D-Day. Most people think of the Battle of Normandy. Not I. Well, yeah I do. That's because I love history and ever since my Granddad let slip that he had been there I have done some major studying. But when I say D-Day I generally mean Diagnosis Day- February 24, 1999. It has become a major holiday for me. It started out as "if I made it through one year then I can manage two" and has turned into a big celebration. Every year I do something special to mark another year of being me. This is year number nine. One more year until ten...but it will be hard to beat this year's celebration. I may have mentioned it once or twice (cough) but we are going to Disneyworld.
It's funny how important it is that we take this trip. When I was thirteen I promised my little sis that I would never go to Disneyland or Disneyworld without her. We made a pact and amazingly have kept it. Both of us have had several opportunities to go to Disneyworld and both of us have passed those by. I even ate Thanksgiving dinner at the Swan and Dolphin Resort once...looking over the parks but I did not give in (It wasn't the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving either). This year we are doing it. I was afraid that maybe I have grown up too much to enjoy it. Maybe I am a little too cynical. Maybe I will hate it and my expectations are to high. I don't think so. 'Cause this year I will celebrate D-Day at Epcott. With my sis, our guys, and two of our best friends.
This trip is also important because it is the reason I got the wheelchair. Sis said it was either that or one of those electric scooters. I've used one of those and kept fearing that I would run over a little kid, run off the path, or experience some other great misfortune. Control Issues. So I started the great search for the right wheelchair for this trip. I bought Ezra in October so I could "buff" up. I only use him during shopping trips or going out to eat in crowded restaurants but I have found my new love. I love the speed. I love the danger. I love the power to roll over people's feet if they don't acknowledge my presence. And I probably would still be stumping around with my cane, wondering why I move at a drunken snail's pace, had it not been for sis (with the whole family standing behind her, nodding their heads and looking very stern). Same goes for the handicapped parking badge....very useful for when you need to extract the wheelchair from the trunk of the car.
This year I finally was able to say "Hey, I'm a crip!". What a relief. I had locked myself in a miserable hole of self doubt and longing for the good ol' days. I had tried to meet people's expectations or what I perceived those expectations to be. I had tried to ignore the MS. I knew the denial wasn't healthy. I knew that I was getting worse but man did I try to ignore it. Getting a cane was really hard. The transition to using the wheelchair has been a lot easier. Because finally I was able to see myself as a person with a disability. The disability helps makes me me. It doesn't detract from who I am....it is who I am.
This year I have found a community of people I identify with. People who write about their frustrations, pain and simple joys with eloquence and humor. I am so grateful. More so than anybody can understand. This community is something I can't share with my family...just as my family, supportive and wonderful, can not always break through the loneliness of my chronic condition. They are always there to support me but the can't know....I have found people who know.
Last week I went out to eat with friends. We had a "girl's night out" (the guys needed an excuse to have a "macho night"). Our waiter flirted with me. I was in my chair. It was an innocent flirtation. At first I didn't recognize it because who notices the girl in the chair? But it was nice. He gave me a great gift because he viewed me as a person. In the course of conversation he revealed that he had a brother in a wheelchair- that explains a whole heck of a lot. He also got a huge tip. I had forgotten what it was like to have strangers treat me like a person. And I gained a new level of self confidence. Now I am looking forward to a full week where I spend the majority of every day rolling around. Sweet freedom.
So here's to D-Day number nine. May it be the best one yet.