Friday, July 2, 2010

ENTRY # 2 - Bracing for Life

Simple Description of Polio/ Poliomyelitis: Also called polio or infantile paralysis, is a highly infectious viral disease that may attack the central nervous system and is characterized by symptoms that range from a mild non-paralytic infection to total paralysis in a matter of hours.

Let’s get to the point. Either directly or indirectly, most of us will be touched by a medical disaster, an ongoing illness, or tragic accident. Very few of us will escape this ugly side of life. Either you or someone you know and love will be impacted, eventually, by some kind of medical issue. It's an inescapable fact of life. Life, death, and everything in the middle are the consequences of our existence.

Most people enjoy a healthy youth, fortunate enough to be born in and to remain in tip-top condition. Others are given a healthy body, but they choose to destroy it or to compromise it by their own destructive methods. Maybe you are free of major illness or injury, but are witnessing a loved one slowly decline. One thing is for sure...the more historical a person’s physique becomes, the more likely it will be that many of life’s ailments will settle in as their companion. However, as my young, but wise mother used to say, “You don’t have to be old to be afflicted.”

In order to fully understand my personal experience with developing Addison's Disease, my past with another insidious medical condition must be exposed. Throughout my entire life, I have been accustomed to seeing the impact of disease and viruses. My childhood household and my adult household lived with the realities of such things. No doubt, I am beyond thankful that Polio is no longer a devastating threat to the United States. My mother's body was ravaged by Polio long before I knew her as "mother." I never knew her without the attached label of "Polio Victim." That's probably a HUGE reason I despise the word "victim" for our medical battles. I don't want to be a "victim." That implies that the condition itself had an upper edge. Regardless, Polio did attack my mother at a young age, but this little word, "Polio," could never define my mother. The picture above captures my mother's legs. The source is not cited, although my Grandmother will likely give me the proper information so that I may add the source. I believe my mother was the 5th person in Texas to contract polio. Such innocence and youth ripped away.

Perhaps this attitude helped me through my own major battles with Addison's Disease. I'd like to think that my mother's brave battles helped me fight my own. As most of us know, the solution to the devastating Polio virus didn’t come soon enough for too many people. My mother included. Even many years after her contracting the Polio virus, we had short times of mourning ongoing ramifications from Post-Polio Syndrome...a not-so-great situation for people aging with Polio.

Another area of life that my mom's condition taught me to deal with adequately is all the labeling that inevitably goes with having a medical issue. I have heard all of the publicly acceptable terms used to define my mother’s general physical appearance. Constantly, through the years, new terms replaced out-of-fashion terms. She was a so-called “Cripple.” Others referred to her as a “Handicapped Person.” Then, we have the widely used word, “Disabled.” Better yet, she was “Physically Challenged.” These words were funny to a family who didn't see their mother as anything but capable.

Far from being official Word-Police, our family would hold discussions about every new politically acceptable term and we would make it a hysterically funny event. After all, being “physically challenged” is not a very helpful definition. Could it refer to a person who needs glasses? If you cannot see after taking off your glasses…Are you then disabled? Doesn't abnormal eyesight constitute a physical challenge? After all, troubled vision requires compensation through medical intervention. Are glasses or contacts sort of like crutches or a brace? I can see it now, my marketing for an eyeglass company, “Stop by and check out our Eye Crutches!” I am so grateful that my family gained the incredible ability to laugh at unlaughable situations. We have a naturally crass way of communicating. As for the rest of you out there, clean those eye-crutches and read on!

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