Tag Archives: courage

True strength

Be a man
We must be swift as the coursing river
Be a man
With all the force of a great typhoon
Be a man
With all the strength of a raging fire
Mysterious as the dark side of the moon

I thought I was finished with blogging about Disney music but with the release of Beauty and the Beast,  Disney themed playlists have become my go-to music whenever life gets boring. This time, I’ve been inspired by I’ll make a man out of you from Mulan.

Although there are many great Disney movies with incredible music, one of my personal favorites for both movie and music combo would have to be Mulan. Based on a Chinese legend, when her country is facing war, Mulan secretly disguises herself as a man, taking her father’s place in the emperor’s army. Despite the many challenges and adversity faced along the way, through her strength, bravery, and duty to her country, Mulan helps to defeat the Huns and becomes one of China’s greatest heroines in the process. Mulan is considered a Disney princess but she is definitely not your typical damsel in distress. Her character is fierce, courageous, determined, and resilient.
Growing up with three older brothers and being surrounded by their friends, I’ve never really been a girly girl.  That might come as a surprise to some because my office at work is decorated in fake flowers, dainty colors, and I love wearing dresses! But growing up, I was that girl in the neighborhood who liked to play backyard football, get muddy, and spoke my mind whether you asked my opinion or not. While cancer and becoming physically disabled kind of changed the whole backyard football part, I still speak my mind and consider myself tough, resilient, and determined in every aspect of life.
The other day, I was sliding tables together for a meeting and someone said to me “don’t do that, you might hurt yourself”. Usually, I would brush that comment right off my shoulders but for some odd reason it bothered me.
As the youngest in the family and only girl, my brothers were determined to “make a man” out of me so that I would be able to withstand anything life threw at me. Along with giving me a love of sports, they taught me to never give up no matter what I faced, to work hard,  stay strong, and to always stand my ground.  Over the years, I’ve thrown a couple other things of my own into the mix, like having faith, being hopeful, and remaining positive.

Even though that comment was probably out of concern and kindness, it seemed to question my strength. (maybe I’m reading too much into this, it’s a girl problem)

Because of my disabilities, I may not appear to be physically strong or able to do everything I once was able to but I do not consider myself weak to any extent.
Being strong is not just a physical attribute like our society thinks of it, strength is also mental and emotional.
As a cancer survivor, I have been fortunate to get to know other survivors and although not every survivor has bulging muscles, they have more strength in their tiny finger than most people will ever have in their life. They are emotionally, mentally, and spiritually strong. Their experiences have taught them to persevere, to stay determined, to be brave, and hopeful. This is true strength to me, having the courage and strength within to overcome any obstacle you’re faced with.
There is a line in I’ll make a man out of you that says “tranquil as a forest but on fire within”, that lyric speaks volumes about where strength really lies.
True strength is not only in your physical being, it’s not in how swift you move or how much you can lift but it’s in your character, how you respond to adversity.
 “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
-Mahatma Gandhi 

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I forgive you

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
-St. Augustine

 

One of the most beautiful things about being disabled, at least in my opinion, is having the ability to inspire others and encourage them in ways that you never could without them. Not to say that because of my disabilities, I am so much more inspirational compared to those who aren’t disabled, which is totally not true; everyone is an inspiration in some way. Everyone has overcome some sort of difficulty to get where they are today, had the courage to face the challenge head on and to embrace whatever laid ahead of them.

This past Monday, one of my good friends from college asked me to share my story with the youth group she leads. The theme of my talk was trusting God and forgiveness.  I absolutely love my talk on forgiveness because it shows that even though forgiving someone is difficult, when we do forgive, we lose the negativity that holds us back in life and help ourselves to heal.

When I was younger, I had brain cancer and after several surgeries to remove the tumor, it kept growing back. (It was just as stubborn as I am) So instead of trying surgery one more time, I tried radiation. Well long story short, the radiation destroyed the cancer but left me physically disabled and nearly killed me. It was like an atom bomb went off in my head, I know really awesome, right? The thing was my doctor overdosed the radiation too. The radiation I received was new technology at the time and I was the youngest patient to ever receive this type of radiation so it was pretty risky. If all went successful, destroying the cancer and leaving no major side effects, my case would have been famous in the medical world and my doctor would have been famous too. Before the radiation treatments were even finished, he had written papers about me to present in conferences. My parents and I found out he rushed my radiation treatments for his own good; not out of a desire to heal, but out of a selfish desire for glory. He caused me to become physically disabled, and changed my life forever. I was just a “little” angry with him. But like the quote at the beginning implies I could either stay angry at my doctor or have the courage to forgive him and move on with my life

Being angry at someone or only focusing on the negatives is exhausting and draining. Besides that, who really wants to be around someone who is always bringing them down?! A couple years after the radiation, I started to realize it was time to let go of the past, forgive, and stop being so angry at the world. As much as I hated my disabilities and being  different from everyone, they are part of who I am.  My disabilities make me a stronger person, allow me to inspire others, and help them to see anything is possible. So maybe I am physically disabled, but I am alive, I have a loving family who supports me and I am cancer free. Forgiving someone is never easy but when I forgave my doctor, this huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and all of a sudden, my life was so much more beautiful and full of opportunity.  

We’re human, we all make mistakes; some bigger than others. When someone betrays us or hurts us, it is hard to forgive them for what they have done, but being angry or holding a grudge against someone only creates a brick wall between you and that person. It also gets in the way of letting wounds heal from past experiences and finding your own happiness. So before you hate or even begin to hold a grudge against someone,  take a step back and forgive them, for everyone deserves a second chance and it is in forgiving that we set ourselves free from anger.

“Forgive others, not because they deserve it but because you deserve peace”

-Jonathan Lockwood Hue

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Filed under Being disabled, My faith

Embracing positive changes

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore”

-Andre Gide

Change is difficult for everyone, it can be exciting but extremely scary. One thing being disabled has taught me is to embrace change; that sometimes I have to let go of my pride and accept what is.

For most of my life, I have been against assistive devices when it comes to my walking. One of my many disabilities and the one that’s most noticeable is my unsteady gait. Although it has improved over the years with physical therapy, it is something I will always struggle with. My feet tend to drag sometimes or I’ll list to one side or lean back when I mean to step forward. To put it quite simply, there are times when I walk and it looks like I’m drunk although I’m completely sober.

When I first struggled with walking, when I was 8 years old, my dad and I would have huge screaming matches about using a walker to help with my walking. He would never admit it but I usually got my way. I wanted nothing to do with a walker. It got in my way of walking and most importantly, the walker made me different from everyone and I wanted nothing to do with that! The argument was the same for a wheelchair and a cane. Despite the many falls, cuts, bruises, and even broken bones I dealt with while trying to reteach myself to walk, any assistive device was out of the question.

In my mind, I had two legs and they failed me most of the time, but I could still use them and I didn’t want to give up on them. And by using any sort of assistive device, like a walker or a scooter, that would make me different from everyone, people would point and stare, and it would be humiliating. The thought of using an assistive device was like falling backwards instead of moving forward with my life or making a positive change. By using an assistive device, I would finally be accepting my disabilities, letting go of what was, and embracing what is.

So as time for college approached, I started to wonder how with my disabilities, I would ever be able to live on my own, become more independent, and get from one place to another by myself. Somehow, I managed to get through high school without an assistive device but college seemed to almost require one.

I’m not exactly sure what made me change my  mind, whether it was my mom’s advice, the opinions of my older brothers or my own realization, but I decided to give a scooter a try; but it was only for college, at least that’s what I told myself, protecting my pride from being hurt.

Years later, I can tell you that was a great decision on my part. I love my scooter and the independence it gave me while I was in college.  Where I went, Mount St. Mary’s University, the campus is very hilly and definitely a challenge to get around. Instead of being trapped in one place and  unable to maneuver around campus, because of my scooter, I was able to go places, hang out with friends, and meet new people. Because of my scooter, I didn’t have to wait for anyone to help take me from point A to point b; I just hopped on my scooter and went. And when I arrived at my destination, I parked it, took the key, and walked to class or my friend’s or wherever I was heading next.

Being so against assistive devices all my life, I never anticipated loving my scooter as much as I did or viewing it more as a friend rather than an enemy. But what I truly loved about my scooter is how much independence and freedom it gave me. I learned from having a scooter that sometimes you have to let go of your pride, stop worrying about what you can’t control, and embrace change. So when you are faced with an obstacle or feel as though you’re stuck, don’t let your fears or pride keep you from embracing who you are and what is.

“It takes a lot of courage to release the seemingly familiar and secure; to embrace the new”

-Alan Cohen

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Filed under Being disabled