“I am not my Cerebral Palsy”

The whirring of the machine obscured all else but for the click, click, click of the images as they popped up onto the screen. At first, these images appeared normal, but then, slowly, an anomaly became apparent—a hole. Panic set in immediately. After all, the images were of a brain… and the hole? What could that mean? It had seemed at first that the baby had only been unable to crawl in the classic sense, preferring the seal-type crawl used in the military. In a few moments that seemed to pass like hours, the technician emerged and said only a few words. “We’re going to call the radiologist in to look at this.”

The scene I just described is one that my mother has told me only a few times in my life, but it shows its significance by bringing tears to her eyes at its very mention. The baby in the scene is me, and the hole that showed up on the scans of my brain was the synching evidence that I was afflicted with cerebral palsy: a static, permanent disability in which a part of the brain is missing, presumably burned away by a stroke in utero. There are many forms of this disorder; the most common being the spastic subtype in which muscles twitch and sometimes are so tight that moving is painful. In its full range, cerebral palsy can manifest in as minor a way as in my case (where the only visible signs and disabilities I face are slightly smaller muscles and loss of some fine motor control on the right side of my body), all the way to a fully quadriplegic and mentally retarded individual who has no ability to speak or to understand anything but the simplest of tasks and skills. Often, when I think about how lucky I was, and how I could have easily ended up in the latter way, tears come to my own eyes: had the affected area of my brain not been the motor strip, or had the hole created been less deep and more shallow, it would have invaded the speech centers of my brain, and I would be mute.

Luckily, the only real difficulties I have are two: the fact that athletics are extremely difficult for me to do (when I was in 6th grade, I was the only person who was not honored in a ceremony for those who could run an entire mile without stopping), and the fact that I have to deal with the emotional acceptance that I have this disorder, and it will not be curable unless scientists discover a way to fix it. I have lived the last 17 years with this black cloud over my head, but it has made me stronger, too: I am a serious individual because of it, rarely given to the frivolous and sometimes dangerous escapades normally partaken in by teenagers, such as drinking or doing drugs. I also have thrown myself into learning, because I find that my intelligence can make up for lack of athletic prowess, and I find it very easy to empathize with others because the disorder has forced me to be in touch with my feelings. Though my condition will not change unless scientists find a miracle cure, I am able to live every day and enjoy more because of it, and I try new things every day because I don’t want anything to hold me back.