There was a playground a block away from the rehabilitation centre. Like most kids, our boys couldn’t find their socks in the morning but could spot a park from a mile away. One afternoon when they came to visit, they begged for us to take them. I was hesitant—I thought about letting Ian take them on his own—but I went. I expected to feel left out—what use could I be at a playground?—but I wasn’t prepared for the harsh realization that hit as soon as we arrived.
September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness month and for whatever reason, I’ve been struggling to say anything about it. With dozens of accounts posting about everything SCI from daily realities and accessibility to fertility and equal rights, I have mostly remained silent—struggling to offer a fresh perspective. But to provide some insight into my current frame of mind and resulting hesitancy to share, I’m going to tell you this: I’m feeling privileged. And because of that privilege, I’m questioning the validity of my voice.
Imagine you could re-write your life.
Would you do it?
Would you remove your struggles and omit all of your sadness and pain? Would you remedy every regret—every bad decision? Would you take more chances—different chances—or try harder? Would you sift through your life, altering details and discarding parts of your history onto the cutting room floor until ultimately editing all of the pieces together to create your one perfect story?
Don’t give up now
your best kiss
your hardest laugh
and your greatest day
are still yet to come.
But what if they aren’t? What if everything in my life was better before paralysis? Maybe I had my best kiss, my hardest laugh and my greatest day—all of my best memories—before this injury became a part of who I am. How could I possibly have a best-of-anything-moment now that I have this disability? Everything was better before.
What if I believed all that?
Can you send me a picture of your feet?
Confused? So was I. The first time I got a message like this—yes, there have been multiple—I had no idea why this person wanted to see my feet. But I didn’t like it and, of course, did not oblige. In fact, I blocked them. And I blocked the person after that and the person after that and every person since. While I knew sharing my paralysis journey publicly would leave me open to a higher level of scrutiny, I never once considered it might subject me to a wave of sexual objectification and introduce me to a world where disability is fetished in such a way that it dehumanizes and exploits individuals. And yet…here we are.
I miss the days when I peed on sticks to test for pregnancy instead of bladder infections—a positive result was so much more exciting. When I discovered this latest infection my words to my husband were I really don’t have time for a bladder infection right now. But whether or not I have time for it, it has arrived.
My 12-week transformation challenge is complete and I know what you’re thinking: She’s not skinny yet. I get it. You hear transformation challenge and expect a huge reveal Biggest Loser style. But as I said in my very first post, the main focus of this challenge with True North Strength and Fitness and Westcoast Nutrition wasn’t on the reflection in the mirror. This wasn’t about finding a quick-fix to achieve dramatic results in a short of amount of time in order to garner attention based on unbelievable before-and-after photos. This was about making a start.
May I ask how the wheelchair happened?
Getting this question from strangers still throws me off my game. I wish it didn’t. I wish I could respond with some wild fictional story like I worked in a zoo and a gorilla threw me against a wall, and then watch their curious eyes go wide. When they inevitably say Wow, really? I would smile and just say No, not really, and go on my way. But that is not how I function. I’m the kind of person who thinks of great comebacks in the shower, days after they are relevant. I’m the kind of person who feels like I would offend these curious strangers by not offering a truthful answer when, in reality, they have just invaded a random person’s privacy by asking said person to share the most complicated and traumatic event of their life. I’m the kind of person who recently reacted like this.
Nobody ever knows how they will respond to trauma—whether it happens to you or somebody you love. In the case of my accident, my family all found their own ways to cope. What did I notice? My husband put all of his energy into caring for me. My dad threw himself into renovating our home and my mother-in-law was consumed with taking care of our children. But my father-in-law, he dove head first into research—he needed to fix this.
One of the most common comments I get from people is that my story reminds them to be thankful for the little things—the things that are so easily taken for granted. I would love to say that I’ve learned that lesson for good and always remember to thank my lucky stars for the simple things I am able to do but, alas, I am human. I am eternally thankful that so many of the struggles I faced in the beginning have become ordinary once again. However, as things became easier to do, they also became easier to take for granted.