I am sure you have heard of the phrase, “Well at least you have your health.” People use these words as encouragement after a tragedy or loss of a friend or loved one or maybe even for themselves. Yet, what if you don’t have your health? What if life has thrown you a curve ball caused by illness or injury? What if your body went from healthy to having a disability, sometimes suddenly?
As with any loss, a person whose life is changed by tragedy and disability usually experiences the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
The question lies in how does one move toward acceptance when his or her world has been rocked by illness or injury?
I believe it is found in the word “hope.” What is it? Merriam-Webster defines hope as: “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.” It seems like a platitude: “Let’s all hope for better days.” What if better days never come? Can we still have hope? I say, “Yes!”
I believe hope is really an action and not just a feeling for something better. Hope is looking at the difficulties of life and still smiling. Hope is when someone in unbearable pain comforts someone else going through a difficult time. Hope is when someone with a disability does something amazing that seems to be insurmountable. I think of Mandy Harvey.
According to JazzTimes:
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio 21 years ago, Mandy Harvey began her music passion as a four-year old girl.
Hearing issues followed Mandy from birth and led to several surgeries. Relocated to Colorado as a young girl, she joined several school choirs and began singing lessons. Mandy participated in Longmont High School’s Women’s Choir, Bel Canto and Chamber Singers. She sang 1st soprano, 2nd soprano and 2nd alto. Choir director Adam Cave awarded Mandy Top Female Vocalist of 2006 just before graduation. Mandy’s name is still on a plaque in the choir room.
In the summer of 2006, Mandy applied to Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado. Recognizing her potential, both programs quickly accepted her. Mandy enrolled in Colorado State and majored in Vocal Music Education, seeking to become a college instructor. Just after starting classes, Mandy noticed she couldn’t hear recordings. Six months later, all her residual hearing disappeared.
Mandy left Colorado State and began to pursue an interest in Elementary Education. A chance encounter with former high school and college voice teacher Cynthia Vaughn led Mandy to revive her music passion. Cynthia introduced Mandy to pianist Mark Sloniker at Jay’s Bistro in Fort Collins.
With restored confidence, Mandy created her first CD, Smile, in 2009, her second CD, After You’ve Gone, in 2010 and her third CD, All of Me in 2014. Mandy has also performed multiple times at the renowned Kennedy Center, including as one of the 2011 winners of the VSA International Young Soloists Competition. Mandy released her new single, The Script on December 20, 2014 with recording artist and acquired savant, Derek Amato.
I love Mandy’s thoughts from her website, where she writes,
Hope is never lost; it is something you have to hold onto to stay strong. And it is something that we have a duty to show and give to others. It ‘keeps life moving’ and pulls us out of any dark situation. Continue to hope and make your dreams a reality.
Another person who fuels her life with hope is ultra-athlete, Diane Van Deren.
Chris Welner writes in Impact Magazine:
A state champion golfer who played pro tennis in her 20s, Van Deren’s athletic career was seemingly cut short when she began suffering grand mal seizures and had to leave the tour. The effects were devastating for the young mother of three, but she developed a sense that alerted her a seizure was coming on. To ward it off, she would grab her shoes and head out to run for miles on her family’s Colorado ranch. She became one of the world’s top ultra-runners, keeping her medical condition secret from fellow competitors and race organizers…
At 37, doctors isolated the cause of Van Deren’s epilepsy and removed a kiwi-sized piece of her brain. She hasn’t had a seizure since, but there have been neurological side-effects, including memory loss and difficulty tracking time and direction. She also doesn’t feel pain like most people, a useful quirk as an ultra-runner who taxes her body to its limits.
Van Deren has won throughout North America, including the Canadian Death Race and the Yukon Arctic ultra, running 430 miles across frozen tundra pulling a provisions sled.
Running ultras gives me a platform to share my story and give people hope and not give up in the midst of their trials,” says Diane Van Deren. “I feel I’ve been given a gift for a reason and, if I didn’t share it, it would be very selfish.
Hope is truly believing in the human spirit. As humans, we overcome incredible odds and difficulties. For someone like Diane, it is running hundreds of miles in the freezing cold of the Arctic or living with frequent seizures or memory loss. To others, the ultra-marathon is putting two feet on the floor after a night of horrific pain and making it to the couch only to collapse again. For someone like Mandy, it may be finally realizing amazing dreams, having them dashed by disability and then finding out that the gift returned to bless others even more.
On our Facebook page, we often have Thankful Thursdays and I am so moved by the comments of gratitude for even the seemingly smallest triumphs of making a sandwich, spending time with a friend or getting the mail. I believe that the greatest hope is knowing that we are in this human race together. We can hold each other up. We can give each other hope, and we can be the hope others’ need. Together, we can hope and envision a world where people living with illness, pain and disability will be Invisible No More.
Copyright 2014 Wayne Connell – This article was first published on Disability.Blog, by Disability.Gov on December 3, 2014.