March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and Cerebral Palsy (CP) comes with extraordinary gifts and challenges. I was diagnosed with CP at birth due to a delayed delivery and lack of oxygen in the brain. CP affects my balance, speech, spasticity, and fine motor functions. I was born on November 13. My birth was a traumatic experience where my mom and I almost did not survive. Even as a newborn, I was able to fight for my life. 13 is traditionally an unlucky number. However, I converted 13 to my lucky number because it is the day I survived the impossible. Throughout my life, I turned negatives into positives.
Featured Guest on a Podcast: Don’t Let The Disability Fool You
In December, I had the opportunity to be a guest on a podcast by Domo Jones called “Don’t Let The Disability Fool You.” The purpose of her podcast is to have people with disabilities tell their stories. For many years, I did not talk about my CP because people usually overlook it or did not take the time to learn how it affects me. They only knew me as someone with a physical disability.
Click the link below to listen to the podcast episode!
I started to talk about my CP openly early last year. I talked to one of my best friends about job interviews; he said to talk about how I overcame challenges with CP. I had two years of discrimination applying to jobs because I can’t speak clearly. The two great things that my best friend said about my CP are that I should not be embarrassed with him and he is not afraid to ask me hard questions. He created a safe place for me to tell him specific details. During this pandemic, I learned that I have to share my story with my CP. I can help people become comfortable with interacting with people who have disabilities. Domo Jones reached out to me to do her podcast; I was finally ready to speak about my CP and had another good friend speak on my behalf.
Being a Child with Cerebral Palsy
My parents did everything they can to help me live life to its fullest. As a kid, I went to physical, occupational, and speech therapy weekly. My mom took me to the mall almost every weekend for exposure and wanted me to be a stylish person. I was in soccer, catholic Sunday school, Girl Scouts, and art. I used a walker during elementary school and a wheelchair all through college. I could walk, but this assistance kept me safe from others since I could not balance well.
I struggled academically as a kid because studying takes concentration and hours. I didn’t have that kind of energy and with my spasticity, I always have to control my muscles. Managing my spasticity made me too exhausted to focus on academics. In high school, I started to do modified CrossFit in my PE classes and it strengthened that lead to doing better academically. Strength training builds muscle to control my spasticity. I also got a peer tutor who could understand my speech, so I could verbally tell her my answers, and she could write them down. She wrote notes for each class. It saved me so much energy and I could absorb the information better. My tutor was an amazing motivator; she was smart, outgoing, likes to help others, and has a great personality. She inspired me to have my lifestyle and we are still good friends 9 years later.
My Journey to Success
My time to blossom was in college. I completed it in 4 years instead of 5 years, including the 30 extra units for taking the CPA exams. I had that goal because educators held me behind in classes and deemed me to be unintelligent. I had to prove to myself that I can get good grades, was a leader, and be respected as a person. That is what I did because I was tired of people depicting me as the stereotype of people with disabilities. I was in student government to show people with disabilities can be leaders and represent others.
Right now, I’m working as an accounting associate and social media marketer. I help organizations that empower women and people with disabilities. I am studying for my CPA exams and writing blog posts. I exercise 3-5 times a week. Everyone who has impacted my life has helped me get to where I am now. It took a village to have me become successful. That’s why I’m caring and helpful because I want to give others what I received.