Learning to ‘Rise and Fall’ With Cerebral Palsy and Graves’ Disease

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Life has a way of bestowing things upon us that can mold and shape the soul. Some leave us empty and cold, while others prove to be the greatest gifts we’ve received or could ever give. They’re the bloodlines to the stories written in our hearts — granting us the title of mother, father, sister, brother, friend — or any other title or honor that’s earned. It’s because of the things we’re given that we’re able to wear as many hats and play as many roles as we want — but only the ones we are truly meant for.

I was never fortunate enough to be bestowed with the role of a mother, but I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend. These are all roles that have made me who I am, and I’m proud to take on every single one day in and day out. There’s one title, however, that no family member or friend granted me. It didn’t come gift-wrapped or topped with a fancy bow, but I earned it the second I came into this world.

I’m a fighter.

I was born in Seoul, Korea and bred by the hand of cards I’ve been dealt. It would be easy, almost expected, if I’d simply skip to the end of my story and place all the blame for my struggle, pain, and personal hardship on my cerebral palsy. After all, it’s only a condition that can affect everything from one’s ability to pick up a toothbrush to the capacity to think and speak, depending on the individual who’s diagnosed with it. In theory, that should be reason enough for me to cut corners and dance around certain unflattering aspects of my existence since my CP has left me in a wheelchair since birth. There’s just one tiny problem, however. I never got the memo.

Life has yet to afford me with the luxury of cutting corners, so I’ve yet to be shown the “easy way out”. I’ve taught myself how to rise and fall — maybe not gracefully, but always with a lesson in my back pocket every time I hit rock bottom. I’ve found that cerebral palsy is a bare-knuckle fight that can’t be contested with quick hands and boxing gloves. It’s more like psychological warfare caused by external forces I can’t control — the low roar of a car engine motoring by my house, the rhythm of footsteps as they clunk down the wooden stairs leading into my first-floor bedroom or the defiant sound that the door to my accessible entrance makes when someone comes or goes. However, nothing could have prepared me for my next fight — with Graves’ disease.

I was unexpectedly diagnosed with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition which causes extreme swelling of the thyroid gland located in the throat. Symptoms can range from a simple headache to major tremors, as the thyroid is responsible for controlling and regulating nearly everything in the human body. This includes any chemical imbalances and abnormalities in blood levels. But it all just felt like a normal, run-of-the-mill cold and flu in the months and days leading up to my diagnosis.
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