Lisa Rowan: Cerebral Palsy; Confined To A Wheelchair For Life





Lisa Rowan and Jonathan Taylor. Authors, e-books on family caregiving.

I’m thirty-eight years old, female and married for twelve years. My mother fell off a horse while seven and a half months pregnant and I was born by emergency C-section within the hour. I was life-flighted to a neonatal trauma center and survived through heroic intervention and support. By the time I went home, I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

I walked with a walker until age ten, when I suffered muscle spasms powerful enough to rip both femur bones out of both hip sockets, which put me back in the hospital. Five surgeries later (one on both hips and four more on the hip that wouldn’t stay in), I left the hospital confined to a wheelchair for life.

I was downright skinny throughout my childhood, exercising by leaving my wheelchair and crawling around whenever I wasn’t in public. I was a size 4 through high school and into college. My efforts to stay slim included missing meals and staying up late moving around. During my sophomore year, it paid off when I met a guy. But I was pushing myself so hard that I started having problems. I passed out in class once and the EMTs said I was minutes away from going into hypoglycemic shock when they arrived. That’s how I learned I had hypoglycemia (the opposite of diabetes). As classes got tougher and I added a social life to schoolwork, I started pushing myself too hard. My boyfriend took me to Urgent Care four times for exhaustion.
Once I started to let up, I started to gain weight. I went on birth control and added twenty quick pounds. We moved in together after graduation and married two years later. My husband is twenty years older than me and had two kids from his first marriage. I found out I was too medically fragile to survive a pregnancy, so I’ve made do with helping my husband with his kids and now his grandkids. I’m still heavy but because of the hypoglycemia, eating less causes my blood sugar to crash and I get injured when I exercise. Diet pills that attack my body chemistry put my life at risk, so we’re having trouble finding a weight loss plan that’s safe for me. I’m not happy with my body image but I won’t change it if I have to kill myself to do it.
Our sex life isn’t what I wish it was but my husband isn’t as hormonal now as he was in his younger years and his experience with prostate cancer has taken its toll. But he assures me he didn’t marry me for my bod and every day we look at the forces that hold our marriage together. Each night he tells me four reasons why he loves me; once a week I ask for a new, or original reason. After seventeen years together, he can still get it done. He knows why I love him; he revolutionized my life by supporting my dreams. 
If I was lighter, moving would be easier. I used to transfer into and out of his Corolla in college and now we have to take the ramp van if I want to come with. But we are not our bodies. I have a stronger marriage than anyone I know and my friends all agree that I got really lucky. I wish I weighed less but if I was thin and one of his kids had cancer, we’d have real problems. Right now, we just count our blessings and hope that tomorrow turns out as well as today is going. It has never been, is not now and will never be about my body image. And Thank God for that.

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Copyright Ark Stories 2011


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