I have been blessed with the best family EVER. I'm especially thankful for my close friendships with my cousins. We joke that we're together by default, but I really enjoy their company! We don't get a choice of what we're born into, or how we're brought up, but I'd choose my family over anything.
While family was in town, we decided we wanted to go to the Newport Aquarium. Even before I opened my eyes that morning we had planned to go, I knew it was one of "those days". I was upset. I decided not to join them because of the pain and numbness from my legs. It's like standing in fire... it feels like the flames are licking my calves and the stinging sensations are shooting up over my knees and thighs. My legs might swell, twitch, shake, or just completely give out from under me. Do you know the feeling when your legs "fall asleep"? I know they're still attached, but I can't shake them back "awake". It's like they've been filled with sand. It's similar to the feelings I had after finishing my first half-marathon last year, but it's beyond just weakness or being tired. So that morning, as I was resting in bed, I started getting really upset. I wanted to go see the aquarium and, more importantly, spend time with my family. I was furious. I wasn't going to lay in bed all day and feel sorry for myself. I wasn't going to waste another day. The pain wasn't even my biggest obstacle... it was my ego. If I wanted to go to the aquarium, I was going to have to use a wheel-chair.
I suppose anyone could just wheel around all day, but I actually needed this assistance. It was a humbling experience. People looked at me. I smiled back at their questioning and curious glances. I'm sure they wondered why I was being pushed around.. I had to use the special doors and sometimes couldn't even see all the exhibits. After I got over my embarrassment, I had a great time! I really enjoyed myself and everyone I was with. The pain and numbing sensations were significantly decreased, and I could keep up with them as we made our way through the aquarium! I just know that wouldn't have been possible without the wheel-chair.
I pride myself in the fact that I can push through the daily pains, so it was truly hard to accept the fact that I couldn't depend on my legs that day. These symptoms are newer and may be caused by a condition called "Peripheral Neuropathy". I'm thankfully not bound to a wheel-chair full-time, but I understand I may need one more and more in the future to do the activities I want to.
I am concerned about my future. Walking is such a simple thing I took for granted. How am I supposed to walk to class everyday at a campus far from home? My house isn't handicapped accessible, but at least at home I don't get funny looks when I have to rest at the top of the stairs I just crawled up.
I'm learning to worry less about my pride and try not to look at my situation as just being "high-maintenance". I know it takes more courage from me to ask for assistance.
I'm so thankful I got to go to Newport! I love the ocean. I love water sports. I love swimming! Unfortunately, I can't lifeguard or swim anymore. Ever since watching my favorite disney movie, visiting an aquarium is the only thing closest to becoming a mermaid princess I can get!
Another one of my favorite memories is when I snorkeled in the Caribbean. I got to swim with some of the most beautiful and colorful creatures I've ever seen. It was a magical experience that I'll never forget! But I couldn't breathe under water without a snorkel, and I couldn't have seen them without some goggles. So while it may require some tools of assistance to make make up for the things that have been taken away from me, it's these challenges that make me appreciate life so much more. Every pill, injection, treatment, wheel-chair, etc are all worth it. It's like when you jump into the deep-end, and you sink all the way to the bottom. The further down you are, the harder it is to swim back up again. You've made this journey to the surface a million times before, but it still makes you anxious as you kick back up to the surface. You have no choice but to keep swimming, your eyes on the sunlight above. After every challenge I overcome, it's like that relieving feeling you get when you take that first giant gulp of air at the top of the water.
It's a beautiful life, and if I need some physical help along the way, so be it. I at least hope I learn enough to pass on my own assistance to another.
"Now I know there's much more dignity in defeat than in the brightest victory."