I was born 3 months early, weighing in at a little over 2 pounds. Doctors told my mom that I had Cerebral Palsy and that I would never have a normal life. But right from the start, I was a fighter.
My diagnosis didn't stop my mom from encouraging me to live like everyone else. And it didn't stop me from believing that I could. I played with as much energy as any other child, and I studied as hard as anyone else (perhaps harder). After many surgeries, I learned to walk with a cane.
When I got to college, I was told I would flunk out and was better off staying at home to collect Social Security checks. So I showed them what I could do. I graduated from the University of Central Florida not once, but twice, receiving a Master's in Criminal Justice.
The years after graduation flew by. I got married, and while I liked my job working for a non-profit for the disabled, I felt that it was not quite my calling. After my son was born I realized that what I really wanted was a speaking and writing career where I could use my story to show that people with disabilities can still accomplish their dreams. Could I do it?
I was so afraid of what people were going to think. When I threw the idea around with acquaintances, the feedback I received was overwhelmingly negative. People just shared reasons why I shouldn't go out on my own, especially as a new mom. I kept my dreams at bay for a while.
But I knew what I wanted and I was determined to get it. So, little by little, I leaned in. It didn't happen all at once. I needed to gain the courage not to care what people said and to follow my instincts. I began a blog where I voiced my story. The feedback was great. I started to feel like I could do this.
The fighter in me loved the challenge. So I took it up a notch. I wrote a book on my challenges and triumphs as a woman with Cerebral Palsy. And I began to practice public speaking and to seek out opportunities to tell my story.
I am proud to say that my book will be self-published this year. I have speaking opportunities coming up, where I will continue to lean in to help others who are disabled. My son turned two, and he's a happy and healthy boy. I am proud that I have succeeded both as a mom and as an advocate.
I hope that my story can help others like me. I want keep breaking barriers and dispelling stereotypes of people with disabilities. Everyone should understand that we all have goals that we want to achieve. The only difference for the disabled is that we might have to take some extra steps along the way to reach them. It's easier if we walk together.