As a little girl I always dreamt of being a motivational speaker. I knew I was different and felt I had a story to share. I wondered if that would be enough to enable me in motivating others with similar stories. For most people their story is comprised of years of experiences and interactions with others, that form the person they become. For me, my story began the second I was born. I was rushed into surgery at 5 hours old as my parents received news that I was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly and are split. It often causes paralysis and sometimes mental handicap. The doctors informed my parents that I would not ever be able to crawl or walk and I would have a lifetime of struggles.
Despite the challenges, they didn’t give up. At age 5, I miraculously began walking and that is when the journey started. I had surgery after surgery…orthopedic, bladder, bowel, spine…seems like I have had them all. Surgery started to become routine and oddly, something that I found comfort in. That was all I knew, but in my mind I believed it provided hope. My parents said that from a very young age I was never afraid of having surgery. But it took me years to realize that my life was more than just awaiting the next surgical procedure. Fast forward 25+ years, I am still struggling with some things, as everyone is, but I have learned to take them as they come and deal with each situation as a unique opportunity to find strength. I believe that I have made it this far because of my faith, resilience, and amazing support team. I am grateful for my family every single day for never giving up on me, believing there was hope and helping me to believe it too!
Moving past the challenges with Spina Bifida, life presented me with additional tests of strength. In 6th grade, I became a victim of severe bullying. In order to protect me and others, my mom and grandma started a school for students with special needs. It started with myself and one other girl. Fast forward 18 years later and this school is still helping students in need! I feel incredibly blessed that because of my difficult times, so many other students have also been given the chance to succeed in life.
Today I am independent, living on my own and supporting myself, but had to go through some pretty dark times to get here. But, I am proud to say that I have made it through and I am thankful for the challenges because they gave me strength and allowed me to help others. I believe that God provides us with a purpose even when we are unsure of what it is. As my boyfriend occasionally jokes, “Your body still ‘breaks’ every once in a while, but we are thankful every day you are alive and breathing!”
This is why I chose to become a motivational speaker and mentor. I believe I can help others overcome their struggles, by sharing my story that started with a dim future and a gloomy prognosis. Many surgeries later I have defied all odds. I was a victim of bullying but because of that, and my family’s courage and tenacity, we turned that into an opportunity to make change for ourselves and others. And, through faith, therapy and seeking positive outlets I have learned to overcome a learning disability.
My most important lesson and message I’d like to share, through my story and speaking engagements, is that a story is one of the most powerful tools that exists. Because of our story, we are who God created us to be. Through our story is how we make a difference for others.
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
– 1 Samuel 16:7