friend, Sarah Todd, one dayas people tend to do when they are searching for dinner items but get distracted by their sweet-teethwhen we hear someone approach us from behind.

We turn around to see a lady, one who works at the bakery, staring at me and smiling. When I give her a confused smile back, she opens her mouth to say something, and I brace myself for the inevitable.

“What’d you do to your leg?” she questions, pointing to the purple AFO on my left foot. I shift in my seat awkwardly, not particularly interested in explaining the story behind my disability to this stranger at the present moment. Right now, all I want to do is continue shopping, like everyone else in this grocery store.

“It’s a long story,” I politely tell her, already turning to leave the area. Maybe we can head to the candy aisle instead…

“Is it a funny story?”

I turn right back around and stare at the lady, blind-sided by this follow-up question. Her cheery expression seems to falter for a millisecond, as if she’s rethinking the words that just came out of her mouth. But still, she looks at me expectantly, waiting for my response.

Not unless you happen to find Transverse Myelitis funny. Though, we all have different senses of humor, I suppose…

“Um… N-no, not really…” I finally stutter.

Somehow, this still doesn’t satisfy her curiosity.

“Well, then, what happened?”

I want to tell the lady that it’s none of her business. I want to ask her why she feels so entitled to know my full storya story which is very personal, an experience that was emotionally traumatic and life-alteringwhen she likely won’t ever see me again. I want to ask her extensive questions about her medical history as well, to show her how invasive it feels.

But I don’t. I don’t do any of that. I just briefly explain Transverse Myelitis, that it damaged my spinal cord. I tell her that the AFO’s purpose is to correct my foot drop. Luckily, this answer finally seems to satisfy her, and at that, Sarah Todd and I promptly leave the bakery section of the store.

But, as we’re walking/rolling away, Sarah Todd turns to me and, not quieting her voice in the slightest, exclaims, “That was absolutely none of her business. I can’t believe how rude she was being.”

I smile at that. Seeing as she has Transverse Myelitis and is disabled as well, I know she gets it. On the bright side, at least I have friends who are also able to recognize the ignorance of too many able-bodied people.

And also, she’s so, so right. It wasn’t any of the lady’s business, and really, I had every right to tell her off. I shouldn’t have to bypass my own comfort to appease a complete stranger.

But this is a problem that us disabled people face daily. We are asked invasive questions every time we go out, while most people probably wouldn’t even begin to consider asking able-bodied strangers things like that, or even approaching them in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong I love raising awareness for my disorder, and any of my friends could tell you that I’m pretty open about those things. I actually encourage friends, family members, classmates, people I’m getting to know, etc. to ask questions about my disability and chronic illnesses. I want them to understand, and I’d prefer that new friends just ask rather than let it be the “elephant in the room” for too long, because that just gets awkward for everyone involved.

However, there is a time and place for those conversations. When we’re already talking to each other, getting to know each other in a friend-meeting setting? Sure, that’s a great time to bring it up, and I don’t mind at all if you do so. But when I’m just minding my own business, trying to shop like everyone else in the store or waiting for my drink like everyone else in line at Starbucks… In those cases, it is, quite frankly, absolutely none of your business.


What is it about the sight of a wheelchair or crutches or leg braces or hand splints that makes it suddenly okay to approach a random stranger and pry into their personal life?

Say you’re at the beach and notice as you pass by a random girl that she has a scar near her abdomen. Would you go up to them and ask if it came from an appendectomy?

Chances are, probably not. If you got to know her, you might find out about the scar’s origin eventually, but it’d be rude to go up to her as a stranger and ask like that. So why is it any different when it comes to us?


(Oh, and pro tip: It’s maybe not the best idea to say things like “is it because your boyfriend beat you?” as a way of asking what happened… And yes, I’ve actually gotten that. That’s just… Not okay? Like, ever? What?)



Bulldog Forever


My little brother and sister giving me a goodbye hug on move-in day.


Truman State University.

I spent one year there. And it was a really, really rough year… Especially second semester.

First semester started off great. But I really missed my family and hated how it took an entire day to journey home and back. Plus, I didn’t have many friends (I’m not sure if it’s me, or Truman, or a combination, but I found it really hard to connect with people), and the one great, true friend who I saw daily was leaving.

Me with Aspen, one of my closest friends who I met at Truman


As for the spring semester? Well, I spent most of it sitting in my dorm room alone, feeling trapped and lonely, missing my family and friends and regretting going back. I often felt like I couldn’t breathe, suffocated by loneliness and tedious repetition.

And, as if that wasn’t hard enough, I was in terrible shape physically. The “spring” semester is always tough for me in general, because my body hates the winter (and we all know that, in the Midwest, winter goes from December to April), but this year was even worse than most. I was so fatigued, I could barely function. My nerve pain, tremors, migraines, and muscle spasms were all gradually increasing as the semester went on, as well… and so was my weakness, specifically in my left hand.

But, despite all of this, my heart hurts right now when I realize that my Truman State University adventure is all over. And it ended way too abruptly.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to the beautiful campus or my amazing, homy dorm room. The last time I saw my room, I had no idea it was going to be the last time. I didn’t get a chance to soak it all in and relive the many memories that happened in that room. I didn’t get a memorable last dining hall dinner or c-store run. I didn’t get to go on one last stroll around campus, taking in the togetherness and family-feel of the quad on warm, sunny days. The last time I sat in my Spanish class (a class I adored and looked forward to every day), I didn’t know was the last time. Actually, I don’t even remember the last day of any of my classes… That’s how routine and un-memorable they were. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends, nor the acquaintances who I only ever talked to during class but still loved. There were things I had planned, things I wanted to do with my friends before the semester ended, that I never got to do because it ended for me before I was ready.

My friend, Micah, and I at a formal in the spring


See, despite the fact that I was sometimes pretty miserable there… There were still things I enjoyed, and I wasn’t yet ready for them to end. For one, I enjoyed my Spanish class. I enjoyed how much I learned, the class discussions/debates we had, the freedom my professor gave us over our essays, the fact that I was gradually becoming a little more confident in speaking. Secondly, I loved my dorm room. I loved everything about it (besides the flooding, dripping ceiling, and broken heater, of course…). I also enjoyed taking “walks” around campus when the weather was warm, amongst so much more.


My awesome dorm room


And by the end of the semester, I was finally realizing all of this. It finally hit me, as I was going on a walk one beautiful, warm, sunny day that I was actually maybe a little bit happy, and I could, in fact, make it to the end, after all. The overwhelming anxiety and stress that I’d been feeling most of the semester had improved considerably, and I had a newfound surge of energy and motivation as the end neared. I clearly remember looking at the sidewalk that day after passing the quad, where many of my peers were playing with puppies on the feel. I looked at the sidewalk and admired how the sun made it glitter and shine. It’s such a small thing, but it’s pretty, and it made me smile. I also smiled thinking about how I loved that, at 10 in the morning, half the school was out on the quad, soaking up the sun and taking advantage of that beautiful spring day. It was, in that moment, that I realized how much I loved my school and the people in it. It’s too far from my family and my doctors so it’s not the right fit for me, but still, it’s an incredible school, nonetheless.

So, Truman State University— thank you. Thank you for countless memories, experiences, and life lesions… Both good and bad. And thank you for a memorable freshman year. I don’t regret a minute of it, and I’ll forever be a Bulldog at heart.


My little siblings and I in front of my residence hall on move-in day

Selfie with my friends first semester


Micah and I on the Day of Acceptance


All, Chronic Illness, Disability, Friendship, Insecurities, My Favorites, Personal Experiences, Transverse Myelitis

Rolling Past Insecurities

Photo Credit: Danielle in Chicago for Flytographer

Update: This post was also featured on The Mighty! Check it out here.

​Before I got my current wheelchair, I had to rely on other people to push me around, since my arm weakness made it very difficult to push a manual chair on my own. So, naturally, I was very excited for it, because I knew how much comfort and independence it’d give me, seeing as the joystick attachment allowed me to operate it by myself all the time.

When I first sat in it and drove it around a bit, it immediately felt like MY chair, which was an amazing feeling.

But that excitement, that pride in my fancy mobility aid eventually faded, and when I got to college, it actually began to disgust me. I felt self-conscious and embarrassed every time I journeyed from my dorm to class or every time I moved with food on my lap in the dining hall, especially if I was alone (which was most of the time). You’d think that the stares, dumb comments, and condescending smiles would become less bothersome as time went on because you’d get used to it, but for me, it was the opposite. After a while, those things just got so old and infuriating and really, really got to me and, at some point, I couldn’t stand it; the able-bodied college students surrounding me made me feel like such an outcast. I felt more “different” than ever before in my life, and that made me feel so incredibly insecure about my disability. I quickly became obsessed with *really* walking again (as in, not just the short distances I can already do), and I was frustrated when those attempts failed. I thought I needed to walk “normally,” because it felt like that stupid chair was suffocating me more and more every second I spent sitting in it.

Photo Credit: Danielle in Chicago for Flytographer

But look at these pictures. I took these pictures with one of my best friends, Sarah Todd, who’s like a little sister to me and also happens to have my same condition: Transverse Myelitis. These pictures were captured during a photo-shoot in the city, and though I initially wanted for my chair to be absent from every picture, I’m glad that that didn’t end up being the case, because…. Looking at these pictures, I don’t see a dumb piece of junk that I’m chained to, a burden that doesn’t like to fit in people’s cars and draws the attention of every passerby. No, instead, it’s utilized in a nice way. It’s PART of the pictures, a part that actually made them better and even more adorable than I could ever have imagined.

Walking is overrated. Yes, people stare and are generally super annoying and ignorant. Yes, that chair can be horribly inconvenient at times. But it’s a part of me. Though I’d LOVE to recover more, I now realize that walking (…and running…) isn’t the end-all-be-all.

So thank you, ST, for suggesting these amazing, adorable poses. And thank you to our photographer, for not being scared to make sure that we utilized that chair. Thank you for incorporating it as a fun, important prop that belongs in the picture, rather than just simply an obstacle to be ignored and avoided. I needed that reminder.


(Photo Credit: Danielle in Chicago for Flytographer)

All, Chronic Illness, Disability, Insecurities, My Favorites, Personal Experiences, School/Career, Transverse Myelitis

Fighting a World Not Built For Me

Update: This post has also been featured on The Mighty! Check it out here!


Everyone who meets me likely suspects that I have a disability, unless they think that I use an insanely expensive, custom wheelchair for fun. That plus my chronic illnesses have impacted my life a lot.

Some of that impact has been positive. I mean, I’ve befriended a lot of awesome, fellow disabled and/or chronically ill people who I’d hate to have to live without. And I suppose there’s the whole “I’ve learned to appreciate things” thing, and many of my current hobbies may not be in my life without it, etc etc. But that’s not quite what this post is about.

It’s hard to deny that my GPA and AP exam scores could’ve been much higher without Transverse Myelitis, and I could’ve participated in so many more extracurriculars. Where would I be in my running career if I were still able-bodied? Plus, I’ve dropped more classes than I care to admit during the last 5 years because, between hospitalizations and long flares causing me to miss weeks of school at a time, it can be incredibly difficult to keep up sometimes. I’ve tried my best and so far, for the most part, I haven’t been unsuccessful. But it hasn’t been easy, and I feel like I’ve barely done anything other than school; after sophomore year, my only extracurricular was choir, and I never got a job in high school. I rarely even hung out with friends during the week, because I needed a 2-hour nap after school every day in order to have just barely enough energy for homework. Meanwhile, so many people are able to do it all, and as a result, I feel so inadequate. I feel like they’ve surpassed me in every way because, for everything I accomplish, my [incredibly smart, gorgeous, and driven] friends have achieved that plus 10 other amazing things.

And that was just high school. If my freshman year of college taught me anything, it’s that life just keeps getting more and more difficult as time goes on which is, admittedly, the exact opposite of what I hoped for. I’m still only 19, so I know that I can’t speak for all stages of life, but I can express my experiences and thoughts and fears.

See, right now, I’ve been thinking, and I realized just how scared I am for the future. There are many reasons for this–some most human beings can relate to–but at this moment, the most prominent is my fear that I won’t ever get a good job. I just so desperately want to be a Physician Assistant but, realistically, will I be able to get that job? Or will all of that schooling (assuming I make it, which will be a battle in and of itself) be for nothing?

You might think that this is an irrational fear, especially if you know me well and therefore actually see me as an intelligent, “normal” human being. But as dramatic and negative as I can be sometimes, I know that this one is valid, and I’m not the only disabled person who worries about it. I’m afraid that employers will take one look at the wheelchair (and/or crutches) and sucky, demented hands and decide that I’m not competent. And it’s true that, technically, I probably can’t physically bring as much to the position as my able-bodied counterparts. But I’m smart, and I’m determined, and I am able to adapt. I mean, just ask my mom– At 13 years old, newly paralyzed, with no hand function, no right arm function, and very, very little left arm function, I was stubbornly determined to learn how to feed myself. In 8th grade, I shakily scribbled most of my own notes with my weak, non-dominant hand, refusing to rely on the assigned note-taker next to me. At 14, after doctors had told me that I’d never walk again, I ran and quickly became the fastest freshman girl on the cross country team. At 15, sick of relying on other people, I figured out a way to tie normal shoe laces by myself.

I’m not saying that I’m super amazing or anything; I’m just saying that I know how to adapt and I know what I’m capable of. I’m not in any way scared that I won’t be physically able to be a PA… I’m just afraid that other people will think so, because they don’t know me at all. Instead, all they’ll see are my physical limitations (which just seem to be getting worse and worse), and I’m afraid that my able-bodied competitor will be chosen over me every time, despite the fact that it’s technically illegal to discriminate in that way.

And even if I manage to get a job… Well, the fears don’t stop there.

One of my professors is giving me a D for this past semester because I missed the last three weeks of school due to being sick and in the hospital, and he thought that I had too much makeup work to be granted an incomplete and finish over the summer. This is sucky, but overall not really that big a deal. However, what if next time, instead of a low-level course that I technically don’t need for my degree and can easily retake, it’s a job? What if I’m eventually fired because of things I can’t control, because I’m “sick” more than most people? I mean, I can try my best to not require hospitalization and work through days when my pain and fatigue flare so much that I can barely lift my head off the pillow, but I already tried that this year and, well, you all saw how that worked out for me.

Trust me, this isn’t me trying to throw a pity party or look for the worst-case scenario. I know that many people all over the world have to suffer through far worse problems than this. And normally, when it comes to my abilities, I don’t say I “can’t” do things (besides, like, run. Or jump. Or do a chin-up.), because I just hate feeling weak and especially hate when people pity me. But these fears are just becoming increasingly real as I get older–especially as my body fails me more and more–and I hate that I have to be afraid that other people’s ableism could possibly inhibit me from following my dreams.

I wish that more people saw me for who I am. I don’t see myself as particularly “strong” or “inspirational.” I mean, I am disabled. I am chronically ill. I definitely won’t deny that, as those things are a huge part of me. But I’m also just a 19 year old girl who loves singing, writing, and swimming. I am a college student who is fascinated by the human body and modern medicine. I am a daughter and sister who loves and values her family more than anything else in the world. I am sensitive, empathetic, “too” kind, creative, hard-working, stubborn, independent, determined.

Yes, my disability is a part of me, but it isn’t the only part of me. I just hope that the people I meet–employers, bosses, colleagues, society–will eventually realize this, because I’m just so, so sick of fighting against a world that’s not built for me.


[Side-note: Someone should seriously put on a production of Les Mis featuring disabled people so I can be Eponine… Not that that’s a huge, unrealistic dream of mine or anything….. Haha. Ha.]

All, Chronic Illness, Disability, Personal Experiences, Transverse Myelitis



See my feet? They look pretty normal, right?

Well, you can’t tell, but they are on fire. They burn so badly, I can’t sleep. It’s midnight, and I have a 9am class, but I’ve been lying awake for an hour because my feet burn.
Then, when I splashed cold water on them in an attempt to relieve the burning… they started feeling like what I can only describe as a mixture of itchiness and rug-burn. So now my feet are also suffering through that sensation, in addition to the initial fire-like burning.

This is only a small, small part of the reality of living with Transverse Myelitis. You wouldn’t know any of this by looking at me. If you glanced at me feet, you’d just see… Feet. Completely normal-looking feet. You may notice a toe spasm here and there, but overall, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with them. You could say that I’m lying or exaggerating. I mean, after all, there is no way for me to prove otherwise. I can’t put you inside my body for a moment to feel the burning for yourself (oh, how I wish that were possible).

So, I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it. These normal-looking feet give me problems every single day; I’m constantly having to deal with different unpleasant sensations and pains.
And that’s just one small part of me. My entire body is constantly ridden with different sensations such as stabbing pain, burning, “electric shocks,” pins and needles, phantom itches, numbness, achiness, etc.

Trust me, it sucks. I’ve been dealing with this stuff for over 5 years now, and it’s only gotten worse rather than better. But I’m dealing with it. I know I can handle it. But sometimes, when my burning feet are keeping me awake late at night, all I want is for it to go away just for one night so, for once, I can actually sleep peacefully.

All, Chronic Illness, Disability, Insecurities, Personal Experiences, Running, Transverse Myelitis

Replacing Running

Trying out a track chair in 2015

It was late winter or early spring of 2015. My family brought me to some place where the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association (GLASA) was going to discuss adaptive sports with me… Such as wheelchair track.

They brought out a bunch of racing chairs and had me try one out. With assistance, I got in it, and in this first chair, I sat on a little seat with my legs out in front of me. A pair of thick, black glove-like things—which loosely resembled a pair of small boxing gloves—were taken out, and they helped me slip them on my hands before instructing me to lean forward and showing me how to push the chair. I found this first chair uncomfortable and awkward; it was difficult to lean forwards and push when I was in that seated position, and the pain in my legs and back immediately increased, so they helped me switch to a different type of racing chair. This one was red and yellow in color, and it was designed so that my legs were folded underneath me instead of being in front of me.

I immediately liked this design better; it felt significantly more comfortable. One of the GLASA coaches then brought me into the hallways and helped me practice pushing the chair.

When I gave it a push, it glided across the linoleum, and I was delighted.

“I like this!” I exclaimed to the lady and my mom. The speed was fun and exciting, and the concept was new and intriguing.

Maybe my situation doesn’t suck so much, after all, I thought.

Running in 7th grade, before TM

​Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long. The thing is, I had way too many expectations going into it. I was trying to replace running. I pushed the thought of running, the grief of losing it, way back in my mind and covered it up with the thought of wheelchair racing. I continuously told myself that it was close enough, that I enjoyed it and it was good enough, and maybe I would grow to be just as enamored with wheelchair racing as I was with running.But I was wrong. I was lying to myself. I went to practices a few times a week and I competed in a few meets. I got a few medals at some of the high school meets, but I despised them because I knew they were pity medals…. I was always either in last place or the only one racing. I made it to state, too, but again, it didn’t feel like a real accomplishment considering the top 2 in each race got to go, and I was always either racing against myself or one other girl.The GLASA meets and practices were definitely better than the high school ones. Practices were significantly less repetitive and it was nice to practice with and race against a lot of other people. I even did a relay at regionals, and though my group ultimately got disqualified since we weren’t completely sure of how it worked, it was a great experience, nonetheless.

At regionals, I made it to NJDC (the National Junior Disability Championships), and though I didn’t end up being able to attend, that did feel like a real accomplishment, unlike making it to State or “winning” those pity medals.

Wheelchair track brought some amazing memories, and I don’t regret trying it. But I dreaded going to practices and meets. My arms hurt after pushing for just a few minutes, and not in the good, muscle soreness way that I actually kind of love. No, it was my nerve pain. It flared up and every push was incredibly painful, and that, in addition to increasing my fatigue, left me basically bed-bound for at least a day after each practice or meet.

And, more importantly, I wasn’t “good” at it. At all. Of all of the people I raced against, I was the only one with significant weakness and partial paralysis in my arms (from what I could tell, anyway). I was almost always in last place out of those I raced against. But I was also always told that I was technically in first place, only because I never raced against anybody with the same classification.

See, when it came to wheelchair track, I was just terrible. I didn’t really “fit in” with the other racers because I was terrible. Maybe that would’ve been different, had I gone to NJDC, because maybe there would’ve been other people in my class. Maybe I would’ve built up more strength and gotten better eventually. But I’ll never know that, and ultimately, I felt defeated. Ultimately, I just ended up missing running more than ever. I was watching my Cross Country and Track friends improving more and more, experiencing things that I’d dreamed of as a freshman and sophomore. They were surpassing me; I was left behind in the dust kicked up by their spikes, watching their legs take them further and further away from me. I was in last place, both physically and metaphorically.


I didn’t discover my love for running until 6th grade, and then I got 2 wonderful years of track, 5k races, and cross country before it was snatched away from me. So I took it back, and I got almost 3 more years of it… but then it was taken away again. A second time. And I just so desperately wanted for things to be okay. I wanted to be able to embrace the wheelchair and crutches, to become an amazing wheelchair racer. I wanted to be able to be okay with not running, because it’s too annoyingly pitiful to not be. I wanted my life to be a story of hope and perseverance rather than one that’s just… Sad. Dramatic. Real.It’s easier for everyone to pretend that this type of thing is okay. It’s easier for everyone to pretend that the thing you love most can be easily replaced if you have to lose it. Sometimes, I feel like it’s easier for able-bodied people to see our newfound happiness, to believe that we’re always “strong,” happy, and grateful, that we never grieve the things we lost because there’s nothing to grieve.

​Maybe I should be able to just persevere and learn to be completely happy with these newly discovered sports. Maybe I should be one of those people who greatly succeeds in an adaptive sport and is grateful that TM ruined my arms and legs, because it allowed me to discover that new sport. But, the truth is? This really isn’t the case (so far, anyway). It kind of sucks sometimes. And I know I’m not alone in that. My life isn’t some inspirational movie or book; it’s just life. It’s filled with hard stuff, much life everyone else’s life, and I do grieve running (and other things) all the time.


Running with my little sister summer 2013

Cross Country meet fall 2013

But that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy other things. As far as sports go, I can swim. Thanks to GLASA, I’ve discovered swimming, and I’ve found that I love it– far more than wheelchair track. I try not to compare it to running, because there’s really no comparison. Swimming is its own, separate thing, and I’ve found that it’s more enjoyable when I treat it that way. It’s not running. Not at all. It hasn’t replaced running as “my” sport; instead, it’s simply an addition. My heart is big enough for the two of them (that sentence was painfully cliché, but you know what I mean).The thing is, in general I actually am okay with everything that has happened to me. I’ve said before that I’m grateful that TM has had a huge impact on who I am and has given me so many friends, hobbies, etc. that I may not have otherwise had. I wasn’t lying about that; I still believe that that’s true. I just know that, no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to replace running, and therefore, it’ll forever be something I desperately miss. And that’s okay.

All, Friendship, Insecurities, Personal Experiences

Sticks and Stones…

“She’s so weird…”

I was 9 years old and at my best friend’s birthday party. I was having a great time until a girl I hardly knew leaned over and whispered those words to my friend. She was talking about me.

One would think that I’d be over it 10 years later. I’m well aware that I should be, and I’ve tried hard to forget that moment, but I can’t. It dug deep. That little girl took a knife and stabbed me, etching those words deep into my skin where they would remain forever. It hurt then, and it hurts now. Sure, the pain has faded greatly; the wound has been reduced to a scar. But it still stings a little when I look back on it, and I have a feeling that this will remain the case for the rest of my life.

After that party, I became more self-conscious about my actions and personality. Those words prompted me to begin to analyze everything I did or said. It likely contributed to my frequent self-loathing and why, deep-down, I’m always paranoid that everyone thinks that I’m too weird or annoying or awkward or just overall unlikable.

“You’re such a whiner crybaby!”

“You’re suffocating me.”

“You’re so annoying.”

“You’re a terrible friend.”

“You’ve never done anything for me.”

“Nobody ever wants to talk to you.”

“You act so fake.”

If the words that hurt most left physical wounds, those are just a few phrases that would appear on my skin. All of those, and many others, have cut deep into my self-esteem, causing me to try hard to alter my actions and change my entire personality. And not in a good way. We all can use constructive criticism and we all can improve ourselves because, of course, nobody is even close to perfect. But these things, most of which were said to me by friends, are not constructive criticism. The snippets may not seem like it, but I know that within the context of the situations, they were harsh and unnecessary. All of those words have taken away more and more pieces of me, making it harder and harder to recognize my good characteristics. Now, I constantly worry about what others think of me. Now, I try hard to please everyone. I try hard to be 100% likable. But, of course, I have failed. It’s impossible to make everyone like you and, unfortunately, I think I crack most when I’m with the people I love, because making strangers and acquaintances like me is a near-impossible task that is draining and entirely too much pressure.



I know, I know: “Sticks and stones may break my bones….”

Am I just overly sensitive? I don’t know. It’s entirely possible. But also, as much as we pretend that words don’t hurt and that we’re unaffected by things that people say, that’s just not true. I know that I am not the only person with deep, permanent emotional scars. I know that I am not the only person who has, on occasion, been reduced to emptiness because I so desperately wish that I could be someone else, someone who wasn’t weird, fake, and a crybaby. I know that I am not the only person who constantly over-analyzes every single interaction I have with other people.

To the people who said all of those things, they probably seemed small. In some cases, hurting me was not the intention, and many of those people likely don’t even remember saying it. I won’t pretend that I haven’t said hurtful things, myself; as much as it pains me to think about it, I’m sure that I’ve unintentionally caused scars in other people, too.

But the point is, we can’t just decide what does and doesn’t hurt other people. Words can make someone stop smiling or laughing because someone has told them that the way they express their joy is weird. Words can cause someone to stop doing their favorite hobby or activity, for fear of others’ judgment. Words can—and do—change a person’s entire life.

Personal Experiences


You know those old Christmas lights? When one bulb in the string of lights burns out, the rest of them stop lighting up as well. One would have to search through the entire string of lights just to find the dead one. When that one is replaced, the rest would shine once again…. But oftentimes, it isn’t quite the same. If the lights were colored, the old, red one might be replaced by a blue one, disrupting the entire pattern. And even if it’s not that drastically different, more often than not, the new light sticks out, even if it’s subtle; the color may be a slightly different shade than the others, or the bulb may shine brighter or duller than its friends.

You see, life is similar in that way. Most things are not entirely replaceable. And oftentimes it is way more heartbreaking than a broken Christmas light.

A fifteen year old girl can die suddenly. The world keeps spinning and the vast, vast majority of people on Earth continue with their lives, oblivious to the devastation happening in the relatively small string of people whose lives were touched by the young girl. But to them, especially the ones closest to her, it can feel like an earthquake. A hurricane. A tsunami. To them, it is Earth-shattering and life-changing. To them? Well, their lives may never be the exact same again, because when that little girl left this world, she took a piece of the heart of everyone who cared about her… Some pieces bigger than others. And in her place is a dark spot, one that makes everyone in her orbit feel like they can no longer light up, either.