Cerebral Palsy

The Thing About CP

For those of you who don’t know, cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects movement and posture. For some, effects can be severe, but for others, it’s more mild. I’m blessed to be on the more mild end of the spectrum; for me, it affects the way I get around. I’ve used a walker and worn calf-high braces since I was little, and weekly physical therapy is routine.

I try to have the perspective that my disability is a way for me to inspire others and impact lives; it’s a platform the Lord has given me to spread His Light and Love. While that is the way I look at it, there are days when I lose perspective and end up crying, because the frustration has become too much. Like when I see my dad get ready to run, and wish I could go with him but can’t. Or when I wake up, and taking a step sends throbbing pain through my feet. Or on the days when I’m so tight, I feel like I can barely move.

But here’s the thing about CP. It is an it. It’s a thing; it’s not me. It doesn’t define me or who I am, and it may affect the way I get around, but it will not affect the way I live my life. I want to be known for lighting up a room; I want to be the reason someone’s day is brighter. I want to inspire others and make an impact, and be known for that. Not my disability.

So here’s the thing: I may have cerebral palsy, but cerebral palsy does not have me.

Advertisements
thoughts

The Gift of Friendship

Mama at Mama’s Empty Nest nominated me for the 3 Day 3 Quotes challenge (thank you!!!) where I share quotes I’m inspired by three days in a row. The rules are:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.

2. Post a quote for three consecutive days (one quote for each day).

3. Nominate three bloggers each day.

I nominate Following Him Beside Still Waters and anyone else who wants to participate!

My quote for today is:

Friendship is a gift, and every time I talk to you I feel as if I’m getting richer and richer.”

-Unknown

On the first day of my second semester of high school, I walked into a class where I didn’t know anyone. I was one of two freshmen in the room, and when I scanned the room, I caught sight of a senior I’d seen around campus. He’d always seemed like a nice guy, and I knew two things about him: he played baseball and he was an Alabama fan. So, naturally, I asked him about Alabama football. He answered my question, and then asked if I was an Alabama fan, too.

My response? “Heck, no. I’m a Florida fan all the way.”

His face was priceless. I’m not sure what answer he’d been expecting, but what I said wasn’t it. I’d surprised him, and then he returned the favor the next day, when I walked in to class and found him sitting in the desk next to mine.

His reason for moving seats probably had nothing to do with me, but I’ll always be glad he did. Over the course of that semester he became a friend I can always count on, and someone I know will always be there for me. He never minded helping me, and we got through the class together, an AP course that was difficult for almost everyone. I still remember what he said when I made a comment about my walker one day.

“I don’t care about that,” he said. “I don’t care about that at all.”

And he didn’t. I could tell just by the way he spoke to me. He didn’t mind turning assignments in for me, and once, when we had to evacuate the building, he got up and grabbed my walker before I had a chance to say anything. He helped me outside, staying with me until a teacher told him to keep going. Even then, I saw him turn back around to make sure I was alright.

Even though he’s in college now, we still keep in touch and get together whenever we can. When I was on the homecoming court last year, he made the nearly-hour long drive home to be there, and when I was in the hospital, he texted me every day-sometimes multiple times per day- to see how I was doing. I hadn’t seen him in a few months until yesterday, when I was walking down the hall at school and looked up to see him walking towards me.

“I had to come drop something off and I wanted to come surprise you!” he said as he wrapped me in a hug. He made my day, and the way he hugged me as if my walker wasn’t there reminded me of one of the many reasons I cherish our friendship: to him, I’m just Robyn.

Cerebral Palsy · Faith

Smile

Usually, I don’t post for the Weekly Photo Challenge-because photography isn’t my strong suit- but when I saw this week’s prompt was smile, I had to participate, because I have the perfect picture for it.

This one.

I love this picture, not only because it forever captured the moment I met Tim Tebow, but because the smile on his face reflects how I felt in that moment: pure, complete, beautiful joy.

I’ve never felt anything quite like that before. The trip to his foundation’s Celebrity Golf Classic was a surprise birthday present from a friend, who knew how much I look up to Timmy (which is how he introduced himself). I’d wanted to meet him for years, and the moment was even more incredible than I’d always thought. The kindness and warmth he treated me with made my nerves fall away, and I knew instantly that my disability didn’t matter to him. To him, I was just Robyn.

I thought the story would end there, but it didn’t. Six months later, he and his foundation granted my W15H to spend time with him. I loved having the opportunity to talk with him, and at one point, I showed him the picture my friend had taken. He loved it too, so much that he posted it on Instagram later that night.

Over the last four years, he and his foundation have done more than grant my W15H. They’ve made me a part of their family. They’re there through everything, offering prayer, encouragement, and always showering me in so much love. This past March, they invited me to their Celebrity Gala-always held the night before the golf tournament- to interview the celebrities as they entered on the red carpet. I loved it. I talked to everyone from Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline to ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt to Florida’s new head football coach, Dan Mullen. And when Timmy walked in and saw me, his face lit up. He made a beeline for me, coming up to wrap me in a hug as soon as we saw each other.

That night I witnessed generosity unlike anything I’ve ever seen before as I watched a crowd of around 300 people donate 1.3 million dollars to the foundation, all of which goes towards helping kids with special needs and life threatening illnesses. I was blown away. It was beautiful to see, but to me that exemplifies what makes Timmy and his foundation so special: they put smiles on the faces of millions of people, day in and day out.

Timmy posted this of him and country singer Eric Church with some of the kids he and TTF invited to the gala.

Cerebral Palsy · My Writing

Sometimes I Wonder

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to walk independently. I wonder how it would feel to stand up straight without being overcome with fear, and what it would be like to take a step without being confined by the mold of plastic braces. I wonder, are tennis shoes comfortable?

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to take off running, whenever I want. How would it feel to have wind fly through my hair? Would it be exhilarating? Would I hate it? Would I feel like I was flying? Would I feel… free?

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be able to play sports. I live and breathe them- I wonder what it would feel like to be able to play. What would it be like, to run out of a tunnel surrounded by my teammates? What would it feel like to score the winning points in the final seconds of a game? What would it be like to be a part of something that means… everything to me?

Sometimes I wonder who I would be if I didn’t have cerebral palsy. Would I like the same things? Who would I be friends with? What experiences would I have? As much as I wonder and as much as I want to know the answer to those questions, the bottom line is this: without my disability, I wouldn’t be the same person. I wouldn’t have met the same people and I wouldn’t have done the same things. My disability has opened doors and given me experiences I otherwise never would have had, and it’s led me to people I love dearly and am beyond grateful for. Without my disability, I wouldn’t be… me.

My Writing

Some People Come Into Our Lives: A Poem

I’m reposting this tonight out of gratitude for the amazing people in my life. I hope you enjoy.

Some people come into our lives,

And leave a mark

That can never be erased.

They touch our hearts

In a more profound way

Than we ever expected

Or imagined.

They come into our lives,

Unexpectedly,

Without warning,

And fill our days and minds,

With a light

That is pure

And golden

And beautiful.

Those people are rare,

Those people are special,

Those people are gifts

To be cherished

And held dear.

They come into our lives

And leave a mark

That can never be erased.

They touch our hearts

In such a profound way

That we

Are never the same.

Cerebral Palsy · My Writing

Underestimated

Well. A week in and I’ve already missed two posting dates. That’s an auspicious start, isn’t it?

For tonight’s post, I thought I would share something I wrote about overcoming people’s perceptions of my cerebral palsy and consequently, the ability I have to do things. As you’ll be able to see, I don’t like being told I can’t do something. This is entitled “Underestimated.” Please let me know what you think in the comments!

I’m done with being underestimated.

I’m sick of people saying, “You can’t do this. You aren’t strong enough. You’re not ready.” For years, I have listened to this. For years I have been weak, and unable, and not what they want. Well, you know what?

I’m done.

I’m done with being told where to go, what to do, and how to do it. Let me make one thing clear:

I may have a disability, but I am not my disability.

Do you hear me?

I have cerebral palsy.

I have a walker.

I have braces.

But I am not those things.

I am strong.

I am the girl who endured three weeks in a hospital, who put up with needles, who was hit with a shock of pain every time she took a breath for days. I did that.

I am brave.

I am the girl who said, “I know it will hurt. Do it. It will be worth it.” I am the girl who stood in front of a crowd and poured out my heart. I am the girl who let go of my walker and stood, despite the fact that I was scared to death. I did that.

I am ambitious. I am the girl who let my walls down and showed him my heart. I am the girl who stood in front of a table and answered every single question they asked. I did that.

I did all of those things. I did them and I have accomplished the things I have because of who I am. Do you hear me? Those things happened because I am Robyn and because God is good, and for no other reason.

Oh. And one more thing. Don’t you dare tell me I don’t have what it takes to live my dreams. Don’t you dare say I’m better off stuck at home sitting behind a computer. Don’t you dare say I can’t do it. Because let me tell you one more thing I do: I prove people wrong.

She thought I couldn’t handle that day. I walked every step of that parade. I pushed through the pain and worked through the exhaustion. I did it.

She said I wouldn’t be walking for two months. I was back in my walker and getting around after three weeks. Despite the fact that it felt like knives were being pushed in my back and I could barely balance, I walked.

They thought I wouldn’t live. They told my parents I wasn’t going to make it and if I did, they said I wouldn’t talk, I wouldn’t walk, I wouldn’t think… they said I wouldn’t be what I am today, which is a strong, intelligent, beautiful young woman who has the potential to do whatever she wants to do.

If you only remember one thing I’ve said, remember this: I will live my dreams. Don’t you dare forget that.

thoughts

Mixed Emotions

I picked up my cap and gown Thursday, and that was when it sunk in.

I’m graduating in two months.

Even though I’ve known for months the day when I’d toss my cap in the air and move on to the next stage of life was coming, the realization that my days in high school were numbered was jarring. In two short months, the routine I’ve grown used to, the people I see every day, watching sports with my family…. all of that is about to change.

My AP Literature class on the first day of senior year. (Photo courtesy of my awesome teacher. 😉)

And I’m feeling a little conflicted about all of it.

On one hand, I’m incredibly excited. In just a few months, I’ll be a student at the school I’ve loved since I was a little girl, and the dream I’ve had since I was six years old will come true. (We’re still working out details, but me going to UF looks promising.) I can’t wait to be on that campus every day and be surrounded by people who have as much passion for the orange and blue as I do. I can’t wait to jump into college life and begin gaining the knowledge and experience I need to be successful. I found out yesterday that UF students get in free to all athletic events except football games-and football season tickets aren’t expensive- and I really can’t wait to cheer on the Gators. You can bet I’ll be at every sporting event I can make it to.

On the other hand, I’m nervous and anxious about life beyond high school. What happens if I can’t open a door on my own and there’s no one around to open it for me? Will I be able to balance the rigor of college courses with covering Florida sports? How do I find my way to classes and the dining hall? And-God forbid this happens- what do I do if I fall? What happens if no one’s around to help me get back up, or if I get hurt?

These questions bounce around in my mind and wind knots in my chest, but then I think back to my first day of high school.

I had similar fears. In fact, I was so scared that on the first day, I sat in first period with my hands in my lap so no one could see they were shaking.

I’ll be honest. That first day and the first semester weren’t the easiest. There were many times when I felt as if I didn’t fit in, and I wanted more than anything to go to another high school, the one the majority of my friends went to.

But you know what? It worked out.

I made friends, many of whom were seniors who helped me become acclimated to high school. I took journalism and joined a few clubs, and slowly, I began to feel like I belonged. As a freshman, I would’ve given anything to switch schools, but now, I dread the day I’ll have to leave. And when I think about the last four years, I think of memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. My W15H with Tim Tebow. Being named the Writing Club President, and running it with two of my closest friends. Junior year, walking the school’s halls as a member of our homecoming court, and then this year, being crowned homecoming queen. There were down moments along the way too of course, but they taught me lessons and helped me grow in ways I otherwise wouldn’t have.

Me, moments after being crowned Homecoming Queen. It was an incredible honor I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

My high school experience has been a ride to remember, and I have a feeling college will be similar. Will the first few months be difficult? Probably. Will I encounter challenges and obstacles to overcome? Definitely. Will the next few years be unforgettable? Without a doubt.

Note: I’m going to start posting more regularly- twice a week on Sunday and Wednesday afternoons.

Sports

Opinion: College Football Should Follow Basketball’s Lead

You win, you’re in.

That’s how college basketball views conference championships, and personally, I think college football should be the same way. Watching the SEC Tournament earlier today brought my mind back to early December, when the country debated whether Alabama or Ohio State should be in the College Football Playoff. Moments before the top four teams were announced, I was on Twitter, reading arguments for why each team should be in. As I scrolled through my feed, one Tweet in particular caught my eye:

The playoff should be expanded. The Power Five conference champions should be given automatic bids, then the committee picks the next three best teams.

Let’s be real here: The College Football Playoff may be a step up from the BCS system, but it has its flaws. Nearly every year, it seems like a team which should be in gets left out. In its inaugural year, everyone thought TCU should be in. In 2016, many believed Penn State should have been in the top four in lieu of Ohio State. The Buckeyes were again the topic of debate this past December, when several questioned whether they or the Alabama Crimson Tide should be given the chance to compete for a national title. The closest to a consensus was 2015. Why? All four playoff teams were conference champions.

Nothing will be perfect. There will always be someone on the outside looking in, who believes they should be in instead. But what I don’t like about the current system is it’s essentially saying conference championships don’t matter. And they should.

Winning your conference isn’t easy. To do that, you have to go through the gauntlet, winning at home, on the road, and against rivals. To take home a conference title is an accomplishment, and I think the Committee should treat it as such. A team should be rewarded for winning their conference, not left out as they have been the last few years.

And while we’re talking about conferences, the other issue with the current system is that whole conferences have been left out on multiple occasions. The Big 12 didn’t get in in year one, and both the PAC 12 and the Big Ten watched from their living room this year. SEC fans often say they’re the best conference in college football, but they can’t realistically say that when they didn’t face the Big Ten or the PAC 12. I’m not saying all conferences are equal, but I think everyone should at least be given a shot. Then we’ll know for sure who the best conference is.

Some think the season is too long as it is and expanding the playoff would only make it longer, but what’s wrong with that? College football fans would love it, plus schools would make more money. And before you start biting my head off, yes, I understand they’re just college students. Why do we have an entire month between the end of the regular season and the playoffs? Space out the games in such a way that it’s manageable for the boys and that they have time to rest/heal from injury.

The added risk for injury would be a con to expanding the playoff, and the only defense I have for that is injury is part of the game of football. When you step on a a football field, you know there’s a chance you can get hurt, and it’s a risk you take. If you don’t want to get hurt, don’t play. It’s common to see players sit out of bowl games now.

Many think the Committee got it right this year because Alabama won the natty. But can you definitively say Ohio State wouldn’t have beaten Clemson and Georgia? I can’t. To me, expanding the playoff to eight teams with conference champions receiving an automatic bid would minimize debate and only make it more likely that the true champion is crowned. It’s the closest to a perfect scenario that I can come up with. If you’ve got any better ideas, I’m all ears.

And just in case you haven’t figured it out, I think Ohio State should’ve been in.