1. You have overcome so much in your life, what is your greatest obstacle and what was your achievement?
My greatest obstacle was learning how to walk! I only started walking at age eight because before that my balance was very bad. My back and neck muscles were very weak and could not hold my weight (I wasn't even fat) :-) I needed years of therapy starting with standing in a standing-table a few hours a day and then going on to walking with a walker, canes and then I was able to walk independently.
My absolute greatest achievement was having my son! For years people had said I would never have a child.
Because: 1) no man would want to marry a disabled person.
2) Someone even bought me a dog because they felt sorry for me. It was their opinion I would never have a child and they thought I should have a dog to take care of.
2. What do you want to do next in your life?
Well, since I just finished writing a book about my life and my CP, I'd like to get it published here in the Netherlands. I wrote it in Dutch because that is where I'm now living. At the moment, I am working on the English translation and hope to have it published in the states as well. Unfortunately, because of today's economy, publisher's are not publishing as many books as they used to.
3. Have you ever looked at your disability as a blessing in disguise?
Yes and no.
As a child, no definitely not! There were soooo many things I could not do and having a 13 year older sister, I wanted to do all the things she did, but couldn't. Playing with friends was difficult because I couldn't run or jump like they did. It wasn't until I was in High school that I realized that I could really make a difference in other people's lives by joining my school's student union and speaking about what CP is. Doing this I realized you can be different and still make a difference. Now that I realize all that I CAN do, I continue public speaking in my son's school and volunteer in his old elementary school so that children at a young age come in contact with someone who is disabled. In doing this, it takes away the chance of ignorance when they're older.
4. What was the hardest thing to deal with when going to school at my age?
Luckily, it didn't happen often but being made fun of was something I had to overcome. Because of the way I walk and my slurred speech, kids would come up to me in the hallway and ask me if I was drunk. I learned to laugh with them and often say, yes! This put them at ease and they'd stop making fun of me. If you are able to laugh at yourself and your shortcomings you are a much more positive person and it's harder for people to get under your skin. Sure it hurt when they made fun of me but I learned to shrug it off. Not everyone learns that but if you do, it takes their fun away! :-)
5. What advice would you give to kids my age after your experiences?
If you meet someone who has CP or any other disability don't stare! They are not aliens, they are human beings with feelings. Look beyond their disability and get to know them. We do that with people of another culture so why not do it with those who are disabled.