Typically I try to write a blog that has a moral, a lesson, or something to think about but today I’m totally abandoning that idea.
Most of you have probably seen or heard about the movie Me Before You which hits theaters next week and is based off of Jojo Moyes’ book. The book is about a man who is involved in an accident and becomes quadriplegic. After living with his disability for several year, he decides he no longer wants to live and seeks out physician assisted suicide. As a last hope, his family hires a companion to take care of his mental well-being and show him that life is worth living whether disabled or not.
After reading several critiques of this book and negative Facebook posts from my friends, I was initially very bothered by this book. Because of my own personal experiences, I am completely against physician assisted suicide. Growing up with a father who had ALS, I saw firsthand how much he suffered because of the disease and he would have been the perfect candidate for physician assisted suicide but wanted nothing to do with that. Instead he chose life and lived with disease for eight years despite being told he only had two years. I can only imagine the pain he went through on a daily basis, both physically and mentally, but having him there when I was younger has shaped who I am today. Strong, determined, and fearless.
Two years after his diagnosis, I developed childhood brain cancer. After several surgeries to remove the cancer, it kept growing back, proving to be just as stubborn as I am. So I was forced to undergo radiation which destroyed the cancer but scattered throughout my brain, leaving me physically disabled and nearly killed me. Within months, I lost all of motor functions including being able to crawl, let alone walk. One of the worst things is I lost all facial movement and couldn’t smile or frown. Thankfully with the help of a couple surgeries, my smile came back. But anyways, at my worst point, I basically laid around my house looking lifeless. Months after the radiation, my parents were told I would be dead within weeks. That was about 18 years ago. Since then I’ve slowly regained a majority of what I lost. I am able to walk but have a very unsteady gait and tend to look like I’m drunk when walking, awkwardly taking one step at a time. Learning to live life while being physically disabled has not been easy but if I would have given up on my life at 8 years old, I would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences. So long story short that is why I oppose physician assisted suicide.
After seeing that this is what happens in Me Before You and how it is portrayed a romantic film, I was disgusted. And especially with the idea that this is what some of society believes about the disabled, that it is better to be dead than disabled. Like seriously?! What is wrong with people?! Immediately I bought the book with the idea of reading it so I could complain about everything that was wrong with it.
Besides the ending, I absolutely loved this book which I did not expect at all. Yes, it is over-dramatized at times and it does include stereotypes about being disabled but it is also incredibly realistic. There were times I cried, times I laughed out loud, and times when I just thought “I know exactly what you’re feeling, been there, done that!”
This book shows someone who goes from being able-bodied and career driven to becoming disabled and has their perspective of life completely flipped upside down. Yes, maybe the author isn’t disabled herself and yes, it is just a fictional piece but I can say the feelings Will Traynor has are similar to my own at times. Not to be a spoiler but there are definitely moments where I thought “This sounds strangely familiar, have you been following me?!”
Although I was only 8 years old when I became disabled, it is difficult to let go of what was and accept what is. I still have memories of running and walking carelessly on the beach when I was younger and even though I love my life and have accepted being disabled, there are times when I miss what was or think what if. This book really captures that idea.
It also touches on how people who were once your close friends before, tend to distance themselves from you because they are unsure or uncomfortable. Society can be so cruel, so self-centered, self-righteous, and narrow-minded, that they inadvertently treat all people with disabilities like they’re contagious or just shouldn’t exist at all. And the sad thing is most people are extremely blind to this.
The most important message, if you get past all of the issues about suicide and all the other critiques; it is that more than often people who disabled need extra support sometimes. They need a constant cheerleader or even a whole squad to help push them forward. I know if I did not have my best friend, my mom, my family and close friends, that I would probably have given up a long time ago.
In my opinion, this book does a fantastic job portraying what it is like to be disabled, how society tends to view the disabled as an inconvenience or a burden, and how even when you are surrounded by people who love and support you, it is still very easy to feel alone, overwhelmed, and depressed with your situation.
I encourage everyone to read this book and see the movie. (Hopefully Hollywood doesn’t mess it up too much) It will give you an insight into what it is like to become disabled. I expected to hate this book and not even be able to finish it but this is one I want to read again and again.